Memorial to Katherine (Katie) McCarron

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[Note: This is my personal response to the murder of Katherine McCarron. For my more political response, read Background, to the foreground.]

Face of very young child staring at somethingDear Katie,

You don’t know me. You will never know me. You were murdered when you were three years old. But we have something in common: We are both autistic. Both of us have brains that work differently than usual, perceive and respond to the world differently than usual. I wish I could have known you. I bet you were a beautiful and interesting child.

These pictures are of me when I was around your age. I can remember being your age. I remember colors, smells, sounds, and the way the world seemed like a neverending kaleidoscope of experiences, many of which I didn’t understand the way typical people understand things, until later. But I was there, I was experiencing them, in my way, just as I bet you were.

When the first picture was taken, I was getting lost in the deep red-brown color of the hillside that I was facing. In the second picture, I was playing with some fish in the backyard. In the third picture, I was doing what became one of my favorite things to do for many years: Climbing trees. I sometimes had an easier time getting around in trees than I did on the ground.

I wonder if you would have liked any of the same things I’ve liked at different times in my life: Trees, books, marbles, blocks, staring sideways at the carpet, playing with my hair, running, stars, flat surfaces, taking walks, staring at everything upside-down, cats, rubbing fuzzy things on my face, getting pine nuts out of pine cones, picking blackberries, having mischievous but loving older brothers, light switches, sparkly sidewalks, rocks from the moon, typewriters, sliding tape measures, and prisms.

Little kid holding a fish by the tail while another fish lies on the groundThere have been a lot of horrible things in my life. Things that shouldn’t happen to anyone. I guess you knew about horrible things, because dying of suffocation is pretty horrible. I think I came about as close to that as I could get while surviving (physically) unscathed, on a number of occasions. But it wasn’t my mother who tried to kill me. She and I both had some really difficult times when I was growing up, including times when I was going to be taken away from her, times when she was blamed for my being autistic at all, and she had nothing like the support that exists today, but she loved me enough to fight for my life, not my death, even when people were telling her my life didn’t matter.

If you had lived, you might have experienced some of the other horrible things that exist in the world: Bullying from other children, institutionalization, being drugged into a stupor, abuse, and all the other things that are unfortunately common in the lives of autistic people. What they don’t tell you, is that all those good things I talked about, still exist, even though the bad things exist too. They don’t tell your parents that even if you never do a lot of things, there are still things you can do, still ways you can be, still things you can enjoy. And they don’t tell your parents that most people like us can do a lot more than we’re expected to.

I’ve had twenty-two more years in the world than you have, and there’s a lot of things that I still can’t do. When I was growing up, I didn’t get to see people like me doing what I am doing now, so this was a total surprise to me. I live in my own apartment. I get help with the things I’m not good at, that most people are good at. I have friends of kinds I never would have imagined or expected. I have people who care about me and understand me, who value me as who I am, not who I am not. I have a way of communicating that is fairly stable and reliable. I still have to fight for a lot of things, and life is still unbelievably hard at times, but I still sometimes have trouble believing that I’ve found some of the good things I’ve found. Not bad for someone who was ten years ago described by doctors as unsalvageable, which was their own lack of imagination in action.

There’s even a number of communities of autistic people. I don’t always get along with them, but maybe you would have. Even though I often find trouble in these communities, the people in them still understand me better than most people do, and I have some close friends there. That level of understanding was unthinkable most of my life, and so were most of the things that have happened to me since I grew up. My childhood was not remotely blissful, but adulthood has been worth it, and I wish that you could experience what this is like.

Little kid climbing a treeUnfortunately, the horrors that happened to you are not isolated. They almost happened to me, too, and although I didn’t always understand the significance at the time, it was still awful. The people who suffocated me laughed as I struggled, I wonder what it was like for you. The day after you died, a 19-year-old autistic man was killed by his parents in a fire. I read that he liked photography. I was his age before my life started beginning to turn into something more enjoyable than it had been in a long time. I was about 15 when people, unknowing of that future, were trying to kill me. People were undoubtedly sure you had no worthwhile future, but the only way to ensure that someone has no worthwhile future is to kill them.

