It's always a shock, isn't it?
No matter how much you time you spend preparing, you can't.
Death comes, always, to the unprepared.
He was a man that I worked with many years ago. I came to know him and his family well, his staff, ever changing over the years, always knew of our continuing connection. The Internet brought us even closer and he would send me short emails every now and then, often with pictures attached. He was always a very private man, and I want to honour that here. As much as I would like to write a memorial, I will not.
But there is something I do want to say.
He died free.
After a lifetime in an institution, living as a captive. Walking the land of the long corridor and the short leash, he lived dreaming of a home of his own. Not a shared home. Not a family home. A home of his own, where everything he touched was his, where people left him alone and where he determined who came through the door. It was a dream he thought impossible.
But it wasn't.
He died free.
His disability disallowed others from hearing him, hearing his voice, hearing his persistent plea for a place of his own and freedom to live there.
His disability disenabled others from understanding that his primary right was to have the dream he wanted to dream - that they did not have the right to smash his dream into measurable, achievable, meaningless objectives.
His disability discouraged them from moving ahead with courage and conviction, allowing him to lead the way.
His disability displaced their understanding that his humanity meant that his voice was equal to theirs and his choice needed to be respected.
So it was a journey.
A journey past those of us who provided service that wasn't service and support that wasn't support. A journey of teaching people what their job is and, more importantly, what their job isn't. A journey that enlightened others who'd not had the experience of being pushed aside by the sheer force of will of a man determined to have home and freedom.
He was a quiet man.
But he lived a loud life.
And in his own home, he died, free.