Today would have been Todd's 64th birthday - and still is his twin sister, Tolisa's birthday. Tomorrow marks the 7th year since he left his body and entered into formlessness and timelessness. We feel his presence daily, somewhere, maybe in Ben's queries about what his dad would have thought about politics, in Peter's monitoring the local sports teams, or Jonathan pondering his father's path through relationships. But the person who still holds him close to her heart is his sister, Tolisa, Todd's "womb-mate". Here are her words in an email seven years ago to friends and family, informing them of Todd's passing.
Dear Friends and Family, near and far;
March 9th is a day that I not only celebrate as my birthday, but I share with my twin brother, Todd Gauchat. So it was fitting that on Wednesday, my husband Jerry and I would be with Todd and the rest of his family in his home in Shaker Heights to visit on our special day. His health had been slipping; a life constricted by severe cerebral palsy was taking its toll. By the end of that evening it became apparent that he needed more than medical intervention so we suggested hospice. We tucked him into bed that night at 10:30. He never regained consciousness. All day Thursday friends, neighbors, clergy and family stopped by to pray, sing, share stories and say goodbye to our crippled warrior. Todd was peacefully resting, hopefully enjoying this loving celebration of his life. He loved any reason to party.
On Thursday evening, as I held my twin's face in my hands, I watched him take his final breath. My brother passed out of his gnarled and bent body and was free of the cerebral palsy that had imprisoned him his whole life. His sweet wife, Rosalind and his oldest son, Jonathan were with me as we witnessed his passing. It was a privilege to assist as a "midwife" to birthing him into the next world. Shortly thereafter, David Gauchat, Sue and Benoy Joseph joined us as we kept vigil over Todd...quietly holding the space as the snow fell silently outside and we said our final goodbyes. It felt right and good, knowing that Todd was finally at peace.
Those of you who know me well enough know my story, which I won't fully reiterate here. Due to our parents' divorcing, Todd and I were separated from our two older brothers and each other by the age of two; I know it broke our hearts when we were separated; something (or someone) was always missing. Both of us grew up in separate families who were compassionate enough to take us in. The Gauchats embraced and enveloped Todd in their warm, ever expanding, noisy, loving, spiritually rich and supportive family and I am eternally grateful to them for the full life that they provided my dear brother. Because of them he was spared a primitive life in a hellish state institution. They stretched their generous hearts and home big enough to adopt him and because of their goodness he thrived in their care and had an extremely rich and stimulating life. While I did not live with Todd I was able to share our birthdays, holidays and special visits with him as we grew up in neighboring towns. He and I have always had a special language and bond; it's been said that's due to being womb-mates. We also shared a very special aunt; Aunt Sue, who lived far away in the land of Seattle and was committed to sending us the same carbon-copied letters addressed to "Dear Todd and Tolly" every week, for years and years on end. It was her letters that helped to keep us connected as siblings as our lives grew in different directions. It's wonderful people like the Gauchat family and Aunt Sue whose dedicated love and commitment shaped and enhanced our lives. I share this with you to remind you that we never know how we will touch the lives of others, but that it is so important to make the effort.
I call Todd my courageous warrior because he had an indefatigable spirit...when he set his mind on something, a goal to accomplish, he did not stop nor could you say "no" to him. He always found a way. He learned to read. He employed a letter board, and much later in life, a computer, to help him talk. He endured risky surgery to have an electronic pacemaker implanted in his brain. Most significantly, he found the love of his life, Rosalind, and together they have three wonderful boys; Jonathan, Peter and Benjamin. They would have celebrated their 25 wedding anniversary this summer. Even in the end he nobly donated his body to science so researchers could more fully understand cerebral palsy.
These past few years were even more of a challenge for Todd; he became virtually paralyzed with tranverse myelitis. His body was further restricting him as he lost more of his precious independence. As if he didn't have enough on his plate already! But he soldiered on, working hard to complete his magnum opus. During the last several months his physical condition continued to decline and we could see pain in his eyes. Roz, the boys and his attendants continued to tenderly care for him. But Todd knew. Last weekend he refused nourishment and was taken to the E.R. who in turn, sent him home. By Wednesday his light was fading. He opened his eyes for the first time, and fell into his final sleep on the same date, 57 years later. I am deeply honored that I was with him when he was born and with him when he died. I find peace and solace knowing that he is now free. He's probably playing baseball in Heaven right now.
While the plans are still being finalized, it appears that Todd's memorial service will be held this Friday afternoon, March 18th, most likely in Shaker Heights. The venue, time and other details to follow. Thank you.
Love, light and blessings,