David

Today, in my mess of a car, amidst water bottles and receipts and an annoying dog toy that squeaks every time I hit a pot hole, I found a lonely post-it-note. It marked an appointment from November of 2013, almost a year ago to the day. And a name. David.

I’m sure that all those who have grieved find these silly mementos that, without a loss to frame them, would be nothing more than trash and clutter. And suddenly, they are keepsakes with the ability to transcend both time and space – rushing you back to a memory.

David began to quietly join the Samaritan Center family for meals in the early spring of 2012. He could be found eating alone, his soft and kind eyes were framed by bushy eyebrows, raised almost in confusion. His clothes were exclusively shades of khaki and plaid; his pants were too shortly hemmed. David was fifty-nine, a fact well disguised in his handsome, lightly lined face, thick head of hair and hesitant smile.

David had been struggling financially before he ate with us. He worked as an adjunct physics professor at a college. Without health insurance, much of his income went to his costly medical needs from his diabetes. He couldn’t afford the upkeep on his car, but was still able to get around using the bus. He had inherited his parents’ house on the Southside of Syracuse and struggled to pay the taxes and energy bills, but he managed to keep himself afloat until he had a stroke. David spent over a month in the hospital recovering, completing physical therapy, and trying to regain his speech. By the time he was released, he had missed too much time to resume his position at the college and was let go.

The more time we spent with David, the more we began to understand that he might never be able to work in the same capacity again. After much resistance, David agreed that perhaps it might be best if he applied for Social Security Disability Insurance until he was able to recover more substantially from the effects of the stroke. We filled out the applications, helped him find a disability lawyer, coordinated care with Poverello Health Center and helped him talk to National Grid about keeping his heat turned on. We crossed our fingers that his house wouldn’t be seized for back taxes. He had meals at the Samaritan Center and soon was eating with a great crowd of friends, who often lingered to gab long after the green door closed. Alongside David, we all waited impatiently to see how it all turned out.

I want so desperately to give you a resolution, a happy ending for David’s story, but I can’t. He died on a Monday in mid-June. We didn’t know he was gone until after he had been buried.

That lonely post-it-note serves as a reminder of the uncertainty of the journey. I don’t think David ever expected the health issues that he faced, the loss of his job, the potential of losing his home. I don’t think David, with all of his education, ever expected that he would one day find himself in need of a hot meal. But most of all, I don’t think David expected to find people that would care, who would try to help and who would be there in what was the most difficult part of his life.

As the holidays grow close, as we prepare family recipes, as we set the table and settle in together, remember David. Remember that we had a seat for him at our table. With the hours you volunteered, with the donations you gave, with the events you attended - you made a space for David. You offered him a seat, you gave him a meal, you gave him a family.