Death

…courted me for year.

…first knocked on my door when I became paralyzed.  It was an accident, the paralysis.  I was five years old.  My brother and I had been pushing each other all day, but the game ended abruptly.  The push sent me flailing off the porch backwards.  I struggled futilely.  My arms frantically trying to grasp something to stop the fall, coming back with nothing but air.

…stood at the foot of my bed and waited patiently for me to give up, to give out.

…tapped his foot in time with the second hand on clock in my room.  If you listened, you could hear.  No!  That wasn’t the clock; not really.  It was Death tapping his shoe on the floor.  Hear it?  tick, tick, tick, tick…

…and I communicated on a differently level than I communicated with other people.  I was often confused as to whether this level was higher or lower.  Maybe it was neither.  Rather it was simply other-worldly.

…was quite frightening to me when I was younger.  When I used to question “Why Me?”  On nights when I would cry out to him to go ahead and get it over with, he would tell me calmly, eerily, quietly that I was not ready yet.  I think he meant he was not ready yet.

…made it quite clear that he was patient enough to wait.  And wait.  And wait.

…made me wait.  And wait.  And wait.

…and I had some rather interesting conversations as I was growing up, wheel-chair bound.  He was very well-traveled, very experienced, very patient, very present, and very permanent.  This, he told me, was why he would not, or rather could not, whisk me away from my life until it was time.

…and I became very close.  You could almost say we were friends.  I did.  In my final hour, he was there.

…waited for me, over the years, at the foot of the stagnant bed, in the stale room, in the overly-crowded nursing home.

…would be there waiting for me when I returned, right where I left him.

…would never ask me about my trips to the hospital.  I could tell by his eyes that he had heard that story many times before.

…watched me leave that room many times as I stayed in the home.  Each time came sooner than the time before.  And each time I took longer returning.

…was, as usual, right there at the foot of the bed the morning I awoke from my last temporary night of sleep.

…communicated with me, I believe, in my sleep that night.

…prepared me for the morning.

…assured me, that should no one else be available, he would be there.

…knew I would be alone.  All these years, he knew.  He told me in my dreams last night.  That’s why he had been with me all these years.

…knew that I needed these years to get to know him.  He knew he needed to court me.  He knew the separation from the life I knew would be difficult, so he courted me.  Wooed me.  So that, on that final night, I wouldn’t be alone, wouldn’t feel abandoned.

…and I strolled hand-in-hand, together, out of my life, my world and into his.  Finally, after all the years of begging and pleading, praying and crying; we were one.

 

Written July 5, 1999, for my Aunt Tee, upon her passing.

You May Think You Know Who I Am #5

You may think you know who I am.  You see me around campus.  In that clique.  You call me the jock!

I see the way you look at me; wishing you were part of this group.  Thinking some guys have all the luck.  Sure, I really got it made.

Everyday I go to practice know that this is my one shot to make something of myself because I know I’m not that smart.

Everyday I go home from a game I know I’m gonna catch hell from my dad if I wasn’t the star of that game.  And dropping the ball is met with a beating when I get home.  Failure is simply not an option.  Perfection is the ticket.

Everyday I wish I’d just blow out my knee so I couldn’t play.  So then we’d see all his precious dreams of living his life through me go down the toilet.  Because the last thing I want to be known as is a big dumb jock who can’t do anything but play sports.  Who’ll never amount to anything more than a washed-up high school jock who never stood a chance at getting a job where I was required to do anything mental.

But for now, everyone thinks I walk on water because I’m a great jock.

Yeah, you think you know who I am.  But what do you know?  You’ve never walk a mile in my shoes; you’ve never lived a day in my life.  You don’t have a clue.

You may think you know who I am.  The truth is:  You only know my name.

You May Think You Know Who I Am #4

You may think you know who I am.

I know you talk about me behind my back, making snide comments about my clothes, my shoes, whatever.  I ride the same bus as you.  You see where I get on and I hear you snicker as I get on the bus & then stop suddenly when I make eye contact.

It’s no real news to me that I am poor.  I know that I don’t have a lot of nice things.  My parents can’t afford to buy me everything I want.  There are times when we can barely afford what we need.

And as if that’s not bad enough, I have to live with knowing that as soon as I’m out of earshot, you and your friends take turns making cracks about me and my family’s financial status.

You think because I’m poor, I’m less; that less money means less of a person.  For once it would be nice to know that the amount of money my parents have or the brand of clothing I wear didn’t determine whether you thought I was worthy of your friendship.  Why does it matter to you if I live in a trailer park?  Is it really that important that I wore the same pair of pants twice in one week?  Do you base your friend criteria on how much money my parents have?

Does it mean anything to you that I’m nice?  I would be a very good friend to you if you’d just give me a chance.

