2017 - A Retrospective

Candles for The INN Between's departed, Candlelight Vigil 2017 Candles for The INN Between's departed, Candlelight Vigil 2017

It was this time last year that one of our longtime residents was struggling. He had just returned from the hospital, and I had gone to say my goodbyes. He was so stubborn and hard headed that he decided wasn’t ready to die. The nurses removed the ventilator, and he came home that day. He knew his time would be short, and he used it to spend with his family and say what he needed to before it was too late.

I last saw him Christmas Eve. I walked into his room and told him I was so happy he had made it home for Christmas. He was lying down and too tired to get up. He smiled and was silent for a while, and then for the first time since I had known him, he finally admitted what he had been dodging for the past year – that his body was ready to give up. It was hard to hear, I looked up expecting to see anger or fear but instead saw a wide grin. “Thank you, I was lucky to be here and lucky to have you all,” he said. “This will be my last Christmas.” I hugged him and left him to rest. As I made my rounds through the rest of the house, I snuck back for another hug at least twice more.

I got the call in the early morning hours on December 26th. He had been out with friends and family and started struggling to breathe. They took him to the nearest hospital, where he passed away.  I miss him but am grateful that his last day was spent with loved ones. His daughter stays in touch, comes by to visit and keeps his memory alive.

Robert’s name was read at this year’s Candlelight Vigil, the community memorial service for the members of the homeless community who passed away. His was amongst 113 names, including 16 that passed away at The INN Between and a few who lived with us before passing away elsewhere

As I heard the names being read, I fondly recalled the memories of those gone. David and his love of cats. Eric who worked so hard to conquer his demons before passing peacefully in his sleep. Trudi and her amazing wardrobe. Michael and his dry wit. Fist bumping Rafi when I’d get to work in the mornings. John who had two stays with us, who we were able to connect with his daughter by phone in his final hours. Ken who couldn’t sit still at the age of 76 and was constantly on the go.

Our two Thomas’s – Thomas H, a sweet and quiet man who preferred to be alone, but when you caught him in the mood could talk your ear off, and Thomas J who had lived on the streets in my own neighborhood for over a decade. He used to ride home with me every day to go visit his friends and help at the local deli. His signature, his overalls, hang in a corner in my office, and as Thomas liked to say, “They can almost stand on their own.“

Billy – we had over a year to build our memories with Billy.  The hamburgers and fries he’d make for lunch, his games of hide and seek, Yahtzee, and my favorite, the look on his face when he’d talk about driving his beloved long-haul truck. Steven was the last person to pass, he had lived with us a year. He wanted no memorial, no obituary. We spent a lot of time with Steven at his bedside. Sometimes he would call just to have someone come up and give him a hug. I miss that. It is nice to have people stay awhile like Steven, and we get to know them well. Sometimes the stays are short, and we don’t get to learn as much about a resident. Ron, Robin, Sonya, Kimberly and Edward all lived with us for a short time before passing, but we loved them just the same, and we will remember them always.

Those names rang out to me at the vigil. These are just a few of the unique and amazing people who touched our lives in 2017. They were our friends, our family, whom we loved and cared for. In some cases, we had been the last to hear their final words, see them take their final breath. Now, they are our angels, watching over us and guiding others as the make their final transition.

As I left the vigil, I could barely feel my toes it was so bitterly cold. It was not lost on me that this is what our folks are used to, this is their life. They wouldn’t complain as they walked towards a car that could warm them up. They’d brace themselves for a whole night of trying to keep mildly comfortable. I am grateful that we were able to provide a comfortable home for so many this year. Next year, I hope we can serve even more.