For a couple of weeks now I have had this gentleman on my mind. I have seen empty shopping carts in odd places, and immediately thought of him and wondered how he is, where he is, how is he adjusting to life in viral shut-down. Just now, I found out that he has passed away. I looked up his obituary. It offered birth date, lived in Massachusetts, death date.
There was no memorial, no kind words, no expression of how he lived, or any notion at all that he had any affect on anyone. He simply was born, he lived in a place, and he died.
So, here, I offer a memorial.
I always saw him around, walking all over, pushing a cart on the hunt for treasure in the shape of an empty bottle or can. Often muttering, but nothing intelligible and nothing that sounded threatening. Just talkin’. Eventually I had a chance to talk with him and get to know him even a little bit. He was so incredibly resilient, always finding something to be happy about, grateful for. Even on a sad day, when he tearily told me about things going on, he would end with something like “life can’t be all good” or “we all have our ups and downs,” and then his teary mood would lift and he would get on with his day. Some days he was in a great deal of pain, and he would tell me, and he would express that it wasn’t fair that he should feel so badly, because he wasn’t used to being kept down, he wasn’t used to having an older body that wasn’t as strong or agile as it had once been. This upset him, but just as always he would move through this and land on something good like “it’s not everyone my age that can do what I do.”
Some days I would see him down by my office in the morning as I left for my outreach work at 8:45. Then a couple hours later he would be miles away at the grocery store I pass on the way home. I often thought, “I certainly do not have the stamina to walk all that way, rain or shine”…. but there he was…I swear he must have put in 20 miles a day.
One of the last times I saw him he was pushing his cart with a giant blue stuffed dog in it. “Curious” I thought as I laughed out loud at this sight. Then about 3 hours later I passed him in another spot, the dog gone from the cart. This brought up all sorts of questions, questions I never got to ask him.
A smile on his face, a gleam in his eye, a dance step to share, a quick word of gratitude or joy. This is the man I knew. This is just a snippet of that space between born and died.
He made an impression on everyone who knew him, a good impression, a lasting impression. He was here, he lived, people cared about him, he made a difference in our community, he will be missed.