This week is my birthday. On Febraury 2nd I’ll be turning twenty-six. It just so happens that this time last year on my birthday, a friend of mine named Rob passed away.
I knew Rob from my Sanctuary community. He would hang out at our community meals and art drop-in usually, reading in the corner and soon enough, painting at the tables with us. He loved to do these cool geometric pieces by using masking tape to make shapes, painting in between them, and then peeling the tape off. He also participated in our art workshops, where he created this cool stop-motion video of life in the animal kingdom, using cut out paper and animal crackers. We would joke around a lot during the making of that video and discovered our sense of humour was really similar, as well as our inability to sit still for long periods of time. We would get distracted easily together and starting eating the candy props meant for the videos.
Rob was a young guy. He was very hip, with a keen sense for fashion, and an ability to put an amazing outfit together effortlessly. He had this really great dry, sarcastic sense of humour that went well with his fun-loving personality. Rob was many things… smart, cool, talented, funny, witty, a good friend, generous, and fun. Rob also experienced homelessness, and was really quite ill near the time he passed away. He had finally been housed, and was doing well before falling ill again and staying in hospital before being called Home.
I found out about his death on February 3rd, 2018. I was on my way to a birthday brunch with Ian when my friend and coworker from Sanctuary called to tell me the news. They had spared me from finding out the day before, on my actual birthday. I cried on and off for hours that day, tearing up at the sight of things along our journey in the car that reminded me of my friend Rob. I often “see” him now in others passing by, doing a double take as I pass a stranger with features so similar to that of my friend’s.
There are many things I wish for. I wish that Rob had more time. I wish that I didn’t cry that day looking at the underside of bridges, knowing that he often slept outside. I wish I could have said goodbye. I wish more of my friends had adequate housing, that they could stay somewhere warm and safe. I wish the system wasn’t broken. And I wish I could sit with Rob one more time, painting and laughing at Sanctuary.
I will remember Rob this week as I celebrate my life, and that still feels like a surreal thing. I will remember all the ways he brought life and joy to his friends. I will lament his death and the broken system that made him live outside for a long time. And I will be grateful that I knew Rob, because he was pretty great.