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Heart of a Graveyard (An Encounter)

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    Posted 5 years ago

    (813 items)

    I thought I was alone in the late afternoon heat of another humid day. I was climbing up slabs of concrete, crushed filler, and broken bits of all sorts of debris in the quest for anything interesting. Near the back of it and beside a pit where there are weeds full of prickly things and bricks, I climbed up what had been an industrial complex's floor, got to the top, and stepped forward when I saw below me a man in a small tree.
    I was in a lot outside a cemetery. In the lot is tall piles of concrete, broken pottery, shattered headstones, and the remains of what must be a mausoleum. I had been there last year, on bike, and brought back part of a headstone, antique bottle, and a painting (people dump stuff there all the time). This time, there was also a homeless man and his residence.
    I immediately noticed the bags of stuff and realised he was homeless, so I went to turn around and leave before he saw me, but it was too late. I don't remember what he said (it was a question), but I found it too rude to just leave, so I turned back and stood several feet up and away at the severely angled top of a concrete slab to talk.
    He thought I was "one of the kids" who lived near-by. He had never seen them but has often heard them. I wasn't, of course, and told him.
    We began to just talk, myself still up high and himself partially obscured by a young aspen tree he was standing in among the matted-down weeds at the base of the concrete pile (I'm guessing he may have been a little scared by the dark-haired dark-glasses taller man standing above him).
    He had fangs-- I saw no teeth except two very tall, thick, white canines in his bottom jaw that reminded me of a werewolf (they were especially noticeable as he was very dark-skinned). He was very lean, of standard height, had half his hair in dreads pulled like cotton in the back, and he was slow of speech (which was a bit hard to understand). Sometimes he put heavy emphasis on things by repeating them, drawing them out, or putting effort into pronouncing them. When he got a bit heated (which must be a slow, soft anger) in what he was saying, he'd use more emphasis and my name. His name is Wesley and he is 70 years old.
    Wesley lost his house a bit over 5 years ago. It was his inheritance, but the government claimed it after some sort of tax issue. He said he had been kicked out a few months before he was due in full for the payment.
    He tried for years (and is still trying) to get it back, but he now believes the lawyers and judges are crooks as they've never gotten him anywhere and keep passing his case back and forth.
    Now he's trying to get "The Problem Solver" from Fox17 News to help him out, and he has a court case at the end of the month.
    As we talked, I mostly stood atop my perch. It was a very odd angle and I was in new shoes, so my balance wasn't the best, but it was needed as I had left my car unlocked and open-windowed as I hadn't expected to leave it out of sight. I let him know this and climbed down only a couple times, once to shake his hand in introduction and the second time to look at something and try to give him money, and the final time to leave (he refused to take it) on his tarp the few dollars I had in my pocket.
    As the time passed I heard the train coming. We both stopped and watched it as it passed not 20 feet away from where he lived (he told me its normal schedule and schedule changes, too). I know he lives there as he crawled under what I thought was just a tarp over debris (where his actually quite white couple pieces of laundry and painted paper leaf bag were drying) and disappeared into that.
    The man is pretty friendly. I talked to him for probably over an hour, my muscles in my legs strained from the angle so that periodically I'd squat till I popped up to observe my car. I actually listened more than talked but tried to give bits of encouragement. I doubt he gets to talk to people much, let alone hear bits of encouragement directed at him.
    When his radio is working, he listens to a Christian station that my parent also listens to. So I know he gets a form of encouragement, from God and the announcer, but how much in person from another person?
    He told me of pieces of his past. I learned that he was also a veteran, but that got him no where in his struggle to just have a real home. That seems to be all he really wanted-- his house inherited from his mother.
    About half-way through our hour or so together, he came out of his tree (it shades the entrance to his 'house' I originally thought was just the slope of the dusty, dry, weed-filled and debris-filled concrete pile) and put a shirt over his head as we sweated in the sun amid his items to recycle (he cannot store his food there as the animals get to it). As another note, there was not really a scent the the place. He talked of sanitation, and he did practice it.
    Eventually I told him (for the third time) I had to leave, as my mom was expecting me home when she got home.
    We parted, myself leaving with a bag of still good D-cell batteries he couldn't use, and myself intending to come back and visit like he invited.
    I gently put my pot inside the trunk and drove off after another look at the debris mound Wesley lived next to.

