Most of us use voice recognition on our devices, but we don’t often think about where it came from. One of its developers died on February 7, 2018 after enduing ALS for 22 years. Her NY Times obituary is instructive and inspirational. "Let us now praise a famous woman!"
Also see her 2014 essay “Beating the Odds” in the journal Neurology Now.
In her latter years, she turned to poetry, laboriously keying in each letter of each word by eye movements.
Squeezing each word out with gargantuan intensity
Like an ancient chiseling words in Aramaic
I will be heard!
Make no mistake.
It will take more than ALS to shut me up.
“ I DIDN’T KNOW: One of her last poems was published in 2017.
It’s May 25, my birthday!
My family surprised me by taking me to
the running trail around the lake in Pocantico Hills.
The afternoon sun is glancing off the lake
like a ring of fire. I never knew I loved lakes,
so placid and calm like a Buddhist master.
Whether small, like this one or large as Lake Sunapee,
providing shelter for fuzzy goslings and their parents.
I swam with my father out in Lake Sunapee floating
on our backs as he sung “I’m forever blowing bubbles.”
I didn’t know how much I loved hills, running up them,
me at the end of the pack, we could see the distant town
from the highest cliff, or the glorious rush of adrenaline
cross country skiing downhill.
I didn’t know that I loved snow, sliding down
College Hill on trays purloined from the cafeteria,
the full moon creating diamonds of each snowflake.
Hard to believe each snowflake is unique.
I never knew I loved leaves, crunching brown
beneath my feet like tiny drums, or discarded beer cans.
I don’t like comparing leaves to beer cans.
Or green above me forming a glorious canopy.
I didn’t know how much I loved shadows, long at sunset,
tiny at noon, the length of the shadow proportional
to the cotangent of the sun’s elevation angle from the horizon.
I have a picture of my pregnant daughter’s shadow
tilting towards the shadow of her husband.
I never knew how much I liked meadows, the running trail
bisecting fields of yellow and purple wildflowers.
I sometimes picked a yellow to put in curly red hair.
I didn’t know how I liked fog, smudging edges of
buildings like a Monet painting, making oncoming
headlights into soft glow. I don’t miss driving in fog.
I never knew how many things I loved until I
was in my wheelchair on the trail where I used to run.