Rest In Peace Richard Taylor. Below is a letter I had written to him, also part of a tribute I have previously written to him in my book. A number of people with dementia who he has supported in a weekly support group had endeavoured to put a book of tributes together for him, which we had, of course, wanted to share with him before he died. Of course, we were too late. I have said to Richard many times over the years, quite simply, I love you. The photo was taken at ADI2014 in Puerto Rico where Dementia Alliance International was there for it’s first official and public appearance.
He always began his emails with hello, and this became a regular way for me to start an email to him also, as I am sure many hundreds of people around the world have done. In spite of his death, I am going to share what I wrote to him here, as know that even join death, Richard will go on to be a big part of my life. Hello will also be the beginning of my communications for now. Grief is self-ish, in that it is something each person feels deeply and individually, and is about the self, and the sense of loss of someone or something. It is easy to think, in a state of grief, you loved someone more than others… but in the case of Richard Taylor, it feels like the whole world loved him. He is deserving of every accolade and tribute that will follow his death, and I am glad to know, so many people showed him their love throughout his life. Mostly, I am simply glad to have had the privilege of knowing him.
A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
Richard Taylor, you will always be one of my heroes.
Your writings were the first I had discovered by a person living with dementia following my own diagnosis, and in many ways, I feel your words ‘saved my life’. By that, I mean you saved me from continuing down the very slippery slope of doom and gloom of dementia, the pathway that the medical doctors, health care and service providers also send us upon diagnosis. I had not heard of anyone living well with dementia, and although was referred to other books and writings, we were NOT told it is possible to live well with dementia and these other books whilst very helpful, did not really teach us we could live well either.
Richard Taylor, YOU taught me that, and then my disAbility Adviser at the University of South Australia supported the idea with practical strategies and tangible support. Mr Google had become my friend, and back when I was first diagnosed, there was very little being written by people with dementia available online or anywhere, and certainly not about living well with it.
Richard Taylor, you were the one person who inspired me not to continue on the downward spiral of Mr Dementia, but to learn to live beyond the diagnosis of dementia, and an interview and excerpt from one of your essays were the catalysts for me to start to write about my experience, and ultimately to find meaning on this wild ride called dementia.
I have had the great privilege to meet you in person a number of times, and feel incredibly honoured and proud to call you a close friend. You are still my mentor and continue to be one of my heroes. When we met in London in 2012 at the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) conference, my first time attending an ADI conference, you said to me it felt like we were kindred spirits. I felt the same then and even now, feel we are very spiritually and intellectually connected, regardless of the fact we don’t often speak in person.
When you were diagnosed with throat cancer a couple of years ago, I grieved with and for you, along with many other people who have found your influence and friendship important and profound, and as you and your family faces the next chapter of this illness, I truly hope Richard, that you know how much you mean to me, and to the many thousands of people around the world, whose lives you have significantly and positively influenced.
Richard, I love you, and I am a much better person for knowing you. Thank you for being you, and for being a part of my life.
Ps. Live every day as if it is your last, just in case it is.