As March of Dimes celebrates its 61st birthday this month, my family celebrates the life of my brother. On June 24, 1949, one of the most beautiful days of the year in Southern Ontario, Canada, my little brother Jim was born, so MOD and my brother would be about the same age.
Jim and March of Dimes met in 2002. It wasn’t all summery strawberries and cream at first. With the mind of a lawyer (which he easily could have been), the work ethic of a real estate agent (which he was), and the open heart of a lover of life, he was a new client for MOD.
I’m sure that March of Dimes workers wondered what to make of this charming but stubborn man who pursued his independence like a bloodhound on a mission, this man with his mom’s analytical mind and his dad’s dry sense of humour; this man who had equal doubts about why the MOD people were there. Like any of us, he wanted the help, but wished he didn’t need it. Gradually, roles became clear and friendships developed.
When cut-backs inevitably came, Jim would often say, drawing on his background in business, "Most outfits ask what they can stop doing to save money; March of Dimes tries to figure out how much they CAN do with what they have left."
For six years March of Dimes worked with Jim, giving professional, quick-thinking, and caring service: professional, as exemplified by Joanne Morain’s calm coordination work; caring as in the workers who made Jim soup when he had a cold, or helped him eat and gave personal care; quick-thinking, as in the worker who called me to ask about the meds, worried that something might have got mixed up (To this day I appreciate her concern). And caring and professional in the holistic sense of working with the WHOLE person, not the disease, and who had a good joke for Jim, and laughed in turn at his, no matter how corny.
When Jim passed away in 2008, we found in his bedside table two things: a book about his favourite animal, the elephant, and a map of the constellation of the stars in the heavens. Nothing could define my brother better than that: an animal lover with a generous smile and himself a star in the world he made for us and him, his world, surrounded by the March of Dimes stars who worked with him until the day he left his sun-drenched apartment one last time. My family give thanks for his life and for the March of Dimes staff who walked with him on that journey.