ON HAND: The mark left by Deaf people

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

Within the past year, we’ve lost several deaf community members: Jerry Strom, Frank B. Sullivan, Sharon Kay Wood, Polly Peikoff, and Clayton Valli, to name a few. A deaf person’s death always seems to affect me directly, even if I didn’t quite know that person.

I was nearly 14 when my mother notified me that Greg Clark had died. I had known Greg since I was a baby. He also was my favorite camp counselor, and the first person I knew who had an earring through his left nipple. Even today, years later, I still feel a sense of disbelief about his death.

During my sophomore year at Gallaudet, there was at least one death from each class, a total of eight people. It was a surreal year. Life seemed even more vulnerable than it already was for me.

Today, as I think about all these deaths, I think about how much each person brought to the deaf community. With all the rapid changes within the deaf community, in terms of technology, does each death mean one less member of the already-dwindling community? Will their lives and accomplishments exist in people’s memories in 20 years? Will our young deaf generations know–or will they want to know–these people?

I can only hope that when it’s my time to go, I’ll have affected at least one life as much as these people have affected mine.

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