We found out a friend died yesterday. We hadn’t seen him in five or so months – but this was not unusual. He was troubled – he’d had a hard life. Half the time he slept in shelters. He was asleep in a dumpster when the garbage truck came and emptied it. He died from head trauma.
We’d known him since he was 15. He was a ward of the state. His parents were drug addicts and his mom had died of Aids when he was small. He had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and had the characteristic long face and crowded teeth, which only added to his charm.
He had all the reasons in the world to be messed up or miserable. But he wasn’t. He always smiled, always told a joke, always grinning from ear to ear, always happy to see you. He never asked for much, but accepted all help gratefully. Because of his disability, he was taken advantage of all the time, by friends and family, others as down-and-out as he – but he never had a bad word to say about any of them. He just kept on keeping on. He loved his family, even the Dad – the junkie down on the strip – he’d get his disability cheque and bring him money and food and drugs even when the guy was yelling at him to get out – disowning him. All he wanted was a little love, and he periodically hitchhiked across the country back and forth looking for it. Just like a little kid he was… an innocent.
Last year he was hit head on by a semi truck. He ended up here in the hospital with his jaw wired shut. Apparently he died on site but they were able to revive him. I remember telling him to take it easy, settle down somewhere and get off the roads. Use the services available and get set up in a house somewhere. Somewhere … safer. He stuck around for a bit but ended up back on the road. Which eventually somehow led to that dumpster… He was back East and so he must have been cold. No reason to sleep in dumpsters out here on the West coast with the weather so mild. Not characteristic of him to sleep in dumpsters. He must have been cold – it was October – the Fall chill just coming on.
When we heard I was not surprised in one way. The last time we had seen him at the hospital, he was so thin – he looked bad. Almost like that vibe was around him already. Like Death wanted him, and had lost this time, but would be back. I was worried for him.
In another way, we always thought he would land on his feet. He definitely had nine lives…but he was so young, I guess I thought he hadn’t run out yet.
I feel though, that he is in a better place. That he’s reunited with his Mom and Dad, that his mind will be whole again, that his parents will be whole spirits again and not suffering from the damage of this lifetime. And that, with their suffering over, all three of them, they are free to be a family again. I heard once that souls travel in packs and reincarnate together again and again in different relationships. He looked for love all through his life, here surely he must be surrounded by it now. How lovely.
So why am I so sad for him?
Why are we sad for the dead? Do we want to know they didn’t suffer? Do we want to make sure they are ok? What if they miss us? What if they are lonely? What if they are scared? Or is it that I am sad about him – the inevitability of his early passing. Could it really have gone any other way for him? Could I have helped him more – or was I so caught up in my own life that I justified not taking on more responsibility for him … what do you do when you have limited resources, and someone needier than yourself comes along? You do what you can and send them on their way with a prayer, hoping they will be ok, find somewhere to be. Stay in touch brother … But did he really say he wanted to stay with us forever? Did I really say no? I had a new baby, I was sleep deprived, I was alone all day, I was exhausted … sometimes I feel like a selfish son-of-a-bitch…
Ach. Now I will pray to him. Ask him of he’s ok. Maybe he will answer me somehow. Creator, tell him to visit. Tell him we loved him. Tell him how sad all of his friends are – that they still suffer, months later. That he left a mark on the world, weather he knew it or not. That he is remembered as a kind, giving, happy-go lucky guy who always had a shoulder for someone to cry on and a funny story about his adventures to cheer you up.
Upon searching online to find something about his death, anything…there was only this one line on a local homeless shelter’s site: ‘Homeless man dies in dumpster dump. A homeless man taking shelter in a dumpster has died after he sustained serious head injuries when the dumpster was emptied into a recycling truck.’ That’s it – I can only assume that’s him. No obits anywhere. Nothing.
So I’m gonna post his picture here – even though I want to be anonymous in this blog. If any of his family members come across it and want it down let me know. I just want there to be something about him somewhere for the world to remember him by. About how good he was, how unique and unlike anyone else on earth. How there will never be another one like him.
The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, 1929