    That occurred yesterday. Late this morning I came back to Wesley's home by the cemetery and dropped off a box of stuff for him. Because he is practically toothless, I gave him soft-foods. Because there is no refrigeration, I mostly gave him canned goods. Because I don't know if he has a can-opener, all but the beans were pull-tops. Mostly I gave him fruit, something I'd guess he lacks the most of.
    In the box was also a real hat (from my work he seemed so interested in as he'd never been there), work gloves, books to read, magazines as he wanted to keep up with the World, a Bible just in case he lacked one, the C-cell batteries he needed, some double-A batteries, an envelope with a Forever stamp on it (of a purple heart, as that's what I had, which is interesting as he's a veteran) for when he needs to mail something important, Gatorade, matches, a roll of paper towel, a notebook and pen, a sheet I hand-typed out 3 hymns and a dozen Bible verses on for my own inspiration earlier this year, and a letter front and back (I know he can read as he read me an excerpt from a newspaper).
    The box, seen in photo three, was so full it burst.

    I think he was asleep in his shelter, so I left it there, went back to my car (which I had this time hid behind debris, in the shade, locked up) for my camera, and took pictures to make this story come to life.

    Photo one is how I'm gonna get away with posting all of this. The cemetery near by tossed out broken pottery. I found one intact and took the others for accents in the garden, and maybe the big shard for the fish to hide in.

    I titled this piece after a song by Demon Hunter. But instead of having a heart full of the death he lives by, Wesley has a heart of hope-- that he can still get his house back 5 years later, and that God will continue to provide for him.

    Outside of a graveyard I found a 70-year-old in a horrible situation, but he still had more hope than a lot of people I've met. Most people wouldn't see a homeless old man as a source of inspiration, but he is inspiring. He didn't complain about things-- not even our West Michigan winters, which he called "not so bad" in general, except for a few days.

    Photo one is of what I brought back.
    Photo two is of where I stood atop the slab, and where Wesley stood below (first in the tree, then in front of it).
    Photo three is a view of his current 'house'.
    Final photo is view from near my car of Wesley's place, back left.

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    1. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
      I suggested before that you have a talent for writing. I suggest it again. You only lack the plots for fiction books & I see you are close behind that.
    2. SpiritBear, 5 years ago
      I used to write fiction. I've changed both my style and my subjects. I now write my experiences.

      One piece of fiction I want to complete, I never did. The prologue won an award. I just wish I could write it to conclusion:
    3. racer4four racer4four, 5 years ago
      A touching recount SpiritBear. We can all hope for such humanity from others.
    4. SpiritBear, 5 years ago
      Thank you, Racer4Four.
    5. PhilDMorris PhilDMorris, 5 years ago
      Very nice story to read here, not a place you'd expect to find it as there are too many greedy people wanting to know the value of their own junk, no time to think of helping a person in need.
    6. NevadaBlades, 5 years ago
      You are an inspiration for the rest of us. [;>)
    7. SpiritBear, 5 years ago
      Thank you both. I try to give some kind of story every now and then.
      I went back today. The box had been opened, but perhaps by an animal. I put bags over it and a dresser drawer I found near-by as it was beginning to rain. I really hope he sees it.
    8. blunderbuss2 blunderbuss2, 5 years ago
      Hope the U.S. gestapo haven't been there, beaten him to a pulp and hauled him off ! The American way !
    9. SpiritBear, 5 years ago
      What a negative comment.

      If I remember correctly, homelessness is only illegal because way back in the day, they didn't want former slaves voting or having any chance at growing in society, and criminals couldn't vote or be in society, so....
    10. AnnaB AnnaB, 5 years ago
      I hear stories all the time about strangers helping people via facebook. Your story is powerful enough to make such impact and perhaps help this man in some big way.
    11. SpiritBear, 5 years ago
      Outside of college (and barring negative side effects from meds I just started tonight), I have nothing on my schedule (oh, and I must cancel an appointment) so I may go back tomorrow. I really hope he found his package.

      There are many homeless people. Who knows how many we walk pass, not realising they're there on the other side of some old concrete.
    12. pops52 pops52, 5 years ago
      Very kind of you SpiritBear! And thank you for sharing your story with us.
    13. fleafinder fleafinder, 5 years ago
      hi spiritbear ive worked at a homeless shelter before ..really tough and degrading conditions.Glad your post serves as a reminder to the plight of others.Thank you!
    14. valentino97 valentino97, 5 years ago
      I never even got a house! I'm the one who didn't spend beyond my means but now suffers the highest rent ever experienced. I'm helping to pay for those who spent too much and feel cheated.
    15. fleafinder fleafinder, 5 years ago
      societal ills huh...:((
      May you find strength to tide over them dear
    16. martika martika, 5 years ago
      Sad... I hope Wesley will get his house back.

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