Kinship

(Dictated by Dru to Art Oct. 2, 2014)

 

The other day Art handed me a story about a homeless man called Wilbur who had died of cancer, sitting in a thrown-away chair.  He got no memorial, no headstone, just a pauper’s grave.  He hadn’t died like that because of being a drunk or a crook or mean-spirited; he’d been a sober, honest, friendly guy.  His closest friend said, “He died that way because he’d never married or had children– and kin was how a man like Wilbur made it through the final years of his life.”

 

The image of Wilbur dying alone with no one at his side is one that will stay with me for a long time.

 

What do we mean by the word “kin”?  The literal definition refers to mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters— those we’re connected to by blood.  But when you’re seriously ill, “kin” can mean much more than blood relatives.  It includes the caring that comes from your friends— especially the unique comforts that come from your best friends.  It’s knowing that– no matter what you say or do, no matter how you’re looking or what you’re wearing– people are concerned for you in their own special ways.  It’s in those ways that I’ve found the essence of “kinship.”

 

These kin understand the subtle difference between being tongue-tied and having so much to say that the best response is shared silence– and what a blessing mutual quietness can be!  The farther I progress on this journey, the more I appreciate that kind of kinship.

 

A few years ago on my way to 8 a.m. church services I frequently saw a woman with dusty, straight-blond hair, pushing a shopping cart along the sidewalk bordering Balboa Park. She caught my attention because, despite her weather-worn skin and bent back, there was an air of elegance about her. She never held a sign or had her hand out, but I began giving her a dollar or two when I could do so without embarrassing her.

 

One day I asked her name.  “Doris,” she said staring straight but gently into my eyes. One Sunday as I was getting into my car I found a twenty-dollar bill stuck between the seat cushions.  When I saw Doris, I gave it to her; it was found money, as much hers as mine.

 

Time passed and one Sunday she wasn’t in her usual place in Balboa Park.  That was years ago and I never saw her again.  I assume she died.

 

Wilbur and Doris, a poor man and woman out of the homeless millions on this planet, but two whose names I learned and one to whom I paid brief attention.

 

Suddenly my imagination starts spinning and I begin to wonder about the circumstances of their passing. Were there family members present to hold their hands? Were friends gathered nearby?

 

We live a few streets from one of San Diego’s canyon preserves and I frequently see homeless men and women wandering up from the creek that runs into the bay.  No need to describe members of this earnest, rag-tag tribe. Their counterparts are found in many of the alleys and natural canyons of America’s Finest City.

 

I am saying a long farewell to conscious life.  I can barely grasp the edges of what that means. But I have a new and deeper understanding of kinship.  In my fading world I’m blessed to be surrounded by my family, close friends, casual friends, even people I’ve never met who respond so compassionately to these blogs.

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9 Responses to “Kinship”

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  1. Jessica North says:

    You are loved by many, and so much by me. You have built and lived a meaningful full life, given so much to so many. To be able to say that you are master of a craft, have a good marriage, a solid family, have and have been a true and faithful friend and sister, been a valued member of your AA tribe, have always had your hand out to a fellow sufferer, are admired for your character and sense of decency. This is to have lived a good life. Your humor, great big laugh is a gift to us all. Your smile, oh, your magnificent smile. Will never fade from memory. Dear, dear Dru.

  2. Jean Froning says:

    What beautiful and meaningful words. You have always had the gift of giving yourself the time to bring words to those fleeting thoughts that those of us less brilliant, less gifted entertain. I LOVE your writing, your mind, your humility, your sense of humor and grin! I loved hearing about your “writers’ block” and rejoiced with you when there was a breakthrough…and what a breakthrough you had! I love it that we were strangers, passing by each other in our childrens’ pre-school days…but taking notice of each other, only to be able to enter into a fellowship where we would be known intimately forever. I have loved your HUGE life and being inspired by you and that will continue forever…XXOO

  3. Dola Johnson says:

    Dru, I learned of your journey from Judy and have been reading your blog since August. Your frank and open conversations remind me so much of the time you visited her (and BLUR) many years ago and gave us a chance to pick your brain. Our conversations were wide ranging and you led the way. What fun that was and how your spirit then and now came shining through. Words. You have a gift. Thanks for sharing this chapter with all of us. You have a gift.

  4. Liz Katz says:

    I look forward to your blogs so much because you write about truth. What a blessing to be able to read your timely words. Keep on rocking those blogs. Love you, Miss Drusilla!

    Our Tampa Kite Tales look forward to reading your current novel in January 2015.

    TLAM,
    Liz Katz
    ~~~

  5. Anita Knowles says:

    Beautiful. Your words touched a part of my heart I don’t access often. Thank you.

  6. michael Payton says:

    Hey Dru
    You have been coming to my mind at odd times for the last few months and when it happens I stop and say a short prayer for you. It has been years since we have seen each other, but you have been welded into my brain for all those decades. I don’t know why but as I am praying for you I am reminded of an old picture I once saw of a young man in a very stormy sea, he is at the helm and behind him is the Lord with his hand on his shoulder. May the good Lord keep on blessing you. all my best Mike.

  7. Betsy says:

    I read that essay too. It was in the most recent edition of The Sun, wasn’t it? Wilbur. The rest of the story touched on the very thing you so beautifully say here: that kinship takes many, sometimes surprising, forms. Wilbur stumbled into a shelter and then into the life of the woman who wrote the piece and then, years after when she finally moved to another state, he stayed on, still connected to the people he’d found through her and through his own shining self. I loved that essay and I love what you’ve written here. That kinship, that connection — and the awareness of that connection — are gifts. Thank you.

  8. Dear Dru,
    I am so grateful for every word you post here because each one is a link to you. Please know you are surrounded by so many “kinfolk” who are keeping you in their thoughts and prayers and hearts at every moment. You are and always will be a shining spirit, Dru. This conscious life is only the beginning. Much love to you and Art, Sandra

  9. Bill says:

    Hi Dru – your message here (entitled “Kin”) reminded me of Jesus’ account of two persons who died, one a wealthy fellow (presumably surrounded by by friends & family), and another, a poor beggar who apparently died alone. But what’s interesting is what Jesus said happened after they died; it was not a “farewell to conscious life.” In Jesus own words (from Luke ch. 16): “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

    Fortunately for us, Jesus did not take Abraham’s advice – He did rise from the dead in order to give us the grounds to trust Him with our eternal souls, and grant us the blessed assurance now for that life to come.

    Looking forward to seeing you in Glory, Dru! I reject your “farewell” and bid you a hearty “see you later, sister!” And in the words of Jimi Hendrix (from “Voodoo Child” 1967):

    “I’m sorry I took up your sweet time;
    I’ll give it right back to you one of these days
    If I don’t see you no more in this world
    Then I’ll see you in the next one, and don’t be late!”

    Bill

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