This is one post that I’m not happy having to write. I’m having a hard time gathering my thoughts and writing them down. It is about a woman and her son who my other half and I met shortly after we became part of San Luis Obispo’s homeless community. Out of respect for her and her son, I am going to refrain from using their real names.
As I said, we met "Sharon" and her son no long after we became homeless here in SLO. She and her son were also homeless and, like many other families, they were staying at the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter.
As a single mother, who had given birth later in life, she was adamant about making sure that her son had as normal a life as possible, despite being homeless.
Her son, "Tommy," was the average rambunctious pre-teen with a remarkable about of intelligence for someone his age. Perhaps the experience of being homeless at such a pivotal age caused him to grow up faster than nature had intended. And, while many of the other children were busy being children and playing or watching DVD movies, Sharon would make sure that Tommy did his schoolwork – which he would do before and after dinner.
Sharon and my other half became friends quickly and they would spend time chatting. When clothing had been donated to the shelter they would go through the clothing to see if there was anything that they could use. Sharon would from time to time pluck out a blouse or pair of jeans and hold them out to my other half and say something like: "Hey, this would look really good on you. You’ve got the figure for it."
As time went on, Sharon was able to find an apartment for her and her son. No one was jealous of her good fortune. In fact, everyone was happy for her – as is generally the case when one of "us" gets a chance to get out of being homeless.
When the day came for her to move into her apartment, all of those who had been her friends hugged and wished her well.
Despite the promises everyone made to keep in touch, everyone knew that we’d see very little of Sharon and her son after that. That’s just the way it is when one of us moves up into a new life. They leave behind the struggles of homelessness in exchange for the struggle to avoid becoming homeless again – and that leaves little time for anything else.
And for the rest of us life went on as before.
My other half and I would run into her every so often but soon those meetings became less frequent as Sharon had to adapt to the routines of managing her life and caring for her son. The last time we had seen her was shortly before this past Christmas.
She was still excited about having a place of her own. She admitted that it was hard for her and that it took quite a bit to make ends meet, but that over all, she and Tommy were happy. And, knowing that made us happy for her.
Yesterday evening, as we were heading "home," we ran into someone else who also knew Sharon. They informed us that Sharon had passed away sometime yesterday morning while Tommy was at school.
Sharon had a doctor’s appointment scheduled and when the woman who was to take her to the appointment arrived at the apartment couldn’t get a response at the door.
One of the neighbors, who also had at one time been homeless at the shelter around the same time managed to get into the apartment and found Sharon lying on the floor.
Although the women who found Sharon, and the paramedics had made attempts it was too late. She was pronounced DOA at the hospital.
When we heard the news yesterday evening, I felt a sorrow overcome me. And I immediately thought about Tommy and what would become of him. I feared that he would end up a ward of the state and placed in either a state facility or a foster care facility – something that ate away at my conscience.
The thought of what Tommy must be experiencing was heart wrenching for me. A young boy, who had been forced to grow up fast because of being homeless, would now have to grow up even faster because of the loss of his mother. I was more than I could bear and I could feel the tears well up in my eyes and a heaviness bear down on my soul.
Mercifully, Sharon has a brother who was notified about her passing. He and a hospice worker went to Tommy’s school to notify him of his mother’s death. And, I was told that he will become Tommy’s legal guardian.
Still, to have to bear these scars at such a young age –
For those of you who read this, please remember this young boy in your prayers.