Have you heard the one about the priest who rented a car for the homeless junkie?
Okay, so have you heard the one about the priest who rented a car for the homeless junkie?
Yup, it happened. But I cannot paint an accurate picture of how this goodness and act of kindness truly impacted me unless I paint an equally accurate picture of the emptiness and vacancy that begged for them. I can't illustrate what the forgiveness from my daughter, the love and acceptance from my current partner, and the overflowing support from so many others really mean when it comes to saving my life, if I don't first show you what my life needed saving from.
Let me just rip off the band aid right now. I'm almost certain that the car this priest rented for me could not be re-rented due to the fact that living in a car for six months, or in this case just ten days, and filling that car with scrap metal, trash bags and beer cases of redeemable nickels and two decaying bodies that spent countless hours walking streets and digging through trash, wearing clothing discovered in dumpsters, living in very tight quarters and who showered less and less the longer we were out there, myself going the longest without showering for months, well, there is just no escaping the annihilation of any car's interior when you live like this. It wasn't intentional, but giving up on life typically entails a thoughtlessness for self and others that many will thankfully not relate to. As I have maybe mentioned, I had to cut a foot of my hair off. The nest in the back of my head that once entered Hartford, CT in a braid was now a matted bun from just throwing my hair out of my face like I tossed anything aside if it got in the way of my fundamental goal, which of course was heroin, and to stop the agony of my suffering. In a car you sleep in only one position: with your head back against the headrest of your seat.
What did it mean for me to be homeless? Upon leaving my home in Western Massachusetts for so long the only home I walked into was a house I could never make a home in Hartford, VT, and in the drug dealers homes I made more comfortable in Hartford, CT. I ate Fruity Pebbles in a cold car on Thanksgiving, turned 40 in a crappy hotel room on Easter Sunday with a man who forgot until I reminded him and had to reluctantly ask for a hug or maybe a cup of coffee. I think I received one card celebrating 40 years survived (thank you Grandpa, bless your soul), no surprise or planned gathering of family or friends to share an appreciation of life with in years, not one I felt at home enough to go to. Not one gift to unwrap or a single flame to blow out over a single cake. Even in sobriety I received no Congratulations sentiments for earning a second college degree as the only high school graduate in my core family, therefore meaning the world to late grandmother who raised me, my father, and brother, and in turn it meant a lot to me, yet seemed so unworthy of recognition. Therefore I dismissed my graduation ceremony altogether and that cannot be undone. When my brother and grandmother died, taking the last of the only unconditional family I knew, but leaving 50 Plus extended relatives, I received no more than one, but maybe two sympathy cards.
My life felt completely unsympathized with and totally uncelebrated. It still does by a certain few, but I'm learning to truly "consider the source" these days, and please understand that this is how I experienced MY life these past few years. I cannot speak of what my family or friends were experiencing at that time, only how their absence impacted me.
During those years in VT I did achieve outward success in college and in business. But the relationships with that partner and with much of the family and friends he grew up with were very unhealthy as I was always an unwelcome outsider never accepted for who I was, but rather for the scapegoat they needed to focus their blame on. And so the need to just earn as much money I could began to trump anything real and meaningful that once gave me purpose. I received little credit for our success and a lot of blame and transference of responsibility for people I was never responsible for. I saved thousands, subconsciously preparing for a gradually grande exit from that hell up North. And I resentfully and regretfully dragged that partner from his home in Hartford, VT as he followed me to my desired demise in Hartford, CT.
That partner once told me that if I overdosed, rather than save my life he would kill himself too. Yet it was his life that I had to save from multiple overdoses, and mine that never needed saving, not physically anyways. With the amount of Fentanyl, heroin and cocaine that I had recklessly injected into my veins, veins that ran through a dying and frail body that had no immune system to strengthen it, and to a weak and feeble mind, one that had so strongly given up 50 pounds had vanished in only a few months, I have no choice but to believe that a power greater than all of us kept me from going into that darkness, because it wasn't my time to go, and because I was too black inside to see anyone there to pull me back into the light.
He was not going to rescue me. My family was no where to be found. I had been disconnected from my lifeline to all of my friends because the dysfunction up north had locked me out of my ten year old FB account that held any ability to reach out and any means left of "looking back." All I had was a year old FB account, but then as young as a month old and it commenced with the multiple burning of so many bridges as I begged every Tom, Dick and Harry for money and to assist me with a slow and agonizing suicide. As a result of this gaping emptiness I fully believed that my precious daughter was better off without me, now relating to my mother and father on a level no one could comprehend as profoundly as I endured it.
