One of the most inspirational people I have ever met came in the form of a very fragile woman, Alison Davis.
What a grace and wonderful moment to meet her and her devoted caregiver of more than twenty years, Colin Harte. Motivational speakers and leaders of all manner and kind can speak eloquent words and bring societal change about through their social and verbal skills. They can take thousands and even millions of people on a journey in their life that brings a perceived hope and bring change to the world in which they live. BUT this lady, reached to the very soul of my being. The only other person in my life having this profound effect was Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
The very moment I first met Alison, I knew deep within my soul that I was in the presence of a very holy and very grace-filled woman. Alison suffered with many illnesses in her life including Spina Bifida and being confined to a wheel chair all her life. She required a caregiver – a companion – twenty four hours, seven days a week to assist her with her personal cares.
Alison’s story is a testament to the real value of accepting suffering in our lives. Alison was always a very joyful and thoughtful woman, full of love and compassion for all those she met. Despite being in constant pain and discomfort a lot of the time and despite not having any physical independence in her life, Alison championed the rights of the disabled and handicapped to be respected and assisted where needed. Above all she fought for the rights of her fellow disabled community to have the right to life. She founded the UK Disability Rights group, No less Human and travelled internationally (including New Zealand), to speak on disability rights and against voluntary euthanasia.
Alison grew up as an atheist. She wanted to die on several occasions and almost succeeded. It was the care and determination of a true lady friend who helped her break the cycle of wanting to die. She would sit with Alison, removing all instruments within reach that she could use to harm herself. It was this friend who persisted and who remained a faithful and true advocate for Alison’s life, that eventually gave her the hope and trust and a desire to live her life in a happy and meaningful way.
Then Alison was blessed with a new caregiver, who was destined for the priesthood. He was to take care of Alison for just a few weeks, but continued on, staying at Alison’s home and providing her with the most loving an devoted care imaginable until Alison died in 2013. She was 58 years old.
In the midst of intense suffering, Alison discovered the existence of God and His great love for her. She became a Catholic. She accepted completely the Catholic Church as the repository of truth and the giver of life. With the integrity of much experience she spoke of suffering with Christ as “the greatest privilege possible in the world.”
We had become good friends from the start, and the absolute love and joy given out from Alison to our own three special needs children surpassed any eloquent inspiring preacher or speaker I have ever heard.
From a wretched, unhappy, pain ridden young woman, who had despaired and had so much wanted to die… to a woman of hope, joy, and expectation and simplicity of heart. Alison had a very intelligent and great mind, and spent her life writing and speaking to advocate for the most vulnerable, in particular those in danger of euthanasia or assisted suicide.
I will always remember Alison for her amazing capacity to love – always with a gentle smile, regardless of the suffering she was enduring internally. In her weakness she was very strong.