One of the most important parts of my week is eating dinner with the community at the soup kitchen at the local parish.
Tonight I walked into the soup kitchen with my own worries and concerns heavy on my mind and visible on my countenance. I felt anything but friendly and had no desire to make my rounds saying hello to friends. I just wanted to sit down, eat a warm bowl of soup, and go home to keep working.
I sat at the first seat I saw free across from a welcoming face. The seat happened to be at the very Southwest corner of the room – so I could see each and every seat in the auditorium full of hungry community members.
The welcoming face belonged to a gentleman who had attended a small prayer service we held at the house after the shooting a few weeks ago. I was grateful when he casually reminded me of how I knew him without being obvious.
He asked me how I was and I was honest, as I’ve learned to be with my neighbors. His response; “Me too. I’ve got a lot on my mind as well.” I encouraged him to tell me what was going on, hoping at least for a break from my own selfish frustrations of busy scheduling and overdue email responses. What he said jolted me out of my self-absorbed worries.
“I found a woman dead in the park this morning.”
As my neighbor explained how he found “Mary” in the park, he told how he tried to find a pulse, although she was cold as ice and flies had filled her facial cavities. Eventually he admitted it took an hour before anyone showed up to cover her body – even though she was found within yards of the hospital. He explained that it was even longer before the coroner came for her body. His words; “I realized if I ever die in a park, that’s how long it will take for them to come for me”. As he stayed by her body to guard it, he no doubt was praying someone would do the same for him one day.
“I’m a surgical assistant you know!” My dinner companion explained how he was able to look for a pulse and felt a sense of authority around the body; “I’m used to dead bodies”.
But really, who ever gets used to dead bodies?
As I sat there and listened to this man speak of his morning – I was still sitting in this southwest corner looking at the entire room of neighbors. As I listened and looked off I couldn’t help but wonder; “how many of these will be found dead in a park?” I was having dinner with the demographic that bodies in parks are usually drawn from. My eyes filled with tears.
This is the blog that doesn’t get resolved.
This is the story without a happy ending.
Many of my neighbors will be found dead, with flies covering their faces.
Many of my friends will die with no one by their sides.
That soup kitchen was filled with faces that I know and love. Dozens who have been in our home. Most who have been guest at our parties. Yet, I can’t keep them from dying alone in parks. I can’t be there when there bodies are laying exposed for hours in a park with curious kids walking by gawking. I can’t hold the grieving fiance as his friends keep him liquored up to deal with his grief.
I can’t do it all.
But as I sat at dinner, and heard the story, I could do my best to receive it. I could choose to feel the pain and sorrow. I could keep myself from changing the subject or diverting my neighbors attention. I could sit with him and let him see my eyes fill with tears – because those tears might be the closest thing he has to believing someone will grieve him when he dies.