You only know me as the poor kid.  But that doesn’t mean I am less.  Only that I have less!

You may think you know who I am, but you don’t even know my name.

You May Think You Know Who I Am #3

You may think you know who I am.  You pass me on the corner on your way into work.  I have the same clothes on my body, the same sign in my hands everyday.

Homeless Vet.  Pleas Help.  God Bless.

You look at the sidewalk when you hurry past.  Eye contact is forbidden.  Eye contact might stimulate feelings of misplaced pity for a guy who should quit hunting for hand-outs and start hunting for a job.  You say things like “Worthless Bum.”  “Lazy Beggar.”  “Vagrant.”

But what you don’t know is that I can’t get a job because I don’t have an address.  I don’t have an address because I don’t have a home.  And I don’t have a home because I can’t get a job.  You don’t realize that welfare help is no help at all, that it’s aimed to keep people poor.  And you don’t realize that I hear what you mutter under your breath when you pass by.

You think you’ve got me pretty nailed down.  But let me just say this;

You may think you know who I am, but you don’t even know my name.

You May Think You Know Who I Am #2

You may think you know who I am.  You see me everyday at the shelter.  The one for the mentally challenged.  You pick up the pace when you pass me, afraid that I might try to speak to you, afraid of being made uncomfortable.  I hear what you say about me.  “Look at the freak!?  Or…What a retard!  And…He’s such an imbecile!”

I know why you say these things.  I understand.  You’re afraid.  You’re afraid I might try to touch you, that maybe whatever I’ve got is contagious.  You’re afraid of not being able to understand, thereby exposing my ignorance.  You think I must be good-for-nothing.  A waste of space.

But you don’t know that through the computer, we’ve had a conversation.  You were treating me just like a person and didn’t even know it.

You look at me and see my disabilities.  You don’t know what I’m capable of.

You may think you know who I am, but you don’t even know my name.

You May Think You Know Who I Am #1

You may think you know who I am.

I’m the kid in your 3rd period class.  The one who sits in the back of the class.  You walk past me everyday.  I hear you snicker to your friends about me.  “Can you believe it?  I bet he got that shirt from the thrift store.”  “Look at those shoes.  They’re so ratty!  I bet he can’t afford to go out and get new ones.”  “Oh my god!  What is that smell?  I bet he hasn’t had a bath in 2 days.”

Well, you’re right.  My shirt did come from the thrift store and I haven’t had a bath in 2 days.  And as for my shoes, they aren’t the only things I can’t afford.

What you don’t know about me is that I don’t have a nice home to go home to.  You don’t know that some nights I don’t even have a meal to go home to.  You don’t know anything about me at all really.

You may think you know who I am, but you don’t even know my name.

The Counselor

One foot in the dark, one foot in the light.  Lord, keep me tightly moored to you so I don’t get lost in the night.

Drowning & desperate, grasping for hope.  Lord, you hold me and I’ll hold the rope.

Death comes for all, but beckons some.  Life is so hard & hope never comes.

Bound in sin and weakness, they never catch a break.  It’s scary just to try to think how much a body can take.

Trouble’s pile up, day after day.  Days grow shorter, the nights longer.  You’re actually getting weaker though you think you’re getting stronger.

One day, someone comes up beside you, sets down and says, “Let’s talk.”  Though you don’t want to, you can’t help yourself even though you’re certain they’ll walk.

But the more you talk, the more they listen; so you dare a little more.  Eventually you find yourself thinking, “Where were you before?”

Before when I needed a shoulder.  Before when I needed to cry.  Before when nobody would hear me.  Before when I wanted to die.

You find yourself opening up to this person, even though you know they’re gonna leave.  But with every word you utter, every sentence you speak, they sit there & they stay & receive.

Receive all the ugly you throw at them, all the hate, all the truth, all the lies.  All the wrong, all the hurt, all the pain, and all the broken hearted goodbyes.

And yet…there they sit.  There they sit and there they stay.  And they stay. And they stay.

Then you start to get uneasy.  And maybe you start to squirm.  What is it about this person that makes them sit so firm.

After every grenade you threw at them.  After every bomb and blast.  What can you finally say that will this person leave at last?

Fine, you think, I’ll stop talking.  There’s nothing you can make me say.  But the person is fine to sit in your silence, letting you have your way.

They see your wall, and you know it.  They see your door and your lock.  But instead of turning and going away, they blow your mind and they knock.

What else can you do but open the door.  After all, no one’s ever just asked to be let in before.  And before you know it, they’re in, and your both sitting on your floor.  And you find yourself telling them things you’ve never said to anyone before.

And you that it’s safe to tell them.  You know that they aren’t gonna run because you gave them every opportunity, and they didn’t take a one.