“Thanksgiving” by Delyn Merce
A fellow blogger shared this experience with me. It will bring tears to your eyes.
“I live in a low-income property with neighbors of varied disability. Years ago (now 8 or 10), I was in great distress for the man who lived below me – Tim had fairly well-managed schizophrenia, and kept to himself (shopping alone, going to weekly appointments alone).
However one day the local deputies came and took him away in cuffs (he’d missed a summons to appear) – I foolishly tried to explain that Tim was ill and they lied to me, saying he’d be taken where he could receive treatment.
Tim was probably gone a month, and it was nearing Thanksgiving. I recall standing out in the courtyard and saying, ‘Somebody needs to do something to help’ – as other neighbors just stared mutely at me. And then it was as though God spoke to me, ‘You are Somebody’. It was a turning point.
When Tim returned, I invited him to have Thanksgiving dinner upstairs with me. I knew little about him, though it was apparent that no one visited him. That dinner was a stretch for me, very emotional.
Tim was a very large man, ‘hygienically challenged’ with poor table manners, and didn’t speak much, though he was willing to answer my questions. His parents were dead, and he said he had a sister who phoned from time to time – that she had likely usurped his portion of their inheritance (she lived in a pricey area).
Then Tim said that his recent absence was related to a misunderstanding about a minor criminal issue – and that he’d been held in the county jail, where his eyeglasses had been withheld from him.
By this point, I couldn’t eat my meal and was trying not to burst into tears. He seemed very credible in the details he gave – not attempting to hide the criminal issue, when he could have omitted it.
During this time, as I would occasionally hear Tim screaming downstairs at the voices that were tormenting him, I would call him on the phone and gently ask if he was alright – did he need anything? That seemed to “break the circuit”, and he would be calm for the rest of the evening.
Despite the emotional effort it required, I continued to invite him up for the major holiday meals – and as his birthday was in early December, I included a gift (calendars on astronomy, his particular interest) with the Thanksgiving dinners. He always thanked me politely, and never lingered after the meals.
At some later date, I didn’t think I could host the dinners anymore, but continued gladly to bring him a plate of food and baked goods, which he accepted.
Then a couple years ago I told him I’d be baking fruitcakes for Christmas, and asked if he’d like one. He said yes. At Thanksgiving I brought him dinner, and a Christmas and birthday card – and stated that I’d bring the fruitcake down closer to Christmas.
The Monday before Christmas I called Tim several times but he didn’t answer his phone. I wasn’t immediately alarmed, as I knew he took a lot of medication and slept more hours than he was awake. After still not hearing from him, I took the gift bag of fruitcake down and knocked on his door – no answer, so I left it on his doorknob. Periodically I would try calling again, with no response.
Several days passed and then I realized there was activity. Two women, who turned out to be his social workers, were in the parking lot…and then there were police cars. Finally, another neighbor phoned me to say that Tim had died, and I watched as his body was removed.
I have not felt such grief for anyone, not even family members – and I still get teary, writing this. I never expected Tim not to be there – I thought I’d be sharing food with him till I was gone. I miss him terribly, and my heart aches for how alone he was, fighting demons in his head.
Oh, and he was a Christian, used to take the bus by himself to a local church. So that is a comfort to me. But his sister never even showed up to collect his paltry belongings, which included the last cards I’d given him.”
“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke 6: 36).
Delyn Merce is a poet. She blogs at Stutter-Stepping Heart https://stuttersteppingheart.wordpress.com.
READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse https://avoicereclaimed.com