Whenever I see his name on an email in my in box, I gasp. It means he is still alive. We met a couple of years ago and talked then about working on something together but when we reconnected this year, I decided to really put an effort into writing him regularly. I didn't even care if anything came of it, I just wanted him to have another person in the world to care for him.
He wrote me yesterday. In the email was sadness and loneliness. In the email was anger and loss. In the email was the full range of rage and outrageous humour that one expects from someone in a situation of undeniable tragedy. He is a handome young man with an intellectual disability. He is a gay man. He is dying of AIDS.
I wrote him just before Christmas, just a note to let him know that I've been thinking about him. He had told me that Christmas was lonely as he'd been kicked out of family and lost most of his friends. His health has been up and down but he makes it occasionally to a internet cafe where he checks his email. I know how much emails from friends are appreciated. I often read them over and over again. It's nice to be remembered, it's nice to get mail. And I wanted him to have something at Christmas.
So I got an email from him today. It means he is alive. I was pleased he bothered to write. I was pleased he had the energy to write. In his email he said that he still wanted us to work on something that would talk to the world about how people with disabilities, intellectual disabilities, get AIDS. How people with intellectual disabilities may trust too much, may be tricked to easily, may not see deception because of a need for affection. He's a deep guy.
I have a few pictures of him with Joe and I, and when we've written a litte more together I want to introduce you to him. My new friend. My new co-writer. I want to let him tell you how important it is for real world training, and real world expectations be brought into real world planning for all with disabilities. He didn't need our protection, he needed to know how to protect himself. It is there that we failed him.
It is his wish that we never fail another.
His wish, is our mission.