Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Conflict

A young man with a disability was killed this weekend in a tragic accident. I didn't know him well, but I knew him. Upon hearing the circumstances of his death I had a mix of emotions that will be hard to explain but I rush to try.

He was fairly skilled and as such he lived in a Semi Independant Living kind of situation and he loved having his own place and making his own rules. Sometimes when he woke up early, 3 or 4 in the morning he would get up, get dressed and cleaned up, and head out on his bike for a coffee at one of the 24/7 kind of coffee places that he frequented. It was on one of these excursions that he was hit by a driver and accidentally killed.

His death is surely tragic.

I understand that.

Any life cut short, lost, is tragic.

But.

Many years ago I worked in an institution and remember the death of a man there of similar age. He died in a room with many others, no space really his own. He died kept away from the community - for his own safety. He died with little of his own - including his will. He died early. Too young. But still he died.

Later, working in Toronto as a Instructor at a "PreVocational Center" the press was alive with the story of a woman with Down Syndrome being struck by a bus and being killed. The stories were about 'letting people like that out unattended,' the 'failure of the service system,' the 'dangerousness and foolishness of the philosophy of integration and inclusion'. There was the assumption that her accident was due to her disability. There was the immediate call for a review of service - how could we have let her out on the streets alone.

Pray God we are past that kind of nonsense.

But pray also that we have come to see joy, even amidst tragedy.

This young man died living HIS life.

This young man died making HIS decisions.

This young man died doing what HE loved.

This young man died feeling HIS freedom.

This young man died while living.

In contrast to the thousands buried in institution graveyards who died long before death. Who died in captivity, longing to be free.

I see the tragedy of his death.

But I feel the extraordinariness of his life.

So I am conflicted. I bow my head in prayer at the loss of his life. I bow my head in a prayer of thankfulness that he had an actual life to lose.

Godspeed to the victorious.

7 comments:

Kei said...

Amen.

How few people really do live a life of their own; I mourn his death, but celebrate his accomplishments.

Belinda said...

People die every day and each death is a sadness for those they leave behind--but to die without having truly lived free is saddest of all--to be a parcel returned "unopened."

Perhaps the best legacy this gentleman could leave is that his death is an opportunity to help others however well meaning, understand the dignity of risk.

John Tracey said...

Good post - sad but true.

I often think about how many people get killed in car accidents. This could easily be prevented if we didn't allow anybody to travel in cars.

Anonymous said...

Dave,

You know I read your blog all the time but I can rarely think of anything to write. This time however, I can. I hope when I die that someone will say that I died living my life not letting it pass me by. I don't think this tragic event could have been framed in a better light because what you wrote made me feel happy as you put it he died being free i am not sure how many people can say that I am not sure if I could if I passed on today.

Jon D

Linda said...

Amen.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dave for pointing out that he got to actually live a life before he died, however sadly and too early.
Too many people are not afforded this opportunity.

Don't know if any of you are aware of this declaration , but if not, please take a moment and sign on in support of all those individuals whose lives are being denied them.

www.institutionwatch.ca

Anonymous said...

for someone who knew this man and although i am completely saddened by his death, i take comfort in the fact that he WAS doing something that he LOVED, and he was FREE when out doing it! His charasmatic and funny loving spirit will live on in those who knew him.