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.
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.