This is the essence of homelessness, friends. True homelessness doesn't simply mean not having a roof over your head. And for me, it was not the direct result of heroin addiction either. The heroin addiction was a symptom of the emptiness and despair, and having everyone I loved worlds away, either vacant in body or dead in mind. I had no home to even dream of going to. No person alive that I believed I was worthy of being in the presence of, and no space in the world I felt welcome to heal with. This is a despair and void not everyone will be able to understand, and sadly some of you will know all too well, for a little bit of home leaves us all when we lose even just one person we felt fully loved by, and someone we felt we could fully love.
As it turned out on December 1st, 2017 all that would change. The rental car was impounded, my former partner arrested, and my physical body rescued by a Springfield Massachusetts State Cop. And with just a few days removed from the hell that lay behind me, while safely harbored within Holyoke Hospital, I found a faint but functional desire to connect again and reached out to two friends and two family members. It was the two friends who came to my bedside that weekend, no sign of family.
These men will never be able to imagine what that meant to me. One of them was a an old and dear friend, and the other was a friend I had been romantic with on and off for almost fifteen years yet the time was never right for us. That man walked into my hospital room and saw past my raunchy body that lay before him, and into the eyes of a girl he knew still had a chance to maybe do something great, or at least do some good, and he gave me the safety of shelter and a home in his heart to begin that journey to goodness, a journey we will take together, with my beautiful daughter.
In that one weekend something inside me surfaced, and I knew I would likely never again see that man who would let me die, and that Hartford, CT would never find my dead body in its dumpsters. The weird thing is, and I have said that my life is uncanny with serendipity at times, in those last months I spent 24/7 in the streets of Hartford CT, and before that a slave to Hartford, VT, yet it was an uncommon visit to Western MA, my old home, that put an end to that unproductive suffering.
I crossed paths with a lot of abandonment, resentment, disregard, bullying, judgment, maliciousness, and scrutiny in VT and in CT. What continues to fill that void, quiet the despair and give company to a devastating isolation is the kindness and compassion that began putting a little breath back into my defeated life like by Father James in Hartford CT, who took a leap of faith by renting me a car knowing full well it would give me the shelter I needed, but likely would never be the same. Oddly enough, and again a little uncanny, the name of his church is "Our Lady of Sorrows," and I truly was just that.
Not too long ago in an emotionally intense visit to those streets again to tend to some official business, I payed a visit to Father James to thank him again, and to let him look into the eyes of the dying girl he breathed life into and to tell him that although I can't pay back the likely more than $2,000 that he didn't hesitate to help me with, his gesture was worth so much more than what money could measure, for his generosity enabled me to stay safe until I could be fully rescued, and so I stood before him as proof that the contribution he made became a living miracle.
So let this depict for you, and for the kindness from churches, hospitals, law enforcement and strangers on the streets of whom I do not have enough room on this wall to list, the image of a girl who would not have survived her homelessness if not for encountering the random acts of kindness that sooner or later did outweigh all the discourse and madness; that gave her the strength to stay alive until she would decide she wanted to live. Not because she would have died from the elements or starvation, but because she thought she had already died from her loneliness, from no longer celebrating a holiday, birthday or life around a table of laughter and traditional bickering with family, a girl who believed she didn't have a friend in the world, and if not for the refuge given to her, some in little ways, some in big, but all equally worthy of the same credit for saving her life, she would still have no reason to go on or to give her daughter the mother who thought she was better off without.
As I bring this message to a close I do so with eyes full of tears, because my heart is heavy for any human who endures the kind of anguish only true isolation can bring, for it goes against the grain of human nature to live antisocially, whether it be at our own hand or at the hand of others, or of both, but also because I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the hands that still remain a beacon of light for me to hold onto as I move forward into a beautiful but painful process that God and Nature willing, will bring with it a longevity of life, love, friendship, peace and happiness. Because for the first time in twenty years, I am beginning to believe I deserve it. It's time to celebrate life again, in all its suffering and the beauty and purpose that stem from it. Namaste my friends, thank you and God bless, in whatever precious image of a compassionate God you behold, because I stand as a testament that compassion truly can and does save lives. Peace
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