Today is a day full of grief in our home, in our small town and in our biomed community. Ashley Brock, one of our own and one of Chandler’s classmates, passed away last night.
It is the story we read practically every month. An autistic child gets away from their family, drawn to the water that they love so much, and drowns.
Barry and Michele Brock invited over three friends to cook out on the back porch yesterday. The adults grilled while Ashley, her typical twin sister Alexis and two other children played in the grass.
And then came that moment that we have all experienced too many times.
Everyone scattered around the house calling her name, and immediately they looked over the fence at the neighbor’s back yard. Because the neighbors had filled up their pool the day before and Ashley had seen their children swimming.
And Ashley loved the water.
But when they looked, they didn’t see her and fanned out into the woods behind the house and into the street. A few more neighbors came out of their houses when they heard her name being called to help look for her.
That is when another neighbor checked the pool again... from another angle. He saw Ashley was at the bottom and dove in to pull her out.
Her mother performed CPR on her and a doctor who lived in the neighborhood was quickly called, the paramedics worked on her and the hospital staff continued to work on her for almost an hour and a half.
And they thought they were getting her back… but they didn’t.
Michele and Barry are devastated, and we are heart broken.
It is very hard for me to really believe that Ashley is gone. She was a child full of life and energy. She was always doing. Riding her bike or scooter or swinging. And not just any swing. Last week when the family was going to see their friends across the street, Ashley dug through the garage and brought her own swing over to use at their house.
She was a strong spirit. What she wanted, she wanted, and if you wanted to keep something from her, she made you work to keep it from her. Once Michele had begun teacher her ‘first_____, then _____’, Ashley turned it around on her and began to use it as a negotiating tactic.
“Ashley, time for supper.”
“Mommy, first supper, then cookie, then bike, ok”.
And if she thought you were mad at her, she would ask you for tickles. The girl was smart.
She knew all three names of every major composer. Her favorite was “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart” and would sometimes play his music at 3 AM for everyone in the house to enjoy.
She loved books (wouldn't get on the school bus without one), and dogs, and did great animal impressions and carried her flashcards everywhere. And she loved bubbles and she loved to paint and she loved red and she loved stacking things.
And she was great at basketball. They bought her a full sized basketball hoop and she owned it.
And Ashley was loved.
Her parents changed their whole world around for her, giving up jobs and friends and family to come to a place that would be good for her. Barry was a loving, care giver dad and Michele was an autism mom like few others. Her advocacy for autistic child puts mine to shame, challenging school system bureaucrats head on when they weren’t working in interests of her child, but in the interests of their bottom line; searching out the doctors that could heal her child; and letting nothing get in her way.
And what she did for Ashley’s health… let’s just say I could only follow about two thirds of what Michele was saying when she talked about her daughter’s complicated medical picture. Again… her knowledge showed me how much more I had to learn.
And the Brock’s home security is much better than our own. Ashley was an escape artist who climbed out her second story window on the first day they moved into their house. So her windows didn’t open after that.
Which is why Ashley’s death doesn’t just grieve me, it scares me. The Brocks were so much more on top of things that Scott and I are, so if they can loose Ashley in just five minutes when she was only 50 feet away from them…. well…
Last fall I was sitting at my desk paying bills and Scott was upstairs in his office working when the police came to our door with Chandler who had been found three blocks away by a Verizon employee driving by. While we thought he was in the playroom, he left the house apparently to look for his brother who was at school. We never even knew he was gone.
Chandler knows his name and his phone number and his address, but all the police could get out of him was “Webster”. So we have upped our security, and bought a bracelet and even have a tracking system now.
But Ashley was only 50 feet away from them and they didn’t know she was in trouble.
There is not a family among us that doesn’t know in their bones that this could have been any of us. And still could.
This morning Michele all but begged me to get swimming lessons for Chandler. They had just signed Ashley up for them. Again… to my shame… I have not made this a priority, but I will correct that. She is urging us all to make it a priority for our children.
A small correction to what has been in the local coverage. It was reported that the police are investigating Ashley’s death. That does not seem to be accurate.
Last night the police were very respectful and kind to the Brocks and when they left the home they said that they had everything they needed, so even if there is still any formal inquiry going on, or paper work ‘open’, it is probably a formality.
The Brocks are getting good support from their friends and family, and from the community, and many people are asking what they can do to help. But they don’t really know yet. They are still reeling right now.
Michele did say that if any one would like to do something that she would like it if they would make a donation to theNational Autism Association’s Helping Handsprogram that pays for biomedical treatment for struggling families, or to4 Paws for Ability, who trains autism service dogs for our kids and never turns down a request from an autism family.
For those of you who were on the lists with Michele, she has signed off of all of them. I am sure you could imagine how painful it would be to see those emails coming in. If you want to leave messages for her and Barry here, please feel free.
UPDATE: The Ashley Brock Memorial Fund
A fund has been established to assist the Brock family during this difficult time.
Donations can be made to any Bank of America branch across the country in the name of Ashley Brock Memorial or mailed to
5 Balsam Ave
Brunswick, Maine 04011
or via pay pal:
UPDATE: There is avideo tribute to Ashleyon the Bracket Funeral Home web site.
Ashley's Obituary with information on funeral services and memorial fund:
Brackett Funeral Home
UPDATE: Yesterday was Ashley's funeral and the outpouring of love for her was beautiful. I want to share three very moving tributes that were given during the service. A letter from her mother:
While we gather here today to mourn the loss of one of our special daughters, Ashley Brock, I would like us to focus on celebrating the truly unique and special individual she was. She would be asking for big hugs or tickles right now if she thought we were upset or crying.
A poem written by her neighbor:
Fly, Spirit, Fly
The eulogy given by her speech therapist Cathy Burgess: