Monday, October 6, 2008

he'll die alone

I'm not sure why I'm writing about death again, except perhaps that it's because I'm surrounded by it. Living on the streets is not easy on the body, nor is the sometimes constant substance use.

Many of the clients I work with, although not all of them, have very little family they are still in contact with (in contrast, some of them have family with them constantly, sleeping on the mat beside them). When this happens, many of them list the shelter as both their home address and their next of kin. The problem is, though we mean a lot to a person, we're not the greatest next of kin, and we for the most part, don't go sit at death beds.

One of my clients is in the hospital on life support. I noticed he was going down hill and referred him to the day staff to see if they could get him in to see a doctor. It seems however that an ambulance found him passed out somewhere and he wound up in the hospital anyway. Now the hospital is looking for his next of kin, to come be with him as he dies, and no one can be found. All we have is a possible apartment building where is brother, whose name we don't know, might live, maybe.

I assume, that most of us, despite our insecurities believe that people would care if we died. There would be someone there, at our bedsides, and we'd leave behind many people to grieve. This man leaves behind no one. Whether there is a funeral will depend on whether there is money, and whether anyone cares enough to organize one. He wasn't one of our more "popular" homeless (and yes, there is definitely such a thing). In the end, life comes down to so little. One moment he'll be alive, the next dead, and that's that. Will he leave a legacy? Who can know, who can know.


cb said...

I think just by writing this you have demonstrated that he has touched your life. That is a record, in itself.
One of the hardest things I've had to come to terms with in my work is some of the isolation and loneliness that exists 'out there'. A word, a thought and respect, although very little, can serve a purpose. Take care

Caroline said...

I always look at people like this and remember that they were once somebody's new born baby - it is hard to get your head around how they got from there to here - it is hard to be the one who bears witness too

Anonymous said...

Your reflections really make me think, Awake. Like cb said, maybe just writing about this man and allowing the rest of us to meditate for a minute about him helps in some small way.

Anonymous said...

Your story really touched me. Thinking of death in itself is sad enough when there are people around to mourn the dead. The thought of there being no one to care enough (other than a very devoted social worker) is heartbreaking. Be strong. The world needs more people like you.