He died of ‘a long illness’

2012-05-05 11:55

He died after a long illness. He will be ­remembered as an activist, a seasoned and experienced politician. He wasn’t perfect, said his party, but then none of us is.

What did he die of? A long illness.

Here lies ­another young lion. He redefined radicalism and was a keen strategist. His life is still the ­prototype for a new generation of young political activists. He also died after a long illness.

What did he die of? A long illness.

Here lies yet another young lion. He defined effective communication and helped to craft the image of one of the world’s greatest leaders. He was kind and sharp, and gone too soon.

What did he die of? A long illness.

Here lies a wonderful trade union leader, snapped away from one of the country’s best worker organisations at the tender age of 30-something.

He died just as the vicissitudes of globalisation began to hit our shores and without him, the workers floundered, directionless for some years.

What did he die of? A long illness.

This long illness of ours, taking our best and our brightest, turning their brains to mush, filling the graveyards too soon.

This long illness of ours, leaving a million orphans stranded in the harsh and barren world that is theirs when there is no mum and no dad.

This long illness of ours that has meant grannies are turned back into mothers, bringing up grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

This long illness that is beatable with amazing drugs that can turn it from deadly to chronic.

But first you have to say its name to know its danger; you have to acknowledge its course through the veins and into the body.

First, we have to accept that it is, often but not always, the outcome of choice, the choice of our imperfections, of fallibility. To say its name is to take away its power.

Rest in peace, Sir, you with the name we dare not say in the same breath as the name of the ­illness whose name none of us speak even after 20 deadly years. Stigma killed you as much as the long illness did.

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