Remembering Some of Uptown's Forgotten Troopers
This is a segment of a longer post I recently finished, called Tragedy and Exhilaration. (http://freeingprisoners.blogspot.com/2015/09/tragedy-and-exhilaration.html)
During the month of May, I knew 5 men who sadly died. They all died too young. The truth is, people who experience the hardships of homelessness have a far lower life expectancy than the National average. These 5 men range from their mid 60s down to only 38. This is my weak attempt, trying to give each of these fellas a little honor and recognition....
Isaac was a Vietnam veteran who had struggled with various bouts of homelessness and health issues, sadly he died in his apartment I helped him get into. I'd met him at a Tuesday night Church service called The Bridge (a place where I preach once a month) and was homeless last year, but he moved into Friendly Towers and found his final earthly home there. Isaac loved the Lord, had a heart of gold and was always trying to do right. Rest in peace my friend; I'm going to miss driving you to The Bridge and hearing your extensive knowledge and stories of both Chicago and Vietnam!
Jesus wasn't homeless, but was one of our cooks at CCO. Uptown's homeless community loved him, as every morning, he faithfully provided a delicious breakfast for whoever came through our doors. He was tragically hit by a van as he walked home one afternoon. Ola, his wife, also works for us. When she heard, she phoned me to "come quickly". It was shocking! It was intense! It was tragic! He died that night. Beth and I rushed to the hospital. Those days involved a lot of support for his grieving wife and many in Uptown's homeless community who loved and respected this humble, hardworking man. We held a beautiful memorial service for a man who departed us too early. Rest in Peace Jesus; thank you for your serving heart.
The streets and parks of Uptown knew Jeff well. Maybe too well! He lived and drank on them. He was only 38, and he'd lost his beloved partner, Mary, just a year earlier. He was a sweet soul, who's body was contaminated by a severe seizure disorder and a crippling addiction to alcohol. But, Jeff didn't die on the streets, he had just moved into his own crib and that's where he had his final seizure. Father Powell held a memorial Mass for him, where my photo of Jeff proudly holding his keys was displayed; it was truly a beautiful service, where both Jeff and Jesus Christ were honored. Rest in Peace Jeff; you are missed and I wish many others had got to see that sweet and humble side of you.
I didn't know Rico very well. He slept in the parks of Uptown and Edgewater. During the coldest nights of winter, he'd come and stay at CCO. Sadly, one morning they found Rico dead, curled up in a fetal position. They're still investigating, but the rumor is, Rico died from "blunt trauma". Sadly, his death symbolizes a daunting reality; those who are homeless are far more likely to be victims, than perpetrators, and far too many deaths are ignored and coated in mystery! We may never know what happened, and earthly justice may never be served, but you're in the Lord's hands now and God is our Just Loving Father; Rest in Peace my friend!
Yet another mystery. Another young life taken far too early. The 65 men at Epworth woke up one morning, to find that one of their companions "on the trail", sadly wouldn't wake up with them. Only 40 years old, and his heart stopped beating. This quiet young man was putting in the effort, going to school and getting his degrees. He was trying to make the best out of a bad situation. No one spoke ill of him. I became a counselor to his distressed aunt on several occasions, as these phone calls were painful tearjerkers. We grieved together, as she shared some of his family's tragic tales and how he ended up homeless. Ryan was rising, only to mysteriously fall. Rest in Peace Ryan; I wish I'd known you better.
Trying to process these 5 deaths isn't easy. 5 different people with 5 different personalities, tragically departing this world with 5 different stories. In dying, some received earthly recognition, others didn't! So this is my weak attempt to try and give each one of them a little honor and recognition here.
Rest In Peace my friends; you all are truly missed and I find hope in the words of Jesus, "blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven"