Honor

 

IMG_0359

Last week in Montreal, as well as over most of the Eastern Seaboard, saw temperatures rise to new record levels. as of this evening, we know of 70 people in the Province of Quebec, died due to factors including age, underlying medical conditions, and reactions to severe heat conditions. 34 of those deaths were here in Montreal.

Sadly, we know who one of those 34 men and women were.

This afternoon, after making several calls to an institutional half way house here in Montreal, where one of our men lived, got a call back about 4 p.m. The case worker informed me that sadly, one of our men had died, in the course of a work day, being overcome by heat, in the back of a moving truck.

Temps were running in the high 40’s with humidexes in the mid to high 40’s. That combination of heat and humidity was a death knell for many.

My friend, a man of honor and dignity, spent two tours in Afghanistan working for American Armed Forces. Found himself on the wrong side of the law, after being discharged, finding himself in prison. He served his time and was released a few months ago.

He arrived in Montreal and was housed in an institutional halfway house not far from my home. I met him in one of our Thursday night meetings. At least, at first, I learned his name. Soon after we got him a free ticket to the West Island Roundup, where I took him into my circle, and provided for his weekend. Many people reached out to him over the past few months.

Myself and one of my friends, stepped up to sponsor him in recovery, he having gotten sober behind the walls, came out with 3 years and change, and had he made it, would have celebrated 4 years sober in November. He went to great detail at the roundup to buy himself a special limited edition chip, that we were holding for him, until he got to where he was going.

The first day of the Round Up, he showed me what he carried with him, photos of him and his team, while in Afghanistan. He carried those photos proudly, as a badge of honor and courage. I wanted to do right by him, because he deserved that honor for serving his country so proudly in a place that was seriously dangerous.

I tried very hard to honor his work and his dignity as a fellow-man on the road with us.

I was shocked beyond words today hearing that he had died.

P.T.S.D. is wicked and harsh.

Our man suffered a great many things. He was having a hard time at it, living in a house where drug and alcohol abuse was rife, he would tell me over and over. He flirted with a second incarceration, having lost his cool at the house a couple of weeks ago. He eventually got a talking to by the administrators and was allowed to stay on at the house.

I had brought him into my home, setting up his new I-Phone with music and very soon he really wanted high-end, ringtones. That was his passion, his time in the Armed Services. He had been over several times and we were getting to know each other.

This past week, he had dropped off the radar, and went M.I.A. (Missing in Action).

I worried for him and was not going to let it go until I figured out where he had disappeared to. This past Saturday I called the rooming house and inquired about his case worker and my friends where about. I was told that case workers don’t work on weekends and that I would have to wait until today to speak to him.

I got up early this morning, after hurried texts with the other member working with our man, and made the call to the house and left a message, that was replied about 4 p.m. this afternoon.

The only thought I was entertaining was that my guy had been re-incarcerated, because that was the thought I was entertaining. I had no idea or inkling that he had passed away, I mean, how often do we, ourselves, when someone so young disappears, say to ourselves, “Well they might be dead.”

Right now we know he was clean and sober. That he died working in a moving truck in Plus 40 temps, during a heat wave. Tonight, after the meeting, I was chairing, one of my friends called to inquire how I knew what I knew and what further I could tell him, which was not much.

Contacting the next of kin would have fallen to the discretion of the house and his case worker.

Eternal Rest Grant Him and May Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him.

Tuesday: Winner Takes All

12289463_1092314860780733_5368461934168273242_n

 

The emotional roller coaster is still in motion. And I am working on staying above the water. I just had a conversation with my favorite Elder in the world who gave me wise counsel.

We may work with others, and sometimes that work is grueling and emotional, but we ourselves need to be grounded as well, and have someone in the wings, who is helping manage US. Which goes back to the adage that, if any area of my life is unwell, I can’t really give from that area, if it is lacking in some form or fashion.

My young Elder was that person today.

Last night we read from the book again, with Winner Takes All. A story told by a woman who is visually impaired, but in the end, finds her way into winning, against all the odds against her. She, many commented last night, had fortitude and grace and strength to never quit …

Ok, Never Quit … A sidebar to this post …

9781250102997

A few days ago, Casey Neistat introduced a book from a soldier he met in Afghanistan during mission Bulldog Bite in the mountains of Afghanistan. Jimmy Settle tells his story about becoming an Alaska 212 Pararescueman, a P.J.

I read, all the time. And this book, was not wasted time.

I was engaged from the very beginning of Jimmy’s story. I found myself crying tears of joy at one point of the story, after reading the long and arduous journey Jimmy walked to become that P.J. he always wanted to be.

Then the last few chapters tells the story of his time working on Bulldog Bite in Afghanistan. It was riveting.

The whole idea of working towards a goal, no matter what, fighting tooth and nail, taking ones lumps and gets up and keeps going is familiar territory. I’m not a soldier, by any means, but I can tell you that the last twenty three years has not been a cakewalk for sure, but like the EverReady bunny …

You Just Keep Going .

You Don’t Admit Defeat.

You Don’t Quit.

For a P.J.; quit is not in your vocabulary. You trained long and hard to be a superhuman soldier who can do anything with very little when faced with that situation, when bullets start flying, you jump right in, and do what you came to do.

Anyways, back on the farm…

The first thing that triggered was in her opening statement in the story …

From the very beginning I felt different and unwanted. At a very young age, as children do, I had to make sense of my life, so I came to the conclusion that I was bad and God knew I was bad, so God made me handicapped to punish me. I thought that the undertow of sadness in my family was because of me. (it was not, it was the death of her younger brother)

Later I realized that a part of it might have been due to my handicap, but there was still a lot of grieving going on. My father turned to alcohol and was a very angry man. When we were growing up, he was very critical. I was told things on a daily basis, like I was dumb and lazy…

Right there, my mind stopped on this passage. And that is where I stayed for the entire meeting. It was the others who talked about fortitude, grace and the fact that she did not quit, she kept going, after all the odds against her.

Human beings, say things and react in ways, that are not entirely about us, but more all about them. Their fears, insecurities, problems or issues. A parent should NEVER negate or belittle or verbally abuse a child for any reason, NONE what So ever…

I know that angry alcoholic father. I know the angry critical words spoken. I may not be physically or visually handicapped, but I know disability.

I know how my father used to chase me around the house with a bat, trying to kill me screaming the words … YOU WERE A MISTAKE AND SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN BORN.

To this day, my parents still think this thought and have said it to me not so long ago.

Everybody was moved to say that, what was said and done to our young woman, when she was a child was unconscionable. Those men with children in the room, reacted to this in their own way.

When I got sick, I crossed that invisible line from normal humanity, to defective sinner, who was suffering God’s revenge for my sins. AIDS, is a disability. You cannot imagine what I went through to survive. The things I was forced to do by those who provided for my care, and it was not easy at all.

Our woman goes on an odyssey and in year three of sobriety, leaves a marriage with two children and moved 100 miles away to start a new life. She finds a job, she goes back to school, while working and caring for children. In twelve years of sobriety, coming to the end of her story, she meets all the right people, at the right moments, and she gets it done. She Freaking WINS the story, hands down, against all her odds.

I know what “the fight” looks and feels like. I know what I had to do to make my life something that I could be proud of. A life built by sobriety and God, and by the people who directly guided me in every decision or action I have made thus far.

I, too, met all the right people, at the right moment, for all the right reasons. And I flourished. My life, like our writer, is a life beyond imagination.

I may not have all the right people in my life, but I do have a few. And that has to work for me, until the sober pool of wisdom is replenished in the coming weeks.