Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Twitter: messages in bottles from stranded naufragés

A very dear friend Twittered last night that he might be dying.*

Depuis 15 h, ma température est passée de 99,3 à 100,7. Je suis conscient que ma vie peut se jouer dans les heures à venir. Sentiment d’aventure…

He’s worried about the folks he’d leave behind.

Il y a des gens ici qui ont besoin de moi. Je ne dis pas émotionnellement, bien que cette dimension soit évidemment présente, mais directement, de manière très concrète, parce que leur vie est imbriquée dans la mienne. Je ne connais pas de tristesse plus profonde que ce sentiment de devoir, peut-être, abandonner ces gens qui m’ont donné leur confiance. À nouveau se battre.

He has a form of muscular dystrophy. Ten years ago he weighed 56 pounds, including the three steel rods in his spine; today he probably weighs less. He has trouble breathing because of his muscle wasting and he has just caught some sort of nasty cold from one of his staff. She was really really sick, so he is expecting to get really really sick, and when someone in his condition gets that sick they don’t always get better. He was watching his temperature go up last night and wondering whether to call an ambulance to be taken to the Montreal Chest Hospital. I’ll be making calls later this morning to find out the outcome.

He and his sister (who has the same genetic condition and lives in an adjacent apartment) do some wonderful, intensive work for people who are marginal in our society. They have employed illiterate people, drug addicts, people without family, and immigrants – particularly from Haiti. They employed me. They don’t pay much: they receive an allowance from the government to hire staff for a little over minimum wage, so the staff they hire are people who are unable to find better-paying work. They teach them french, they coach them in relationships, they explain Québec culture and help people figure out how to cope with their new situations. They have shared their living space. Whatever they can do to help someone develop their full potential. Most of all, they offer profound, unjudging friendship.

My friend is a disabled man without paid employment, but far from being a burden on society he is a householder who will leave behind people who will be poorer for his loss.

We all know he is going to die. We first met in the late eighties, when he was seventeen. He thought he might have ten years left then, for the last five of which he wouldn’t have the strength to lift a pencil. He’s outlived everyone’s expectations. But we all hope… not yet. Please.

*** *** ***
A friend responds, “What an incredible opportunity to thank him for all that he has meant to you and the world.” Wise advice, and I will follow it.

* If you’re wondering why these tweets are longer than 140 characters, it’s called Twitlonger.


  1. Respect. Nothing but respect.

    Comment by Alston Adams — Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 @ 14:06

  2. This is dignity. Pure dignity.

    Comment by Nora — Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 @ 23:56

  3. Stunning. I hope he recovers from the bad bad cold, and continues to be there for the people he so cares about. And if he doesn’t recover, I hope he has peace.

    Comment by Leanne — Thursday, August 12th, 2010 @ 21:53

  4. « They have employed illiterate people, drug addicts, people without family, and immigrants – particularly from Haiti. »

    Les gens qui ont travaillé pour nous depuis 1982 ont rarement été des marginaux. Au contraire ils acceptaient les valeurs de notre société et ne souhaitaient rien d’autre que de s’y faire une meilleure place. Ces gens pour la plupart étaient en transition, et dans cette phase particulière de leur vie, la souplesse de travail que nous offrions et le salaire leur convenait. Dans les premières années, les salaires étaient meilleurs, nous avions des préposés masculins venant des régions du Québec, des jeunes hommes qui arrivaient à Montréal où ils se trouvaient comme des immigrants ; nous leur offrions un point d’ancrage. Beaucoup d’étudiants, pauvres certes, mais pas tous issus de milieux pauvres. Des immigrés, pauvres, mais pour la plupart déjà bien intégrés à la sociétés. Beaucoup d’enfants d’immigrés, nés ici. Avec les années nos besoins ont changé et nous avons engagé des femmes seulement. Depuis 7 ans nous avons exclusivement des travailleuses issues des communautés culturelles. Depuis le début, rarement des travailleurs de plus de 45 ans.

    Comment by Luc — Sunday, August 29th, 2010 @ 16:51

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