Your future was totally cut off. So was the 19-year-old man’s that I just talked about. You will not have a chance to experience any more of the bad things in life, and that’s what a lot of people will want to focus on, they think your life would have been only misery and pain. But as far as I can tell, the good things outweigh the bad even in a very hard life. There are even good things that autistic people are more likely to experience, and then there are good things that are just part of the human experience in general. And I know that nothing will ever give you another chance to experience those good things, that future that people probably never expected for you, even that past in which there were surely many good aspects of your life. For that, and for the fact that neither I nor anyone else will ever get to know you, I am incredibly sad.

You could have had a wonderful and interesting life beyond anyone’s imagination for you. Now that is gone, and nothing can replace it. And you will never read these words. Your life, and your story, has ended forever.


This post is part of Katherine McCarron Memorial Day, by the Autism Hub. On Wednesday, May 24, people will post memorial messages about Katherine McCarron. The next day, the hub will be closed in her memory. Other participants so far:

Kevin Leitch | Dad of Cameron | Mike Stanton | Bartholomew Cubbins | Not Mercury | Mum Is Thinking | Kassiane | Autistic Bitch from Hell | Janna | Zilari | Autism Diva | Kathleen Seidel | MOM-NOS | Kristina Chew | Rose | Joseph | MothersVox | Jonathon | Aspie Dad | Lisa

Participants from outside the Hub:

Laura Cottington

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

15 responses »

  1. I couldn’t stop crying as I read this. Wonderful writing, but, oh, I wish it never had to be written.

    I’ve been trying to write about this and other recent murders of PWD, but I just end up in a screaming black rage when I try and put words together. Thank you as always for giving voice to what needs to be said.

    Rest in peace, beautiful Katie.

  2. That was a lovely piece of writing about a terrible subject.

    You mentioned your own age (indirectly), and that did shock me. I’d assumed that for all the things that had happened to you that you must be much older; that things couldn’t be that bad that recently, so to have experienced things like that you must be much older than me. Finding out that you’re only a year older than me is something of a shock.

  3. That child lived and died within a few miles of the town where we were born, the place we mean when we say “home”. I did a little digging and found this.

    http://www.pjstar.com/stories/052406/PHI_B9TC9LDB.033.shtml

    There is still controversy on the pages of the Illinois and Indiana papers. There is not universal agreement of sympathy toward the mother, including by her own parents. Oh yeah, someone writes a letter to the editor “watch this video before you judge her,” but I’m looking at what the grandfather says. His description of Katie’s life. It is just like what you said.

  4. That’s beautiful written although of course I wish it hadn’t to be written at the first place. My thoughts are with her. I’m an atheist, but at times like these I forget about that and imagine there is a heaven.

  5. Pingback: Janna’s Thoughts… » Blog Archive » In Memory Of…

  6. What you said, gal! I could not even begin to attempt to write something about this which would be nearly as good as what you have done, so I just put a link on my mostly-un-noticed-by-everybody blog to what Autism Diva had to say about it, including all her links, of course.

  7. Pingback: Autism Vox » “This was not about autism”

  8. This is something pretty powerful (understatement).

    I remember you wrote somewhere that you would not write a book because (sorry if I get this wrong) you don’t have anything new to say—-you do

  9. I will not write an autobiography because there’s nothing in my life (including that) that hasn’t been told in many others, and because the genre of autiebiography is so exploitative and I do not want my life put to the use that many people would put it to. There’s plenty of possible books I might write and/or edit though.  Many of the themes I covered in this particular post were also covered in Four Sight and In: Difference.

  10. Incidentally, I loved climbing trees (and making makeshift “treehouses”/playhouses and escaping to them) as well as trying to get closer to observe the chickadees.

    I’m glad you said what you did here. It’s a very heartfelt and poignant dialogue. I too believe that she was probably a very interesting child and it’s too bad/f#@*($@# awful that no one will be able to play with her, be with her, that we (possibly) may never read what she might say in the future on any of the forums, understand her experience. All her life experiences taken and destroyed selfishly due to the projected dismality of their (the “carer’s”) own life and unhealthy attachment. It is often the dependants that the dependees are most dependant on themselves. (going back to the animal hoarding analogy)

  11. Pingback: Ballastexistenz » Blog Archive » Katie McCarron, Charles-Antoine Blais, real children, real people.

  12. Thank you so much for opening my eyes in your blog in general and this particular entry. I can’t imagine what you or Katie went through, and you are amazing. Most other people would be so resentful and bitter. Please keep on sending out your loving message.

  13. Pingback: In Gedenken an Katie McCarron - Autismus-Kultur

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