I wrote about the homeless man outside my office back in August. I haven't seen him for a while, and to be truthful, without his daily presence outside my building's doors, I haven't thought much about him. Life took over. The daily grind of getting to work, my morning coffee, things to do, friends to visit, and a future to look forward to - all these things eclipsed any thoughts of the regal, dying man that sold Outreach newspapers outside my office. But yesterday I saw him, from a distance. The first time in weeks, standing on the corner in a parka, with his Outreach newspapers in his hand. As I approached, I turned to see how he was doing and was shocked by how terrible he looked. It was clear that the cancer had finally seeped into every pore of his body. His face was an inhuman greyish green colour - a colour I have never seen on a person's face before. It was as though the lifeforce was being sucked out of him, that his living cells were being attacked and killed one by one. I am lucky enough to have never been close to anyone that's died or been ill, but I knew, without a doubt, that he was dying.
I saw some wetness under his eyes. I think he was crying. But I can't be sure. I can't be sure because the horrible, cowardly truth is that in this moment, I turned away. I could not face him. I could not be close to his obvious suffering. I could not be close to the death that surrounded him. I was scared. And in that moment, I walled myself off from him, went upstairs and forgot about him for the rest of the day.
This morning I woke up thinking about him, the guilt turning my stomach over and over. I felt sick with the thought that I had just turned away from a fellow human being in suffering. Sick that I had done what so many of us do everyday...
for what can we do? How can we do something about all the suffering we see in the world? It's not possible. But then again, how can we live with ourselves if we don't do something? Anything?
I vowed to look for him and speak with him, but when I walked up today he was gone. I hope I am not too late.