Last week was the anniversary of the death of a mate.
Leigh was a young man I got to know through working with adolescents in ‘out of home care’.He was 13 when I first met him, always likeable as a teenager.
I reconnected with Leigh after his release from prison.
Together with the support of his Nan, Aunty and many others Leigh began a new journey.
His courage and effort to make change was amazing.
Leigh had reason to be ‘angry at the world’.
He had reason to be angry at some of the people in his life.
From time to time this anger did surface, but he always came through it.
As I sat with his Nan, who he adored and who stuck with him through thick and thin, but never let his sometimes ‘bad behaviour’ go unchecked, we spoke about how much he was missed, and how he believed stuff about himself that was not true.
At the table was one of Leigh’s aunties who along with her family adored him too.
We chatted and shared memories of Leigh.
As I was leaving I was handed copies of three letter Leigh had written but never posted.
One to his mother, one to his brother and one to Nan.
As I read these the Leigh we knew and loved, his true self shone through, thoughtful, reflective, caring, loving and honest.
Leigh was part of a very broken ‘system’, one which has been in the spotlight again in recent days. (There were those in that system who encouraged and supported Leigh too).
We miss Leigh, and will remember him for who he was, not for the person he sometimes thought he was, because much of who he thought he was reinforced by a system where compassion and love often give way to harshness and punishment.