Maya Missaghi is an attorney practicing in the area of what often is called, “Elder Law’. She helps people write their health care directives and wills; she helps set up powers of attorney and assists in negotiating the transition from independent living to assisted living. Maya is passionate about what she does, grounding it in a deep conviction that, as she writes, ‘…elders deserve care and respect, so that is what the Twin Cities should provide for EVERY elder, regardless of background, language or circumstance.”
Maya Missaghi is an advocate in the classic (Roman) sense: one called (ad-vocare) to represent the interest and perspective of another. From its Latin origins, “advocate’ becomes in 14th century French “avocat” a purely legal term equivalent to “barrister”, then in Middle English, used with religious and political overtones to mean “protector”, “patron” and “intercessor”.
I can imagine Maya protesting here that I’m laying things on a little thick. At the same time, it seems clear in seeing the work she does, that she has a level of personal investment that comes from a lifetime of living with-, listening to-, caring for-, and loving the elders in her family and in her community. Paraphrasing her loosely: Every grandma is somebody’s Grandma.
What touches me about Maya’s work is how she ties personal experience and motivation to professional achievement. In writing about her grandfather’s last years in life, she notes, “It was quite nice..for all of us to see the lion-like patriarch diminished to such a gentle soul–who, of course had been there all along.” She reflects, “I hope to preserve and pass on his strength of character…and that I too become a gentle lion in my old age.”
I write this blogpost not just as a referral, but as a reflection. To advocate for someone means to ensure that their story is told well, their perspective portrayed accurately and their interests represented adequately…Maya and I do this each in our own way. What underlies advocacy, what is required to speak for another, is first to listen carefully, and second to be boundlessly curious, asking, “Is this what you said?” “Is this what you meant?” “Is this what you want others to understand?”