Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mysteriously Dead OR Mysteriously Alive?

There's a mystery in homelessness I hate!
Sadly it happens too often!
People disappear and we don't know whether they're dead or alive!

I'm living that reality right now; there are three homeless friends who have mysteriously vanished, leaving us bewildered and unsure of how to find them. We are searching! We check the local hospitals, nursing homes, Cook County Jail and the IDOC website, but there is no answer. We ask, we question and explore, but still there is no answer. People ask me, but in a massive city, with multiple hospitals, the task is time consuming and very difficult. We just need to wait, patiently, for clues and answers. All we can do is pray!

Throughout my years of working with men and women who are homeless, convincing rumors have splattered the Uptown pavement. I've heard tragic tales of death and murder, only to see that individual, days, weeks, months or even years later, and we celebrate their "resurrection". When I left to New Zealand last November, I'd heard how "they'd" shot and killed William on the Southside, yet I attended another person's memorial service with him today. "Archie's dead, Archie's dead!" his friends yelled up and down Wilson Ave. "The ambulance came, took him to Weiss and he died there!" Tears flowed down his girlfriend's cheeks. Scott and I rushed down the three blocks, as about 15 people told us the same believable story. As we arrive in the ER, Archie's sitting in his hospital bed grinning from ear to ear. We celebrated his life!

Fred's story is even more remarkable. He'd been beat severely, and had gone to the hospital with a horrible brain injury. This time, there was no immediate way to check out the rumor. He wasn't in the local hospital, he had died, his bleeding brain had taken his life. All his friends and relatives mourned his premature death. He was only 40. I even grieved over his death in a piece I wrote in this blog: deATh's door A couple months later, Fred was discovered to be still alive. Only just! The doctors and nurses had used modern technology to keep this "dead man" alive. Miraculously, Fred had to learn to talk, walk and think again. Sandy and I visited him regularly as he rehabbed, and I can testify that Fred's life today is a wonderful miracle. He walks, he talks and he's able to think. Earlier this month, we celebrated this "resurrection", as Fred signed a lease, got a key and moved out of homelessness and transitioned into his own apartment.

Cyrus standing with Leroy after last year's historic blizzard.
Yet sadly, as we celebrate the three lives of William, Archie and Fred, we live in utter confusion about three other friends; Leroy, Dave and Don! We don't know whether to mourn or live in hope. I was driving today and stopped to chat to Leroy's girlfriend who hasn't seen him for a couple months. He occupied a corner in Uptown everyday, and blessed the busy crowds that hurried to the train or school. One day in December that occupation stopped, he simply disappeared and was no more. "Where can he be?" his girlfriend wonders, not wanting to expect the worst. His health had been rapidly deteriorating, his very muscular body we'd all known, had turned to skin and bones. We grieve over his mysterious disappearance and had explored many different avenues, but there is still no answer. All we can do is wait. Leroy's girlfriend and I finish our conversation with the words "all we can do is pray", and that reality is very true and profound!

Dave is a homeless veteran who lived outside, down by the lake. This 50 year old man would never stop wandering around Uptown with his shaved head, displaying the scars of many battles, both here and abroad. Dave tirelessly trekked about with an overly stuffed backpack and military garb. He used to frequent CCO for meals and an occasional bed. We'd been helping him get housing and an income and that reality was almost true. Progress was happening. The wars he'd fought in had left him scarred in many ways. He suffered chronically debilitating seizures and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, so the doctors put him on a very high dosage of medication, which made him drowsy. Unfortunately, this drowsiness and "zombie-like" wandering had caused him to step into traffic and fall into Lake Michigan on several occasions. He'd also been victim to a hate crime, where some young thugs decided to pick on a homeless individual and they threw him into the lake. As we ask of Dave's whereabouts, all the rumors suggest is walked too close to the lake in December, fell in and drowned. But all honesty, we don't know and we miss our harmless wandering friend. He has no family to question. Maybe he's in a hospital or a mental institution or camped in another part of Chicago, we just don't know. All we can do is wait and pray.

We'd helped Don through his recovery from cancer. He'd gone to a Nursing Home, where we would visit him, but he's no longer there. Someone else has his phone, and she doesn't have a clue who the former owner is. Rumor tells us he also died, but there's no one to ask. All we can do is wait and pray.

We don't know what's happened to these three guys. They could be dead, but they could also be alive. I worry for them, asking myself many questions, wondering if they're suffering and struggling alone in an unknown location. All we know is the mystery; mysteries that needs closure for their many friends and relatives who are left pondering their mere existence.
I worry that these 3 men may be "invisibly" dead, after living a life that was unnoticed by the masses that occupied Chicago.
I worry because these 3 wonderful human beings deserve a proper burial, a stone honoring the names their mothers gave them and a service remembering who they were.
I worry because these 3 fellas will probably not get all this, because they may be mysteriously dead already, and in that I mourn, wait and pray.

But ironically I find an unusual hope!

Though humanity may have rejected and forgotten this street corner dweller, this homeless veteran and this cancer survivor, God holds them tenderly in His loving arms. Leroy loves the Lord, and would proclaim the name of Jesus everyday. Dave carried around a Bible in his backpack and would cry out to God for mercy. Don never shied away from prayer and would covet our prayers as visited in the hospital and Nursing Home. All 3 of these men loved the One who boldly proclaimed "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."

Though I hate the mysterious feeling of "not knowing" whether they are alive or dead, hope rises from the ashes, proclaiming that they will eternally rest in the loving arms of the One who "sets the prisoners free."

UPDATE (3/23/12); Today we celebrate; Leroy stepped into our lives again. His girlfriend had been in contact with him, so I spoke to him on the phone yesterday, and he showed up at CCO today. He'd been knocked off his bike in December and shattered his hip. Leroy was then transferred to a Nursing Home so he could recover. He came to us today, we hugged and celebrated his life. I was so glad to see my "missing" buddy. I gave him his pile of mail and some crutches to help him with his walking and he wandered away with his girlfriend, who he had just reunited with.

Leroy was going to relax, because another positive aspect to his story is; he is no longer homeless and now has a place to go and rest his weary bones!


2ND UPDATE (4/5/12): Whereas, Leroy's doing great and I love seeing him and hearing his voice say "in Jesus name", I also found out some bad news. Dave, our homeless veteran friend, has officially passed away. Through a good friend and the Cook County Medical Examiners Office, it was discovered that Dave actually did drown in Lake Michigan on December 20th, 2011. We don't know how this happened; there is still a lot of mystery about our mysterious friend! Together, there are a lot of us mourning the loss of our brother and our friend.



Dave, you are missed. You are loved. We fought together, trying to overcome the countless battles and obstacles that stood before you.
I dream of seeing you again, free from the pain and suffering you endured wandering around in your mortal body.
I dream of seeing you made whole; free from a tortured and enslaving mind.
I dream of seeing you made immortal and living in your spiritual body.

Dave; we love you. You are missed, and until we meet again, may you rest in peace....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing these wonderful stories! It gives us the courage to not give up hoping to see those who have slipped from our lives. And, thank you for the work you do with these wonderful people. You are a blessing to people looking for a friend, and for hope and a way out of their dire situations. God Bless you.