Friday, July 2, 2010

If You Prick Him

He will bleed.  And if you tickle him, he will laugh.  And if you find yourself alone in an elevator with him, you will probably feel very frightened or at least unbearably uncomfortable.
Not only does he suffer from a significant mental illness, he also navigates through each day born with a developmental delay/disability.  He can't read and he can't write.  Quite frequently his speech is garbled.  In spite of all of these strikes against him, he's a friendly guy who likes nothing more than to help people carry their stuff.
Two days ago his sister died.
Through his tears and choking sobs he tried to tell me the cause of death.  He stammered and pointed to his nose.  I asked a few questions and none of them satisfied him.  I still don't know the cause of death.  It doesn't really matter.  What matters is his grief and his need for comfort.
I do know that he has spent a lot of time sitting or a bench or on a curb weeping.
Today I met him on a sidewalk.  He was walking one direction.  I walked the opposite.  We stopped.  He told me he had to shave and put on clean clothes.
This time I correctly guessed that he was going to the funeral.
He predicted that he would probably cry a lot.
I assured him that funerals were the perfect places for tears.
Then he pulled a small pack of tissue from his pants pocket.
"I'm going to bring these with me."
I told him that he was doing what a lot of us forget to do -- take good care of ourselves by planning our needs ahead of time.
He put the tissues back into his pocket, burst again into tears, and headed home.
He couldn't see my tears.
Heroes sometimes save lives and sometimes fight wars and sometimes just remember to take a pack of tissue to the funeral of someone they loved.

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