Friday, January 25, 2013

Gail Paulson: Friend, Mentor, Angel

By Aziza Rodriguez

God watched you as you suffered, and knew you had your share.
He gently closed your weary eyes and took you in his care.
Your memory is our keepsake, with that we will never part.
God has you in his keeping; we have you in our hearts.
Nothing could be more beautiful than the memories we have of you.
To us you were someone special. God must have thought so too.
All our lives we shall miss you, as the years come and go,
But in our hearts you will live forever. Because we love you so.
God saw you were getting tired, and a cure was not to be.
So he put his arms around you and whispered "Come with me"
With tearful eyes we watched you suffer and fade away.
Although we loved you dearly, you were not meant to stay.
A golden heart stopped beating, hard- working hands to rest.
God broke our hearts to prove to us, He only takes the best!

Gail Paulson and Firestone

I met Gail Paulson when I was fifteen years old. She came to me offering to stand by me while my family and I fought for my educational rights as a blind student in public school. She was inspirational and comforting, and one of the few who would set aside the legal aspect of the fight to listen to me express the stress I was under. Even after the issue was resolved, Gail stayed by my side as a mentor and friend. She was honest and caring, she always had something inspirational to say, or advice to give.

Every visit was begun, and ended with a warm hug full of love. She was forever attempting to smooth out conflict, and see the good side to everything. Gail assisted a number of students in our county to express themselves on many topics, including school, socialization, family, and how that all was affected by blindness.

We took a trip to Catalina Island, where she was around if we needed her, but encouraged us to find things independently and experience the island for ourselves. I took many trips to various blindness related conventions and conferences with Gail, she could always make me laugh. Especially when I didn’t want to wake up early, and she got her present guide dog to lick me into submission.

She loved her dogs fiercely. My heart broke when I answered the phone to find out her sweet Firestone had passed. Hearing the tears in her voice jolted me back to reality, even the people that are the strongest are affected by life and its tribulations. I spent Easter of 2012 with her, hoping to ease the pain of her loss with the presence of my rambunctious guide. We laughed and cried, and talked for hours.

When she left California for her annual trip to North Dakota, I was sure I’d see her at Christmas. Fate had other plans; I could never reach her, which wasn’t all that strange. When my mother discovered Gail had been admitted into the hospital I tried frantically to find someone to give me more information, calling mutual friends, but there was very little news. Soon after, I received the news that she passed on. The thought still brings tears to my eyes, and I miss her terribly.

I despair at the loss, and yet, rejoice that my friend is no longer suffering. She was as solid as a friend as you could ask for, and she will always have a place in the heart of my family. Her wisdom will stay with me, as will the memory of her laughter. My only regret is not having been allowed to say goodbye. My deepest condolences go out to her family, and the friends she’s left behind. She spoke of her children and grandchildren with such love. I find solace in the idea that she is looking down on all of her family, friends, and guide dog teams, with a smile, Firestone sitting at her side, with his head in her lap, wagging his tail. I know she’d wish us all to smile despite the pain, to go forward and make her proud. I’ve lost a friend, but gained a guardian angel.

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