Yesterday I attended the funeral of my father’s sister, Anne Hollingsworth. She was born in 1947 and was profoundly developmentally delayed. From the age of 5 and for the next 50 years she lived at Rideau Regional Centre in Smith Falls before she was transferred following its closure in 2006 to Silver Springs here in Ottawa.
At the funeral, the minister tackled the question: what is the legacy of someone like Anne? What difference did her life make? A big question for a windy grave side service.
But the truth is, his words made me realize how Anne’s life made an enormous difference to me personally and professionally. The fight to save Rideau Regional Centre and to give families the right to select where there family member residents would move after the closure remains the most challenging and rewarding case I have ever handled. There were more than a 100 families who had joined the cause. We filled the largest courtroom in Ottawa, twice. And, most gratifyingly, we successfully secured the right for families to participate in the decision regarding where their family members would move.
Fighting that fight transformed me into a lawyer who could handle big cases on my own. At some point, a litigation lawyer either graduates into someone who can handle serious cases, or they don’t. I am so grateful that the Rideau Regional Centre case pushed me to that next level. I was never a big public interest advocate before the Rideau Regional Centre case. Now I consider myself to be one, primarily on the issue of rights for injured accident victims.
Of course, I am only one person whose life Anne touched. I imagine that there are many people in my family and beyond whose lives have been altered by Anne’s life. We are all thankful.