Day 22 was adopted by Rebecca who has sent us this blog post from her holiday:
We’re on holiday this week and as the sea-gulls swirl above our heads and screech raucously, it’s a chance to step off the stressful merry-go-round of our usual lives. By which I mean, the endless letters, repetitive emails, discussions and whirligig of frustration that too often define our attempts to etch out a decent life for our autistic son.
This part of the Scottish coast has a huge tidal sweep: at low tide you can walk a mile towards the open sea and your feet will still be in soft sand and only an inch or two of water, warmed by the sun. My son likes to run towards the broad horizon, past the dog walkers, kite flyers and fishermen digging for worms, the waders pecking in the rock pools, and on towards the open sea. And even though I run after him (because I’m never quite sure when he will actually stop), I sense he enjoys the feeling of liberation he so rarely gets to experience.
Sara Ryan’s blog and twitter feed in the months before her son’s needless death often evoked the opposite feelings of confinement and reduced spaces. Humorous remarks about Connor (or LB, as she also calls him) avoiding going to school by putting his shoes in the bin, for example, were giving way to a tense commentary about narrowing options and residency at the treatment and assessment unit (with a lock on his door). The question of ‘choice’ seemed to be evoked often by the staff, and yet one sensed that this was not real; that his, and his family’s options were increasingly restricted. Sara’s blog was starting to get me down: I honestly wondered if I should stop reading it.
On July 4 2013, there was a single line entry:
“LB died this morning. In the bath. In the unit. He would be pleased the CID are involved.”
Alone in my living room, I actually called ‘No!’ out loud when I read this. Despite the unhappiness reflected in Sara’s blog, nothing remotely suggested that death was on the cards, that this would be the ultimate end-point of what was after all, a temporary family crisis. They may have had their concerns about the treatment and assessment unit, but they at least thought Connor was physically safe. And had every right to think that too.
As I watch my son running across the sand and splashing in shallow pools left by the retreating tide, I’m reminded of the attractive photo of Connor on the 107days campaign flyer: in shorts and sandals, relaxed, a loved family member, only 18 and free, with all sorts of interesting possibilities ahead of him. A son and a brother; a young ‘dude’ on the brink of adulthood. A human being, not a service user, whose cruel death was so coolly and casually passed off as being of ‘natural causes’ in the first instance.
The bright plastic windmill which my son holds in his hand spins furiously in the breeze and even though I am enjoying the break from the usual pressures, I have no intention of avoiding Sara’s blog and the JusticeforLB campaign from now on. Not only because it is for ‘all the dudes’, including those like my son, but because I have come to admire enormously her strength, honesty and intelligent determination in the wake of personal, emotional devastation.