Reaching melancholic transcendence; Life and Death in community

2 Thursdays ago I was helping out at the local soup kitchen, to my surprise my most favorite helper was there! Arlene’s an older Irish lassie whom I and care for deeply, our relationship is one of lovingly putting each other down in a playful manner, our words aren’t aimed at one another in a mean way, we just thrive at being kinda snarky and clever word-wise to one another.

Being an older woman, she has a hard time getting around, and winters in IL aren’t good for her and so when it gets cold out I hardly see her during this time of the year. She and I talked casually/snarky to one another for a while, but then she dropped the ball; due to a lot of doctor appointments, blood tests, et al. she may have cancer…and due to how old she is, it doesn’t seem like it’s a battle she wants to fight and she’s ready to go.

We continued laughing and enjoying one another company, but in my mind and in my heart I recognized the impermanence of our time together, and I thought about there will come a time when Arlene’s no longer here and I will cry alone…

***

Recognizing community, and being in community, and living in community, I have re-realized that death is also a part of living in community. Every individual and spectrum of life in community needs to be honored as needed be, and there needs to be honor even in the death of those who live among us. Arlene has a good support system of 2 kids and 5 grandsons who live rather close to her, so I know that if it is her time to go she will be taken care of.

She’s had a good and rich life, I am simply enamored by her stories and her willingness to serve others in a loving manner. She hasn’t revealed every facet of her life, but I sense her compassion for the homeless and downtrodden comes from some place personal, I don’t know for sure but I know that some of the best volunteers seem to understand it better than those who may consider (or at least reflect an attitude) the people who come in week after week as “freeloaders” or “they’re abusing the system”.
These homeless and downtrodden people are my friends, and some of them I’ve gotten to know really well and we don’t bullshit each other, we’re intentional in our words and quite honest with our circumstances…I get it and Arlene does as well.

I am blessed to know Arlene, and I am glad she gave me her digits before she left so I can check up on her, she tells me I’m her angel, and if that’s what I am in loving on this woman, so be it, I will be her angel.

I will enjoy her life while she’s still here, and when her time comes I will celebrate her life in her death, and honor her, and I think that’s the best thing I can do given my circumstances living in community.

~Nathanael~

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