The Grace of the Sibling: A Conversation with Clio Chazen-Gabbard
It's been a few weeks since Jason and I recorded a conversation with seventeen-year-old Clio Chazan-Gabbard, the daughter of our recent guest Chris Gabbard. During those weeks, both Jason and I have touched on just how moved and almost overwhelmed we were by this beautiful human being. We are so honored as parents of children with disabilities that Clio shared her life and experience with us. We know that you will feel the same and hope that you will share the conversation with your own children.
Clio lives with her parents Chris and Ilene Gabbard and her dog Oscar in Florida. Her brother, August, passed away in 2013. Clio is a senior in high school and will graduate from Keystone Online High school in 2020. She is a trainee with Sarasota Ballet for the 2019-2020 school year and plans to pursue a career as a professional ballerina. From 2014-2019, she attended the Florida Ballet in Jacksonville, Florida. Clio states that she is "so thankful to have received incredible training and to have danced wonderful roles such as Clara in the Nutcracker and Alice in Alice in Wonderland." In addition to ballet, she loves traveling, hiking, kayaking, exploring the great outdoors, visiting museums, eating delicious and healthy food, reading, cross training, pilates, and spending time with family and friends.
In today's podcast, Clio shared with us her early life with her brother and how his life and hers were intertwined. She was honest explaining the difficulties she had coming to terms with his disability, particularly during the middle school years when she became more aware of his differences. She gave both siblings and parents advice on how to better live with and adjust to some of the challenges families face who have children with disabilities. She emphasized the importance of finding a passion, something that was all yours, and she suggested that parents find a way and time to spend alone or special time with their other children. She spoke about the importance of therapy in dealing with her grief and loss and spoke clearly about the profound and positive experience it was for her to have August as a brother, despite the challenges.
When Clio's brother August died suddenly, Clio shared that her shock was partly due to the fact that she never imagined that he might die. At age eleven, she wrestled with very complex emotions as a result -- not just loss and grief but guilt and reckoning. Jason asked Clio what words of wisdom she might share with her younger self, and I think her answer is probably all the wisdom in the world wrapped up into a brief paragraph:
"I would tell my younger self to realize how uniquely wonderful August was. Because as I got older, I was embarrassed that he was the way he was. So I think I would tell myself, look how special he is, look how unique you are, as opposed to different -- just reframe, reframe the thought process of Oh, I'm different or it's weird, and to look how unique, what a special opportunity, this is to grow up with a child with a disability. It just gives you such a great perspective on everything in life. And I also tell myself, because ever since he passed away, I've had this sense of you never know when the last time you'll see someone, so whenever my mom runs to the grocery store, I always make sure I tell her I love her. So, I would just tell myself that, you never know when you might not see someone again. So just make sure that everyone knows how grateful you are for them and how much you love them. And how much they mean to you."
Jason and I picked ourselves up off the floor (along with all the Kleenex!) after having this conversation with Clio and marveled again at our great good fortune to live the lives we lead, to have had this opportunity to meet such amazing people and to build such a beautiful community of grit and grace.
Enjoy the show!
I read young adult fiction, but I also remember a video that my father shared with me called Autism, the Musical.
Inspirational Person or Group
My parents -- for how they loved me, my brother August and one another