Friday, June 24, 2011

Disdained in Life, Discarded in Death



He was a loner, but likeable.  John was a very intelligent homeless man who stayed in one of the local shelters at night, and fended for himself during the day.  His yellow-tinted glasses gave color to his weary eyes.

I first met him a year or so ago.  Our church operated out of a small storefront and served breakfast to the homeless early each Sunday morning.  We would pack 60, sometime 70, homeless men and women into our narrow quarters.  John was anxious around crowds.  He would arrive late, and linger outside.  He seldom asked for a meal, but always asked for coffee.  I struck up conversation with him, and it became a near-weekly ritual.  I looked forward to seeing him.

He would miss a week or two but always managed to reappear. During this time I left for 3 months to work with the poor in Honduras.   Upon returning,I didn't see John for a couple weeks and asked a street person who was a buddy of John's.  He told me John had died months ago.  I was shocked.

Nobody on our "team" had heard anything.  The grapevine of the homeless network was quiet; John was aloof enough that his brothers of the street apparently either didn't know or didn't care.

How does someone die without anyone noticing?  How does a man created in imago Dei--the image of God--die and get discarded like a cigarette butt tossed out the window?  How can you become so lost, so invisible that no one notices you dying?

I don't know.  I do know this:  I miss John.  John, I wish I had known your health had been significantly deteriorating.  Maybe I could have been there with you so you wouldn't have died alone.  Maybe some family member broke out of their comfort zone and re-established contact with you and held your hand and uttered comforting words and provided loving presence as you died.  Maybe.  I hope so.

No one should die alone.

13 comments:

Widow_Lady302 said...

Welcome back to "civilization" you were missed here by many. Someone did notice John's passing..you did. The truth of human passings is death is a journey we take alone, surrounded by people. In faith, he was not alone I know that. I watched my husband talk with, hold the hands of, and laugh with people I could not see. In faith, I know who all was there he was surrounded by those gone before, and Jesus, who were easing him home and as I was making his body comfortable, they were making his spirit comfortable. I have a dream that one day I'll start a foundation that will spread called "Dragon Fly Manor" where homeless people, and people in need may come and be cared for and comforted in their final walk. For people like John, for people like me who one day will have no one left on this earth. I'm rambling...long story short...you noticed, bless your heart you noticed. My love and prayers to you and yours.

Steve said...

widow_lady, I hope your vision becomes a reality. What a beautiful bestowing of mercy that would be.

JIM said...

Steve we look but we don't see.... It is such a shame... You sound like a good man!! I started following you




http://jpweddingphotograpy.blogspot.com/2011/06/sacred-ibis-and-american-white-ibis.html

Bongo said...

It's just unimaginable that someone has to live on the streets..with all this wealth in this country...but to die on the streets alone ..all alone...no family or friends to hold your hand and say :I love you...I feel so sad for this man and i wish too that I could have been there beside him as he died...my hope is that God was with him..and that he is at peace..this is so very very sad....As always...XOXOXO

Steve said...

JIM, thanks for following and for your kind words.

Bonnie, you're right. It's not only a tragedy, but a travesty. As always. . .

Finding One's Way said...

Steve,

This is the saddest thing I have read in a long time... My heart goes out to the all the people the suffer alone and die alone with out anyone with them...
xoxo
Jess

Patricia Singleton said...

The only thing that I know about this homeless man is that he was blessed to have a friend like you who really cared about him.

My dad died alone by his choices. He wasn't homeless. He called an old school bus that someone had converted to a trailer sitting on the side of a county road home. The only friend he had left lived in nearby in another school bus trailer.

Because of incest and alcoholism, my dad had pushed everyone who cared out of his life several years earlier. It took his friend and the sheriff's department a week to contact any family members. It was sad to see him die all alone and it was his choice.

Steve said...

Jess, may we be given eyes to see and ears to hear the invisible and silent people around us.

Patricia, if only we realized how much our choices affect not only ourselves but those who care about us. I am sorry for all you lost.

Bill Meli said...

Thank you Steve for your post on loneliness and isolation. It makes one wonder how many people, who may actually be in families and comunities, feel just as isolated and alone as the discarded do. The truth is that Jesus is the great equalizer, reaching out to the homeless as well as the very rich. My prayer is that he allows each one of us the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life this week. Thank you, Bill

Steve said...

Bill, a robust "Amen!" to your prayer.

Jan said...

Wonderful post about a sad story. You gave this man love. Bless you! I recently did a picture blog about the homeless men and women in our town. I know a lot of them by name; one of them is Kenny; my son. I can only hope that he will meet some one like you; sent by God; to help him on his way, when it is time. Thank you for this post.

Steve said...

Jan, thank you for your kind and caring words. I am so sorry you are going through this with your son. Our heart breaks for our children and the pain they both endure and create. Shalom for you and your son.

Anonymous said...

this breaks my heart for so many reasons!
Beth Bernard