12Michael 1    Michael is 62 and was born and raised in Nova Scotia. He describes a happy childhood, with his grandparents living nearby and summers spent by the lakeside. At 26 he met his wife with whom he had two children and moved to New Brunswick. Michael’s oldest son had autism which provided challenges in the home. The biggest challenge came when that same son was diagnosed with cancer at 17 and died several months later. Michael refers to that time as “indescribably bad.” Having undergone a trauma that frequently splits couples, the two parents divorced some years later. Last year, Michael was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. However, having faced some of the greatest challenges a parent can go through, Michael said  “The worst thing has happened to me already, so this I can handle.” Grief and pain are not new to Michael, and while that doesn’t mean his current situation is easy, it does mean he may be more prepared than some. “Life is a gift and you need to look at your experiences as things that will teach you stuff along the way…we’re very flawed beings and if you can’t learn something from the good experiences, and particularly the bad ones…it’s kind of a waste I think.”   When I asked Michael what’s important to him in life, he said “Kindness is important to me…as I’ve gotten older…I just realised that when people are struggling – and however they act out whether they’re sad or grieving or mad or whatever they are – I try to put myself in their shoes a bit and try to come to grips with their struggling, so that I can be kind to them in a way that’s meaningful to them. And it’s really coloured the way that I’ve been in the last couple or three years…Life is very fragile, it can be over very quickly so you don’t want your last words to be harsh words.” Michael is grateful for his immediate and extended family, and for having been a parent. He’s grateful to have known his autistic son, Tristan, who was “quite a teacher.”