Hopefully as I write my blog the pictures I have posted will become clearer to the reader… I do however want to place a warning for anyone that may be weak in stomach or can not handle strong detail I advise for you to please not read.
In an attempt to explain the reality of what happens while most of us are busy with families and life…there is a world that I walk in many times a week. This story I am about to tell is about my young friend “Eric!” I have sat on it for about 3 weeks unable to find the correct beginning. Oh I have always known the middle and I am fairly certain I do know the end but the beginning? If I can not find that the reader may walk away wondering how does a 32-year-old slowly die paralyzed from the chest down (because he fell down an elevator shaft while stealing copper 5 years ago.) Not only is his battle paralysis but Eric has full-blown AIDS, Staph infections on his legs, ankles, lower part of his back and hips. Holes in his flesh (which he can not feel) the size of solid softballs that are tunneling to one another. The one on his tailbone? You can see his spine. Oh yes, Eric loved to show me until I couldn’t look anymore. Like a little boy I think he always got a kick out of hearing me say in my girl voice, “Oh my Dear God , Eric. YUK!”…. Yes everyone who knows me knows I have pictures. However I will not post them.
“Why Sister Jaye? Why take pictures of that?” My answer is very simple and possibly I am the only one that could understand. I never want to forget the reality of where stumbling through life can take someone before they find GOD!!!!! I can not stop now!!!!!!!!!!
“OOPS Eric, you dropped your cigarette again.” Helping Eric retrieve his cigarette for the third time off of the blood stained sheet he laid across his naked body in his doorway wasn’t as scary this day-I still had on a pair of surgical gloves that I kept on my hands after I had helped Eric collect some laundry he desperately needed washed.
“My hands are numb today Ms. Jaye. I can’t feel anything in them.” Eric assumed it was his medication. Looking into his face that afternoon I knew something else was going on. Because I am not trained in any medical field (other than MOMMY 101) I bump and try… I asked Eric, if he had been smoking any crack. He said no. I didn’t believe him yet the symptoms were not crack or meth so I wasn’t really caring if he had lied to me or not. I then asked him if he could tell if his organs were functioning okay. Heart, lungs? He said yes he felt normal. “Oops, here Eric let me get it. Buddy you are going to burn yourself.” He only laughs. He wouldn’t feel it!
I then moved into more questions. “Eric do you feel suicidal? How are you emotionally?” His reply back was that he was okay. Not suicidal… I didn’t believe him.
I have known Eric for many years. He was a street guy. Young ready to take on the world with a bad drug addiction… slipping from one crack house to the next stealing anything to get his high. Loveable? Oh please he could con your teeth out of your mouth but he is “our” Eric. Then the accident!
Eric was in a dark old closed up warehouse that all my homeless pals liked to stay in. They named it the “yellow sub marine.” When I ever asked one of the guys from the streets where so and so was and they said “yellow sub marine” we all knew right where to look.
In the dark Eric fell backwards down the shaft. He laid there 2 days thinking he was going to die. He explained how rats would crawl over him then suddenly a cat came. The cat he said, kept the rats away. I always thought “Oh precious Father… you are good.”
Finally a homeless man came into the building to drink or drug and he heard Eric. When he finally received help his spine had swollen and therefore he was forever wheelchair bound paralyzed from the chest down.
Anger? Oh please the anger that I have heard from this man. He is angry! Or, maybe bitter would better depict his rage inside. He has cussed God he has thrown fits yet whenever I get around him he becomes a little boy and I become mom! He shows such respect to Missy and I.
Are you suicidal baby? I ask all the time. Not since that day at the window has he admitted it again.
Eric’s girlfriend Kathy called a few months ago. They have given Eric 6 months she said on the phone. Kathy and Eric have always had a very rocky relationship. Both addicts, and because Kathy was a prostitute…she too has AIDS, Staph and is going blind. They took care of each other.
When Missy and I found out about Eric having 6 months and that Kathy had left again to live with her sister… we visited Eric more.
