From the best I can tell, I took this photo around the time of Gabey’s passing. I have not slept in a while, and am … well… devastated, to put it bluntly. I just finished replying to a kind message from a young man in Liverpool, of all places, and although I won’t identify him because I didn’t ask his permission, I thought that I would share my reply with you all.

               It’s just too hard to write a lot right now, so I decided to copy the letter and post it as a partial and I’m certain, inadequate explanation about how Gabe has affected my life and many lives out here.

                He would likely laugh the wonderful way that he did, shaking his head at my foolish attempt to make sense out of this, but there is one thing that he knew just as I do. That we all matter to each other, and that his pain and ultimate surrender is now a part of all of us. I will never be able to explain this to someone who has never taken the time to care, but to those who did, and do, I share this letter in the hope that it might help in some small way.

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Hi *****,

         I listened to an audio post Gabe did for his blog way back when last night again. It was his 100th post and he figured it might be different and a way to honor the people who took the time to involve themselves in his online life.

         He was a very lonely young boy, and for a while, seemed to be finding a level of companionship out here that was making a difference for him. He spent time messaging me, listening to my counsel and laughing that I worried so much. Pushing my buttons. Making me angry and then sloughing it off in his playful southern manner.

         He was incorrigible. Funny. Irreverent. Extremely bright.

         Did I tell you that he was a gifted poet?

         We spent hours commiserating over verse and cadence and passion. He started to understand that his talents were special. That they came from a place where one had to be careful visiting.

         He had some very powerful demons.

         For the brief time I knew him, it felt more real than many things in my life. We became very close. Too close, in a sense. The kind of close where he couldn’t lie anymore and get away with it. It is ultimately what drove us apart.

         He savored the anonymity that most of his followers were more than happy to provide. Joking about dark places that were too difficult to face.

          He told me one time, that ALL of this was unreal. That it was all fake.

          I went on a rant for several days and got very depressed. I could feel him slipping away.

          I knew better, and so did he. When he saw the undeniable sadness in me, he recanted and modified his statement. It had been a test I think. To see whether I cared.

          I did. I still do.

          He was a lost soul, torn apart by the death of his father and desperately trying to find his way in a corrupt world as a young gay boy. He lived in a corrosive environment. His stepfather and mother were both southern Baptists to whom homosexuality was evil. I could feel that tearing at his soul as he eventually revealed himself to them.

          He had more courage than me. Standing up against that onslaught was the bravest thing I had witnessed in years.

          He didn’t take my advice on that either, altho my advice was always open- ended. I have never wanted to live someone else’s life for them, but have thought that my mistakes might be avoided to some degree by other kids if only they knew about them. That maybe, just maybe, I could help some of them survive better than I have. The world, after all, is changing… If I could just buy them some time…

           That has been my strategy for most of these kids. Let them know that they are loved. That there is hope. To move foward because that is the only way to make it.

           If only Gabe wasn’t such a loving boy… He would have made it.

           He would laugh at that statement, but he would also know that it was true. That his wounds came from a broken heart that would not mend.

           I won’t go into many of the details of the downward spiral from there, except to say that the tipping point became obvious. He wrote me an email one night that indicated he was mixing drugs and alcohol.

           I was terrified. I told him so, and got no response. I spent the next 4 hours, trying to trace his IP address, his emails and to scour everything I had for clues to where he lived.

           All I could think was that he was lying on his bed or on the floor passed out, in a nightmarish recreation of the last day of someone I knew and cared for.

           I didn’t sleep that night or the next, until he posted on his blog again. He was obviously still under the influence and in a very serious descent.

           It was then that I tried the only thing I had left. I wrote him another email. I told him that I was relieved that he was alive, but that the way things were going, he wouldn’t be for long.

           I was blunt. Dispassionate. Analytical.

           All the while, my heart was breaking. I felt… shattered. That his end was imminent.

           He never answered that email, but made another post on his blog. Delirious. Confrontational. Intentionally provocative.

            I had wounded him by telling him that he had to stop drinking and ingesting drugs and that his boyfriend was a big part of the problem. My hands were shaking when I sent that message, because I knew that it was equally provocative. I didn’t know any other way to get him engaged. To shake him out of his delirium. To make him face some awful truths.

           To save him.

           I knew that he would likely hate me for saying what I had. I had to take that chance. Everyone else seemed to be dancing around the issue. Watching the spiral as tho it was part of some strange ride.

            There were a few who were having no success getting through because they had the same fear as me. That he would shut down.

             But I knew that if I didn’t make him face the truth, it was only a matter of time.

             I made sure to leave the door open. I told Gabe that I would always feel a kinship to him, and that I loved him. That he was not alone. That there was hope.

             He was very angry at that. Or so he implied in his blog.

             I reached out to some of the kids who he had been talking to over the past year and they were equally concerned, and tho they tried, they seemed unable to get through to him as well.

             It is all like a dream right now. More of a nightmare, really.

             I spent the next months emailing Gabe to no response. He even suspended his account for a while. I was talking to myself. But when they did go through, I would fill him in on mundane things. Everyday occurrences. Little stories about the kids I talked to who were still worried about him, just to let him know he wasn’t forgotten.

             That people cared. Deeply.

             He opened an alternate blog to which I had no access, and have only recently seen.

              I never heard from him again.

             But, there has never been a day out here when I’m writing on my blog, that my thoughts hadn’t returned to him, wondering how he was doing. Whether his baby brother had changed his perspective enough to give him a reason…

             To open his eyes to the blessings and not the horrors.

             It was never fake. No illusion. Gabe knew that, and so did I.

             I’ll end this message now and hope that in reading it, you have a better understanding of how I feel.

             What has happened will remain a deep wound in my heart. I can only hope that my commitment to mentor is not a mistake. That I can make a difference, unlike the failure I visited upon that lonely southern boy.

             I miss him more than you can imagine.

love, Tony

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             I’ll leave you all with that. I’m sorry in advance, if I don’t reply directly to you or your comments. I am still fighting though my emotions, and yes, my tears, writing about this in any form.

              I wish you all the best and hope that there is some joy in your lives to take the edge off the pain that Gabe’s passing has left behind. What comes from this, we can only wonder. I suppose Gabe would want me to say something profound. He seemed to enjoy that, but for now, I’ll sign off in the way that might make him smile…

later, y’all…   Tman

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