Monday, June 2, 2008

Steve, One Year Later

Gilly Bear on Steve Gilliard's hospital pillow. photo by Jenonymous Feb 25, 2007.
Gilly Bear on Steve Gilliard's hospital pillow. photo by Jenonymous Feb 25, 2007.

Steve Gilliard (November 13, 1964 – June 2, 2007)

I can't stop crying.

One year since I got the email that Steve was dead.

An hour later The News Blog went black forever as the news swept out.

We'd lost Gilly.

I've been crying for a year.

Never know when it's going to hit.

  • Reading a post.
  • Riding my bike.
  • Kissing my kids goodnight.
  • I make a mental note, “Send this to Gilly.”
And then I remember...

Without warning I burst into tears. Like right now.

I shove my glasses up, rub at my left eye and face. “Fuck”, I say. “God dammit.”

After a moment or two, I force myself to breathe. Once, twice, often a third time. And wipe the sneaky tear from my right eye as well.


I close my eyes and breathe.

I hold on...

...and am slammed back a year ago.

That last month, we knew what was likely. We spent it preparing everyone for the inevitable. We prayed for a miracle, even those of us who don't believe. But we knew.

People fall back on cliché when they're unable to be with life as it is. Many people told me, At least Steve was blogging until he went into the hospital. He died having done what he loved to do. Gods do I hate that cliché. People die. Steve died because he was in poor health, had long-term medical problems, was over-weight, and he failed to take his medical problems with the seriousness they needed.

He got decent care at the hospital, but yes, institutional racism played a role in his death -- and I'm not talking only about his medical care, but how everyone involved interacted with the system. That conversation isn't one I (or anyone on the inside) is going to talk about the details of now. (Ask me again in a decade.)

Racism is a fact of life, as real as dog-shit on the sidewalk. It just is. Sometimes you step in it. You might not even know you've got dog-shit on your shoe till you smell it. You look back and there's shit tracked all across the carpet. It was like that. The shit was everywhere. You can't blame the dog. Dog's shit; it's what they do. You shouldn't blame the people much; maybe they turned away for a moment and the dog did its business. It happens. And your attention was elsewhere as you walked and, well, it's a mess.

It was a mess for Gilly, and I don't blame anyone. Steve fought as hard as anyone could, but in the end too many systems were too messed up, and he died.

We're left, a year later with the fact of his death. Sometimes I know he'd be proud of all of us, and sometimes it's more than I can bear and I cry. Often both at once.

I am proud of our community. Of our bloggers, Hubris Sonic, Lower Manhattanite, Sara Robinson and myself, and The Littlest Gator and Evan Robinson. Of Jen, Steve's co-publisher and the heart of our community. And our readers, the few who comment frequently (regulars), the many who comment sometimes (lurkers), and the vast majority (in the tens of thousands) who simply read (*hi Mom*.) Among those who read us are the major blogs, political campaigns, national newspapers, networks and magazines, political parties, politicians and staff, and people in over 140 countries around the world.

Steve, my friend... it's one hell of a legacy you've left.

If only I could go a week without bursting into tears.