Kathy called one evening and asked us to check on Eric. He had no phone and she felt he may be suicidal. The next day we knocked on Eric’s apartment door, no answer. I went from window to window trying to get his attention. Nothing… I told Missy I was going to try one more window around back and as I walked up to the open window, I yelled his name. He answered. I pulled over a blanket hanging in the window and on a bed was Eric…ALIVE! He covered his face with his hands and began to sob. Through tears and gasps of air he asked me if I was going to come to his funeral when he died. Of course I would I kept telling him… I fell down onto my knees and dropped my head to my arms that rested on the window ledge and cried. Eric’s only words were “Ms. Jaye I have never seen you cry.” My words back to him were, “Eric you are worth crying about!”
For many days after that I was meeting Eric at his window. We talked a lot about his guilt and his shame. He blames himself for his condition. He has cried rivers of tears. I cried with him. See, going inside isn’t smart so we met at the window. He does have AIDS but Missy has a relative that is HIV positive and she is my AIDS expert. The staph is more dangerous to us then the AIDS she says to me constantly. So… we talked to Eric through the window.
“I hate my mom.” Eric explained to me one afternoon. She was a whore, a prostitute and she now sits in prison also with HIV. His words, not mine… I don’t even consider her my mom. She never was there for me. I walked away and thought that this was a bad start in life and he, (Eric) blames himself??
Monday Missy and I went to visit our guy. He thought it was Easter and we explained that it was the day after. Not that it matters to Eric anymore. He is just alive to be completely honest. No TV, maybe a radio…food is impossible for him to keep down and it fills his colostomy bag quickly if he does eat or drink anything. Diarrhea.
The apartment smells terrible and now that we were meeting at his front door.. the stench coming out can knock you backwards. I told Eric Monday as he was gathering up some laundry for me to do, well suggested… that he start opening his windows. His only reply was. “It’s pretty bad isn’t it? I have gotten use to it.”
He sits in his wheelchair just inside the doorway, we stand on the front porch. Again this day Eric started talking about God. He said I don’t believe in prayer. I told him that I understood, He said he had prayed many prayers in his life and none came true. I felt sad! He said I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe there is a heaven and a hell. He said he was ready to die. His biggest frustration is when his body gets really sick they take him to the hospital…pump meds in him and he gets better. He said he was tired and just wanted to die.
Again Eric was explaining all his mistakes as if he deserved where he was in life. If we believe that then we all would be Eric’s. I asked him what happened. I mean… yes Eric you’ve made plenty of bad decisions. We all have but what started the drugs? I work with addicts, I was an addict. Drugs/Alcohol they mask pain. What caused the pain? Suddenly like a flood gate opening Eric spoke loud and strong.
When I was 5!! I was startled… When I was 5 my mom started abusing me. She took me in a room naked and started playing with my pee pee. She then tied me up and others came in. He went on to explain that there were several times of this during his childhood. Then there was another male relative that sexually abused him as well.
My throat choked back the knot inside knowing if I let it go I would have sobbed uncontrollably. All I quietly could say was Baby? Don’t you see? That, is where it all started… How can God punish you for where “THAT” took you? Besides God doesn’t punish like man would have you believe.
When we drove away that day I wasn’t sure my little buddy understood but I knew the next day I was bringing back his laundry and I planned to spend more time helping him understand the God I know is love. He is a God full of grace. We are saved by grace…Jesus. Love! I told my husband that night. If our God allows this type of suffering not only with Eric but millions all around the world. HEAVEN must be astounding! I do believe in a God that heals but I also know so many that suffer. What do you tell a child prostitute on far away soils? That they are bad! Or a woman being raped because of a ruler of that country believes he can… She is bad? A baby dies from starvation in Africa. Do you tell the parents they didn’t believe or have enough faith? What do you tell me when I woke up one day at 13 an orphan… that God wants to punish me for several years? What are we telling people? Why does Eric think that he deserves to die in such a retched way because at 14 he started drugs to numb the confusion he began to feel as a young man because of what adults did to him as a child? I HATE religion. Doctrines of man who doom so many to hell because “they” are okay!
Yesterday Missy and I stopped back by Eric’s place. We knocked on his window…no answer. Maybe he went somewhere, but really neither one of us believed that. We tried the door. He always left it unlocked if he was out in his wheelchair. The door was locked! Missy and I knocked harder and kept calling his name, no answer. I walked over to a side window and yelled his name again louder…I heard a moan.
