Publication Date

March 30, 2023

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

AHA Topic

Research & Publications


Disability, Medicine, Science, & Technology

To the Editor:

I started writing this response with the pen I received from the funeral home where we held the celebration of life for my son Albert Jucker-Kiddle in 2019. Albert was seven when he died, and his short life influenced mine, and my historical interests, in ways that I am only beginning to understand.

I read James H. Sweet’s article “Remembering Aidan: Grief, Goodness, and History” (December 2022) with tears in my eyes and more understanding than I hope our colleagues will ever have occasion to fathom. To lose a child of any age is one of the most difficult things many of us will ever have to endure.

Sweet’s article also occasioned a spark of recognition for me. While he was moved to understand better the historical antecedents of the use of opiates, I have similarly been propelled to begin a research project on disability and historical agency in international relations. My interests lie in the international use and construction of the idea of “free matter for the blind” by and for people with low vision and blindness, and the evolution of ideas about disability and ability.

In its essence, this is presentism. I am motivated by the ideas that confront me in the present to understand the experience and contributions of those in the past, and how they inform our present concerns. I am also motivated by a political belief that individuals from groups deserving of equity have stories that need to be told—by members of their own community or by allies—and that the historical discipline will be served by attending to these diverse stories, as it will enrich our understanding of historical processes.

Grief is another name for the heavy baggage we all carry when confronting the injustices of the present. We are all conditioned by stories of our present that influence our interpretations of the past. It seems almost too obvious to say it this way, but I know we are all engaged in processes of grieving, whether it is for our children, our parents, or our cultures. And the fact that these are the issues that motivate us makes me hope, through the grief, for our personal and collective futures.

Amelia M. Kiddle, University of Calgary

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