Directly across the street from our apartment complex is the home of a tortured soul. We'll call her Mary.
Mary spent most of her life abusing alcohol. In the two years I've known her and we've been involved here, she has come to my apartment twice. Disoriented and with slurred speech, she would ask me to call her cell phone so she could hear it ring and locate it, as it was somehow lost in her home. She talked often of a son who didn't want to have anything to do with her. She was hospitalized frequently for trying to use something besides alcohol to medicate her suffering. She didn't have a full-time care-giver though, b/c she did have good days, too. Days when she'd water her plants, care for her animals (a bird and cat) and take walks in the neighborhood.
Mary would show up in our office just babbling about things, and it was obvious she needed looking after. We would talk sweetly to her, hoping to say the right "sweet" things to move her on...move her out of our meeting or out of our luncheon. Oh, we'd offer coffee and a sandwich,...let her know we were "praying for her" as she left. After all, we wanted her to know Jesus, right?
But nobody really wanted Mary around. She was just too...too much. Her liver and mind in bondage to a past full of drunken mistakes and untold pain.
We were told a few weeks ago, by her part-time care giver and friend, that she was going to move to be closer to her son. He was in another state. She told me, "He's going to let me come see him! I'm so glad he's letting me come. It's been over ten years."
She began making plans to sell her home (which she really didn't own, but she thought she did) and she thought maybe out ministry would like to buy it. She gave us the tour, pointing out all of her favorite places to sit and read, or sit and crochet. When we got to the upstairs she said, "This little room here in the middle is used as a big closet, but I think this would be a great bathroom for your kids...just needs some new wallpaper and plumbing."
I saw her walking across the street a few days ago, or maybe it had been a week...not sure. Wishing I'd actually stopped, now. Asked her when she was leaving...or how she was feeling...or what she knows about her home finally selling....I wish I'd asked her anything at all. But...I didn't even make note of the day...or time. I wonder why I didn't imprint the day and time on my mind...I remember thinking, "She should be moving soon." And that was the last time I saw her.
Nobody here was concerned when we didn't see her anymore. We knew she was planning to leave, and just assumed that she didn't want to say goodbye. Shoot...it barely came up at all.
Last night, after spending a glorious day, living my own glorious life (working in the foodbank helping people needing food, going to the movies with my family, talking on the phone to my oldest teen and hearing nothing but good things about his time away), I went out to sit on the patio that extends off the upper floor of the complex. It was 11:00pm, and two of my son's friends (bored teens) were already there. I said, "Hey guys...what ya lookin' at?" as they gawked across the street.
One said, "Must be a drug bust. Every cop in the county is there. 'Cept...I don't know who's big white suburban that is."
I went downstairs and stood on the curb waiting for one of the officers to cross the street to his car, so I could ask the question that I was certain I already knew the answer to. When one of them did, it was an officer I knew from church. "David...is that Jay's car?" He said, "Why?" Obviously he didn't want to share too much information. "Because he's the city's mortician, and that would mean Mary is in there and needs him." I began to cry and he just nodded. "It's him."
He didn't tell me anymore details, but did ask me when I'd seen her last, as he was trying to piece together a timeline. He couldn't tell me how she had passed, but I knew one thing...she was alone when she died. That thought just fed the flow of tears, as I stood there and watched the scene become more and more like something from a C.S.I. episode.
Mary didn't have friends. She didn't have a job. She lived in that big 'ol house alone, and her mind had become so childlike as it began to suffer the consequences of those years of alcoholic abuse to her body.
She did want to make sure that I knew she had made peace with the Lord at some point in her life. When I took that tour of her home and mentioned we were praying about what the Lord might want to do to expand our ministry, she said, "God's really blessing me."
I didn't spend a lot of time with her. Nobody did. It was inconvenient to set aside time for her...to try and listen to her. She didn't make a lot of sense sometimes...and she swaggered from side to side; the effect of many years of medicating depression and abusing her body, I'm sure.
We were always so busy...so much to do...so much work to do. Important stuff...I'm sure....or am I?
Across the street from a Christ-centered ministry lived a tortured soul who won't be missed...and that breaks my heart.
Funny...the church bells are now ringing out behind me....I can hear them.
God help us.