Missy was about to say something and I told her to hold up! Again I yelled his name and louder I heard moans. They didn’t stop. I told Missy to call 911 and I ran to Eric’s and my window. It was unlocked! I pushed it up and Missy went through it after putting on gloves.
I ran into the apartment after Missy unlocked the door and what we saw would have made a grown man cry! All 125 pounds of Eric laid sideways on the floor at the foot of his bed. His wheelchair was still positioned facing his nightstand indicating to me, that he had been in bed. But something went terribly wrong…
I looked back over at Missy and Eric; still moaning he had reached up and was gripping her gloved hand. His speech was slurred, garbage, trash and a plastic shelf was all around him and on him. His body was completely naked. I only thought inside of myself, My Dear God, we need your help and we need your strength!”
Grabbing trash and the broken plastic shelf I quickly started removing the things off of his body. As I was doing this I noticed blood was dried in his nose, in his mouth, on his body and in fact his face was bruised and swollen. The hair! I stood waiting to hear sirens and we calmly kept trying to get him to HOLD ON! The Hair! With Eric’s right hand he kept pulling his hair out of his head. His one eye was open the size of a fifty cent piece. The other? It was swollen shut. The one piece of the puzzle we weren’t exactly sure about at the time was the electrical cord that was wrapped around his neck. Sirens!!!!
I ran to the road to flag down the Emergency personnel and briefed them on what they were about to see. AIDS, Staph, Paralyzed, Colostomy bag that needed changed and could be melting. (leaking) He was dying and you will need a mask… the apartment? Gentlemen, it is unfit for even an animal.
Eric is resting in the hospital, his vital signs are poor… Today they are giving him 2 bags of blood. The emergency room nurse told us it appears he had an “accidental” overdose. Missy and I looked at one another and know it was no accident. Eric wants to die. The swollen bloody face I believe he did to himself along with the scratches all over his forehead. The electrical cord was a last-ditch attempt to finally be free from his HELL!
Eric is mumble talking to us. He knows who we are and he also knows if he lives, he will be going into a nursing home to die. He will not go into eternity in a filthy disgusting apartment.
After we left the hospital we went back over to his apartment to locate a few pictures Eric asked us to find of him and Kathy. In seconds we spotted them on a stand and carefully placed them in a bag. Just as I was about to leave I looked down on the floor and saw a Bible. I stopped and picked it up and opened the inside where someone would sign their name. It said Eric… I placed it gently next to the pictures in my bag and closed the door. This is all Eric owns. Nothing great and nothing grand. A few pictures and a Bible.
But you know what? Eric has no idea he has something that is richer than money? He has taught me so much. He taught me how to drop below this carnal emotion we call flesh and feel a love I have never felt before. That love makes you cry from a place so deep inside that I have never been before. When I think about Eric’s and my first meeting at his window…when my knees buckled under me and I dropped my head and cried I found a love inside I never knew I had. God? Oh for sure it was God…He cried through me and even that first window meeting when I had to leave and I could hear Eric’s cries coming from inside as I climbed through the briers to the front of the apartment I knew Eric was feeling it too.
I have often over the past few weeks told Eric that I was going to miss him. He told me that he was going to miss me too. I will miss Eric, yes I know we will have eternity together but this young tough 32-year-old has taken my heart. He is rich!
Missy and I will follow Eric if he makes it into a nursing home. We will visit just as we have all the rest. “Why God, why do we always seem to get assigned to the ones walking to the end?” Folks I do not know the answer but it really isn’t that bad. You see LOVE will give you the ability to go the distance.
Tomorrow I will get over to the Nursing Home to visit Don. We’re hoping Eric will be able to go there as well. It is where we said goodbye to Joe Joe. My mind shifts now and wonders how Don will be when we see him. A few days ago…He had just gotten back from the fair. He ate a whole bunch of hot dogs, cotton candy and candy apples. He wasn’t feeling great when we saw him. He had gotten the flu at the fair. Like my husband said, “At least in his mind, he is having a good time.” I love my job!