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A ‘thank you’ from Patrick Costa

A funeral mass was held November 26  for Patrick Costa, a longtime resident of the Fernald Developmental Center, who died on November 19 at the age of 49.  Below is a letter written in Patrick’s voice by his guardian, Ann Witham, who read it at the mass for Patrick.  Ann is a former Fernald employee who agreed to be Patrick’s guardian after his mother died.  She also managed the Fernald chapel for the Rev. Bill Leonard, who has been the pastor at St. Jude Parish in Waltham in addition to his Fernald Chaplin duties.

My Dear Family and Friends,

During my time on earth, I could not talk; I never learned how to read or write or spell; or how to type or use a computer.  But my life has changed.  I’m with God now and as long as He’s ok with it, I can do almost anything, including writing this thank you letter.

The first thing I want to say is a big thank you to all the folks at Fernald for caring for me for almost forty years.  They gave me the best they could and I am truly grateful for their efforts.  It was not easy for me to leave that home, but in the end, it turned out to be a very good thing for me.  When the time came for me to move here to the Wrentham Developmental Center, you went to a lot of trouble to make sure that Heffron “B” was really ready for my friends and me.  You even took extra time to fix the few little things that somehow got overlooked the first time around.

Patrick Costa

Patrick Costa

My friends and I were warmly welcomed into our new home.  It seemed as though everyone involved in our care – from direct care staff to clinicians and everyone in between, took the time to get to know each of us as individuals and to learn first-hand what each of us liked and disliked.  You saw abilities and possibilities, not just disabilities; potential, not just limitations.

You found out that I liked to walk and made sure that I got to join a walking program and participate in Special Olympics where I won a medal.  How proud and happy that made me feel!  I really liked that special green suit I wore for the occasion and showing off the medal to my friends.  I enjoyed going to the pool and you made sure that I had enough swimming trunks for these outings. I am so grateful for your supporting me in all my athletic endeavors, and for finding alternative activities when exercise was no longer possible for me.

Thank you for taking the time to make sure I ate my meals slowly so I would not choke.  Sometimes it was a real challenge just to be sure I chewed before I swallowed, or, to make sure I did not snitch something from another’s plate.  I must admit though, I did manage to succeed a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it.

You learned to read the visual ways and sounds I used to tell you what I wanted or what was wrong.  Somehow, you knew that when there was a lot of commotion in the apartment, I would need to “get away from it all;” and spend some quiet time in my room.  You even made sure that I had a special chair to use for relaxation.

Going to Adult Ed was a favorite activity for me.  I was thrilled when I could sign a card with assistance.  When I could no longer get to the program, you made it happen right in my apartment.  That’s what the world would call “really great customer service.”

Van trips were also very special to me.  I especially liked going to the restaurants that went the extra mile and texturized our food so we could eat our meals there.  Thank you for taking the time to plan and organize those special “nights on the town.”

To all who stayed with me while I was in the hospital and at The May Center and back at my apartment, I owe so much.  Your presence gave me more comfort than I can tell.  It was wonderful to wake up and see a familiar face there with me and to hear your voices reassuring me that all was well.  You knew the severity of my condition, but never let it discourage you from being upbeat with me.  Special thanks go to Keith, my long-time friend and companion.  During the last days of my life, Keith watched out for me, protecting me from “strangers” he did not know, keeping things where he thought they should be and making sure staff was always paying attention to me.   A special thank you to new friends from Steward Hospice.  Their care, compassion and concern for me as a person went far beyond what I expected.   Even Keith could not prevent their welcomed presence in my life during my final days.

Mark, I know distance and family matters made it very difficult for you and Beth to travel to visit.  I know you were in constant contact throughout the years, and that the distance did not separate me from your thoughts and affection.   I tried so hard to wait for you, but Jesus came to bring me to my forever home and I had to go with him.  Please take care of yourself.  Your wife and your children need you.

I owe a very special debt of gratitude to Jim Devin for bringing Ann, and sometimes Marilyn, to visit with me.  Jim and Ann, I knew you were both there shortly before I died, and I felt your love and took it with me when Jesus came to bring me home.  And, last but not least, thank you to Father Bill for coming here on his day off to lead you all in prayer.  Father Bill, I’m going to ask God to bless your ministry and to let you have calm seas, fair skies and a string of “keepers” for all the coming fishing seasons.

My friends, I hope you do not grieve too long for me.  My spirit lives on and is oh so happy now with Jesus and my mother and all my friends and relatives who went before me.  I will never forget you and will always pray for you.  I pray God will wipe the tears from your eyes and hearts and that his peace will console, bless and always be with each of you.

With much love and gratitude,


  1. December 5, 2013 at 3:10 am

    Rest in peace, Patrick, and peace & comfort to all of your loved ones.


  2. Anonymous
    December 6, 2013 at 9:57 am

    Your beautiful spirit was warmly felt as I read this letter. I appreciated reading about all the wonderful people around you that helped you but you were a blessing in their lives also and your life made a difference in this world to so many. You are now with the angels in God’s heavenly world. Margaret Braga


  3. Maryann Duzan
    December 6, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Never knowing Patrick,I am in tears by the letter written above by Ann Witham.
    Patrick sounds like such a Special soul,his life sounds fulfilled.I’m sure his Mom
    has been watching over him,so Grateful that Ann Witman took time out of her life
    to oversee,advocate and protect her son.Anne’s words are Beautiful,and What
    a Guardian Angel,Ann has been.
    Now I’m sure Patrick is in his Mothers arms,Peacefully at Rest.


  4. Elissa Menconi
    January 22, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Patrick must be smiling down from heaven and watching over all the people who loved and cared for him. Ann’s touching letter warms my heart! What a wonderful and amazing young man he must have been. I am very grateful to my friend, Jim Devin, for sharing Ann’s beautiful letter and Patrick’s story with me. Patrick is one of the angel’s now!


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