Archive for May 28, 2012


No One Dies Alone

Journal Entry: October 15th, 2011

I found myself in many awkward positions while tracing computer cable through the cramped hallways of the hospital. But this October morning began like most.  The sun overcame the marine layer and was beginning to peak through the eastward windows of the fourth floor.

But cable is cable. And tracing the conduit throughout each room can be meticulous, especially where one begins and another ends.  Is the cable colored? size, transmission capacity, potential age and potential damage. The installers performed a lousy job.  Basically, they laid the cable, but did little to make it serviceable.  Each floor, room, closet and entryway had a checklist. Each checklist must be compiled and recorded for clarity.

Room 407 was odd. There in the room, lay a fragile man, maybe 30’ish. Time, stress and pain wore him down. Standing in the doorway, stood Nurse Jena. “You a relative?” she inquired.

“No,” as I quickly turned.

“Too bad. We were trying to find a family member.”

“Why?” I inquired.

“Well, he’s homeless and probably will not last long.” Looking back at the man, “We know he’s a former Iraqi vet. But who exactly we aren’t sure. We also know he’s homeless. But getting information from the VA is difficult at best.”

“Basically he’s going to die alone?” I interrupted.

 “Yeah, Basically.”

“Mind if I stay with him? I mean if that’s alright?”

Jena paused for a moment, “Sure.”

When I recall his frailty, I remember the words of Douglas MacArthur:

“Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up wrinkles the soul.”

Many people hate those words.  For some reason, at this moment, that’s all I can simply think of. And I have no idea why. He deserved better words. He deserved someone to give a damn. Maybe, in the end, that’s all I could do. Maybe I would be the one who gave a damn. For this man, for all he had given, respect should have been mandatory.

This man passed later in the evening.  I was there and he did not die alone.

Post Script

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According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, far too many veterans are homeless in America—between 130,000 and 200,000 on any given night—representing between one fourth and one-fifth of all homeless people. Three times that many veterans are struggling with excessive rent burdens and thus at increased risk of homelessness.

Further, there is concern about the future. Women veterans and those with disabilities including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are more likely to become homeless, and a higher percentage of veterans returning from the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have these characteristics.

On this Memorial Day, and every day hereafter, let’s all give a damn.

It is easier to recognize a blessing after it is gone.

We are so obsessed with what we do not have, we cannot see the value of what we have been given.  The blessings from God are usually hidden in very plain packages. They come wrapped in things like an evening meal at the kitchen table with someone you love, a child you see playing in the backyard while you clean the dishes, a great conversation with a friend. In these earthen vessels are found the treasure of God’s love.

To be blessed means to discover that God cherishes us more deeply than we do ourselves.  To receive God’s blessing is to come home to a place we have never been, but where, from the moment we arrive, we know we belong. It is a place where we are unconditionally loved.

Blessings are not achievements, they are gifts from heaven.  The sinless one, the judge, came to me, a person who lost on the sea of good intentions and altered my sense of how I found hope. I am made right, not by trying harder, but by God’s grace and seeing how God is with me. He found me out in the wilderness where I was trying hard to get to the right place in life.

One cannot justify living like a snake simply because the world is full of snakes. Nor can I simply refuse my own venom saying, “just get use to it, for that is who I am.”  As a Buddhist, I recognize God did not make me angry, cynical or deadly. I did.

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