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Remarks from Victoria M. Rodríguez-Roldán at Disability Day of Mourning 2019

Human life has a strange nature to it – when we think of those in our community who were taken from us, we acknowledge its tragedy. But often times we fail to internalize it. Anyone who’s been a parent, or for that matter, anyone who’s had conflicts with their parents, knows that everyone grows up to be an independent human being, full of their own hopes, dreams, and ways of enjoying the world. My father, who was a historian and archaeologist, once, when I was a child, showed me an indian piece of pottery from before Columbus, but instead of telling me how old it was, what he told me was to think of the person that ate from it, or who stored things in it, or the frustration they felt when it broke, so many hundreds of years ago.

When I look at the list, I wonder, of those who grew old enough… what did they like? What did they eat? Did they hate broccoli? Did they like pizza? What did they find fun? What did they find boring? For the ones that were taken from us as infants, I wonder what type of people they would have grown up to be. Maybe they’d have gone to school, or maybe had a crush on someone. Maybe they’d have come to like some people.

When we talk of lives taken away, far too often we fall into the trap of imagining society’s image of life at its fullest – people going to college and becoming successful doctors or lawyers, or becoming pro athletes full of wealth and success. I think of something simpler. Laughing at a joke. Finding someone interesting and making a friend. Falling in love. Enjoying your favorite food. Trying out something new. Binging on a Netflix show. Getting a song stuck in your head. The gift of enjoying the mundane pleasures of life that we take for granted, the little things that make us human in this world, was taken away from the people we mourn today.

It was taken from them by the people they should have been able to trust the most. Parents. Caregivers. Family members. The people we’re supposed to look up to when in pain, when in doubt, when in need.

That is what I think about today. If that makes you sad, angry and hurt, that is okay. That is a good thing. It means your heart hasn’t hardened to the injustices we face in this world as disabled people. My ask to you, is that we channel that anger to keep fighting like hell for the living, so that we can finally one day stop adding names to the list.

Thank you.

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