A Tribute to a wonderful friend… a repost from last year

(Writer’s note: As of now, it’s been twelve years since my dear friend and late mentor passed away, but the feelings in this previous post rung just as true today as when they were written, so I share this again with all of you. Enjoy this repost and as always..

Shine On!!)

Eleven years have gone since you left us and life has never been the same without you…

To say that I miss you, my friend, would be a huge understatement.

But there is hope, even in sorrow and grief, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself…

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the passing of my dear friend, the Late Larry Berk and in his life, he was called impresario, dynamic and someone who had great foresight, many times doing what was right for the Library, not what was popular.

For me, he was all that and more, but for someone on the Spectrum, he was kind, caring, compassionate and he was a dear friend, one who always believed that community college grads had as much of a shot of making it as the Ivy Leaguers.

Perhaps, though, I should start at the beginning…

Years ago, when I was just starting my college life, the social scene was a mystery to me, new people and places made it hard for me to make friends and find where I belonged. All that changed, however, when I saw something on the bulletin board letting people know that there was going to be a poetry club starting up and to go to the Library for more details. I thought that if I was going to make friends, that was as good a place as any to start.

That’s where I met Larry…

He was sitting inside his office, at first glance he was kind and welcoming; yet here I was, shy, modest and almost walking on eggshells, worried I’d make a bad impression on him. I introduced myself and sheepishly showed him my work and as time went on, I disclosed my autism to him, and to my surprise, he was happy for me, since he had two sons who, like me, are on the Spectrum, he saw them in me and saw what they could become. In time, he introduced me to his family and friends (both those who worked with him and some personal), reintroduced me to Dr. Temple Grandin and instilled in me hope and optimism about my poetry, which were crucial in a time where people thought my publishing my work was considered a pipe dream.

Most importantly, he helped me develop an appreciation for the arts, from paintings to dance, to both the written and spoken word, whatever appreciation I have to this day about the arts are all thanks to him. It makes what happened next so sad for me to write. Sometime later, he was involved in an accident with a driver and shortly thereafter, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I remember the day I met him in the hospital for the last time, how I’d written a poem for him and how I couldn’t help but cry as I recited it, though he couldn’t hear me.

Eleven years ago, at the Library he had worked at, his secretary told me the sad and tragic end for my friend. More than anything else, I remember how numb emotionally I was, how I cried because of it for several weeks after that. In time, I wanted to give back to my community, to pay it forward, as a friend who knew Larry phrased it, for all he had done for me, helping others like me learn to read. I figured that doing at least that would be a way to show others that you can do anything you put your mind to. I can only hope that I’m making him proud of me in a small way.

This is just a post to say thank you so much, Larry, for what you did for me, believing in me and by doing that, helping me help others to always…

Shine on!!!


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