I received a call on Christmas Eve letting me know that Kyle Hardy passed away. I've kept it private, only sharing it with a few friends, because the grief is quite strong. But then I thought about how much Kyle truly is one of the most influential people in my life and I wanted to honor him. I wanted to share my tribute to Kyle now that I am ready to share this with all of you.
I am sure many people passed by Kyle throughout his life with thinking that he would not be famous. That he would not influence teachers, students, paraprofessionals, parents and countless others in the education field all over the country. He did though. Every time I instruct in the classroom, consult with a teacher, present at a conference or spend individual time with a student, Kyle's influence can be felt. He's at the heart of all my teaching over the last 10 years of my career. His picture sits on my desk and I look at him almost everyday. I look at his smile and remember that I probably blew on his face to get that one of a kind smile for that picture. He thought it was funny if you blew on his face.
Lots of people credit me for bringing the world to Kyle. That may be true. I see it differently. I credit Kyle for taking a chance on me. I was a new teacher with decent sign language skills. He was game for anything I put his hands on---and it was a lot of crazy ideas! We have played rugby, roller skated, became jump rope champs, jumped, crawled, climbed on so many things I can't keep count. We have cooked, read books, sang songs, gardened, did a ton of art, science and math lessons, learned break dance moves, talked about girls, went to Church together, shopped at Gap---everything that could be done, we did it!
I learned countless important concepts about educating people who are deafblind from Kyle. I especially came to appreciate the power of language and how it can bring to life anything as long as you can pair it with words, signs, touch, feeling. How grateful am I that some pretty cool Deaf people taught me their language. How grateful am I that I could share the world with my hands holding Kyle's.
I've not been Kyle's day to day teacher for some time now. I haven't talked with him everyday but the distance never broke our connection. I can't express how special I feel that he never forgot me. His mom could sign my name sign and he would know it was me. Not a bird or a chicken but Robbin. I feel his mischievous, funny, smart, fierce spirit every time I sign 'yes' on a student's shoulder (just like Kyle likes it). I think about him every time I read with my kids (because he loved to read with Darlene and me. I especially think about him more recently when I read The Napping House with Abigail). I think about him every time I watch a student with a walker, every time I talk about keeping students feeling like the cool kids ("What's up dog?" is my favorite Kyle expression), every time I teach I think of Kyle because he was THAT awesome.
I know that everyone who has ever been my friend or sat in my office or asked me why I like to teach kids with vision or sensory impairments knows that I always talk about Kyle first. Everyone I have ever met since I met Kyle Hardy knows Kyle because he was, he is, that big part of my life. Kyle didn't have kids of his own. But my son is Rexten Kyle, named after Kyle Hardy. I see so much of Kyle in my son. Rexten knows that he is named after "my Kyle". He knows he has some big shoes to fill, a model man to look up to because of who Kyle was.
I know Kyle is in a better place. How could I not be happy for him now that he is at peace? I feel like I'm just gonna have to walk behind his spirit now. Walking behind him the same way I have for years, or next to his walker, or behind him with my hands supporting him at his shoulders or waist. He was at the lead. His hands stretched out, checking things out.