Posted by Nancy Mazonson

Thomas GraboysLast week, a great soul passed who had participated in Parkinson's Family Support dance and drumming classes. Dr. Thomas Graboys was a clinical professor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Harvard Medical School and president emeritus of the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation. He also served on the advisory board of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, Dr. Graboys joined us weekly for more than five years where he was a healer, friend, and confidant to other participants. Tom offered hope and inspiration and we were enriched by his presence. At his memorial service last week, colleagues, friends, and family spoke about the Tom they had known for seventy years and these same themes of hope, healing, and inspiration were described.

Participants in the Parkinson's Family Support program often develop strong bonds with one another, so a loss is felt deeply. Together we take time to recognize the person's role in our community and to support one another. The following are reflections that participants in the JF&CS Parkinson's dance class shared about Tom.

  • "Tom was a sage."
  • "He was valued as a great participant in this circle of people with PD."
  • "Like E. F. Hutton, when Tom talked people listened."
  • "He told us to remain vertical, to hope, and to stand tall. These words have guided me."
  • "We appreciated his incredible humility. When told to use a cane, he asked us how it felt to use a device, and he listened deeply."
  • "He always gave people hope."
  • "He was gracious in coping with the loss of his abilities."

In Tom's book, A Life in the Balance, and his essay, "Finding Hope in the Midst of Despair: My Decade with Parkinson's Disease and Lewy Body Dementia," he noted:

"There is one aspect of the self that even my disease cannot touch and that is the soul. Though not religious in a traditional sense, I remain spiritually whole, comfortable in the knowledge that my life still matters both to the patients I treated, the family I have raised, and the family I have, by second marriage, adopted. And that is where hope lives; not a naïve hope that I will, by some miracle, have my former self restored, but hope that tomorrow, and the day after, can still be days from which a measure of joy and meaning can be derived. And from hope springs optimism that, even with great limitations, there is life to be lived."

Here at the JF&CS Parkinson's Family Support program, Tom inspired us to keep hoping and we are grateful to have had the privilege of knowing this wonderful healer.

Nancy MazonsonNancy Mazonson, MS, OTR/L, has coordinated the Parkinson's Family Support program of JF&CS since its inception in September 2006. The program is a leading resource in the Boston area with its unique programs, including Parkinson's Dance, Adult Child and Care Partner support groups, and Tremble Clefs choral singing group. Prior to her work at JF&CS, Nancy worked extensively as an occupational therapist in inpatient and community-based rehabilitation settings, specializing in helping people with degenerative neurological conditions.