The widow and the homeless man
April 24th, 2015
Anapolis, Goiás, Brazil
Fifteen years, three months and two days ago you left me to go to the Father. Every day of every week, of every year, I think of you at least once. At first my thoughts were full of regret and sorrow. My mind seemed stuck in those desperate days we spent at the hospital as your life dwindled like a candlelight fizzling out in a pool of left over wax. In due time, the Lord gently reminded me that your suffering was over, so why should I keep you there in my mind’s eye?
Next came many memories of the good times. Any left-over rice and beans is a reminder that you would refry them with an egg and eat right from the pan! The smell of paint takes me right back to our backyard where you fixed so many beat up cars to supplement our income. Sometimes changes in the weather or in the light of the day, they all conspired to bring back to my consciousness specific incidents, details of our 37 years of a life well shared.
Nowadays, it seems, I mostly think of you either in terms of things I am glad you are not here to experience, like our son’s latest mishaps in his struggles with addiction or in relationship to things I know you would like to have seen.
Today I experienced the latter.
Remember our homeless man? The one who lived in our street and would invariably knock on our door asking for a piece of bread? He felt so familiar with us to the point of demanding a fully loaded sandwich instead of plain bread and butter. Or he would ask for a needle and yarn to mend his clothes. But a shower, well, that was a different story. He would never take us up on that offer!
Well, I moved to an apartment building about two kilometers away. I needed the extra security of having more space between the street and my home to warn me of our son’s impromptu visits, especially when he arrives in an altered state of mind and becomes aggressive.
But I still walk to the mission’s headquarters and I still work there part-time. You were right, this city became not only the mission’s but also our family’s headquarters. Anapolis is small enough that we still know our neighbors by name and large enough to offer good professional options to our grown children. Well, for the girls and their husbands, at least.
This afternoon, on my way to work, I ran into our homeless man! I don’t remember his name. I had not seen him since the move from our old home. He has aged, but otherwise, nothing changed: same omnipresent bag, same loose fitting clothes, same slip rubber sandals, same good natured expression and… the same smell!
He recognized me right away and started the conversation. “Aren’t you Pastor Joe’s widow?” When I nodded, he surprised me by asking: “How are your daughters? Did Alice get married? I heard Camila is working at the city hall. How about Stella, did she ever become the doctor she wanted so much to be?
I must have looked startled because he hastened to explain with a distant and affectionate expression: “Pastor Joe, what a man he was. Do you know we had great conversations? I hear this city has at least 600 pastors. Pastor Joe is the only one who ever talked to me!”
Gone all these years, and you still fill me with pride!