Written and shared by: Tim Louis
On Tuesday November 23rd, I attended the funeral of Frank Daly.
I was honoured to be asked to speak by his family and after the funeral was over, I felt so strongly about the experience that I wanted to share my words with you.
By way of background, I was retained as a lawyer many years ago by Frank’s father, Sean Daly, in support of his son. At that time, Frank was institutionalized in a psychiatric ward. He had faced mental health challenges for a number of years, diagnosed as schizophrenic and on the autism spectrum. I was able to achieve his release from the psychiatric ward and move into the community.
Sadly, he was never provided with the supports in the community that he so badly needed.
Eventually, Frank’s landlord gave notice that he must be moved to another home as his “behaviour was becoming too difficult.” The landlord was very patient and advised Frank’s worker that he was prepared to wait a reasonable amount of time for a new home to be found. Fifteen months later, Frank’s worker had still not found a new residence for him and unfortunately, he ended up back in a psychiatric facility where he suffered a heart attack and passed away.
This is the gist of what I said at his funeral:
So many, perhaps most, possibly almost all come into this world as vanilla — from the same mold, off of the same assembly line, from the same factory. These individuals leave the world without having taught any of us any lessons, provoked our thinking in any way, or asked questions vicariously.
Frank was not vanilla.
Frank did not just teach; he was a teacher.
Frank did not just provoke; he was a provoker.
Frank did not just ask questions vicariously; he was a vicarious questioner
I’d like to tell you about just two of the lessons he taught us all:
Barriers: In the late 1970s, physical barriers to accessibility began to disappear. With a bureaucrat’s stoke of the pen, curb cuts began to replace curbs, elevators began to replace stairways, and ramps appeared where necessary. However, Frank taught us that much more nefarious barriers remained – not physical barriers but attitudinal barriers which no bureaucrat’s pen could remove.
Solitary confinement: Society, at long last, is beginning to appreciate that solitary confinement is a form of extreme and unacceptable cruelty. We think of solitary confinement as a prisoner confined within a small concrete cell with little, if any, human contact. Frank taught us that folks like him are sadly sentenced to a lifetime of solitary confinement – an invisible wall surrounds them through which few if any are willing to make any human contact.
Frank provoked us to ponder why as a society we spend more on hamburgers than we do on providing much needed community supports for those with mental health challenges. He provoked us to demand better for him and for others like him.
Frank provoked us to ponder on Mahatma Gandhi’s expression that poverty is the worst form of violence. Poverty comes in many forms, not just a lack of money but more importantly a lack of meaningful social interactions.
Frank was a great vicarious questioner. He questioned the bureaucrats who removed his paper file from the dark recesses of the locked file cabinet for their obligatory meeting with Frank’s supporters every few months at most, only to put the file away as soon as the meeting was over, never to actually do anything for Frank between these meetings.
Frank had incredible parents, Sean and Carmen, who taught us all the difference between convenient caring and inconvenient caring. It would have been very easy for Sean and Carmen to have been too busy. They were never too busy to make genuine time for Frank, no matter how inconvenient this was. They were Frank’s best advocates right up until Frank’s passing.
In concluding, while I am reluctant to use the word ‘afflicted’ as it carries with it so many negative connotations, I hope Frank will understand when I say to all of you that however much time you spend comforting the afflicted, you must spend twice as much time afflicting the comfortable.
The next time you are at a restaurant or cafeteria and decide to order ice cream, please do Frank a favour – do not order vanilla.