I Loved To Work and I Worked My Whole Life
I want to work, I just do not want to be a burden on anyone not even a homeless shelter- was the words my friend Mr. Ronald Collins said to me when I first met him. My words back to him were “you’re hired.” He said he could do anything but heavy lifting because of his stomach which came from a long history of drinking from depression. Ronnie was sick but able to do housekeeping where he swept most of the day and when he was done with that he would sweep again and again. I would say to him that he should take it easy and he would say I can do this and let me shine. He would work an hour on and take 30 minutes off and work an hour and take some more time on a break.
When I would give him his pay he was so thankful and two times he donated it back to us. I kept it secret most of the time because he wanted it that way. He felt bad he just came in and I gave him a little job and he bypassed others who were here before him.
I paid special attention to him because he was not the first person we had here that had end stage liver disease. We never could find out just how bad it was because his “follow up” was not the best. You see when you have end stage liver disease your body fills with fluid and your legs get so swollen and so does your stomach. We would have to have him go to the hospital to be drained. As they would drain him, he would come back skinny and at it again with his broom. I kept on telling him he did not need to work but he said no he needed to work for he had severe pride. He went in to hospice for pain control not because he was ready to depart this earth.
Even when he was part of hospice he would still do his daily sweeping but this time upstairs was his area of concern. The down stair parking lot became too much and he finally realized that. I would be sitting at my desk and I would hear a little knock on my office door asking if he could sweep around my desk on the floor. Anyone who knows me knows I have paper work on the floor all the time because when I go to throw it away I realize I still needed it so it piles up throughout the day. At the end of the day I begin to throw it away. So he would come in and do his sweeps. I would say “Ronnie that’s good, you got it all” and he would say an off the cuff smart remark as my friend Johnny would always do and it was always so off the cuff I would always get a fuzzy feeling of Johnny’s past remarks.
I finally took him out of hospice once again to get his stomach drained and this time I really thought he would make it. I was wrong. Even when he did not have anything to drink as far as alcohol was concerned he still did not fit the criteria to get a liver transplant. He was clean for almost seven months but his health was so severe he just could not get on the list.
Ronnie and I became very close. I felt so bad for him and when we had our chats each and every time he came in to the office for his hospice meds. There was not a time that when we said we loved him that he did not say I love you back. That was the way we ended each time we spent together.
Things got bad for him and we once again sent him to the hospital and this time it just became so bad he was starting to go. I had made the decision he should stay in the hospice unit until the pain was controlled and once stabilized we would move him back home to the shelter where we would provide 24 hour care for him. When things get bad for our people who are in hospice we create little jobs for some of the clients where we pay them to take care of the others while they are in hospice this way the care is done by someone they know making it a better care plan. When things get really bad we have the hospice people come in and our own people there as well. We create little jobs for them because some of them are willing to miss their regular job and lose their pay so they can spend some time with their friends and we feel that they need to get paid for them missing their regular work assignment.
I am kind of disappointed in his last few days because I too was in the hospital and I felt that I was not spending the proper amount of time with him. I did call from the hospital bed and asked that the office set up some visits for him in the hospice center. When I got out of the hospital I went to the office for a few hours and then went right up to the hospice unit in Memorial South. I went with Patrick from our Security Staff and Dea one of our companions for another End Stage liver client. I got to spend a few minutes with Ronnie and I told him it was OK for him to let go. As I always do I ask them to pray to Jesus asking for forgiveness and I pray for the same. In this case I also told him he was our friend and that we loved him.
He was hardly breathing. I then asked Jesus to take him and he died right then and there. It was like he was waiting for us to come.
Ronnie was a gentle man, he was a tall man and I bet you he was in shape when he was younger. Even when he took his sweeping breaks he would try to spend some time in the art gallery painting some abstracts. His hands were a little shaky but they worked just as mine did, that meant a painting would come out just fine. With abstract art, the staying in the lines does not matter much. His very first painting was his last painting and he only held on to it for about 45 minutes. With his broom in one hand and his painting in another he was walking his painting to the “sun spot” in the rear of the shelter. He painted like me and the paint was thick and had some raised parts where the thick paint was. So he had to sun-dry the painting for a few hours a day. As he put his painting down to dry he lit up a cigarette and along came a lady who was getting some food for a poor family in the community. She saw it and asked him if he wanted to sell it. He laughed and said “what this” she said she loved it and it would go just fine in her office. She offered him $75 for the painting and he said “are you nuts?!” He said to her $5 and she said back to him “are you nuts?!” She then went in to her purse and took out $100 bill and said “I forgot you delivered the painting to me and there should be a delivery charge.” Ronnie with the sense of humor he had he said to the lady “You are a nutty lady to buy this hunk of whatever you call it.” He uttered some other sounds that he did in a shallow voice and finally said, “I hope you enjoy my very first painting.” She then reached in to her purse again and said “your first painting brings value sir so here in another $100.” He looked at me and said “Sean I should have come to your shelter a very long time ago.”
I think she knew he was very sick and wanted to do something special for him but the fact was, she really did like the painting. She said she had her office painted last week and had a wallpaper border put up as well but the walls were plain and for the last week she had been trying to find a painting that went with the border and she finally got it here. She said her husband was going to take the border down tonight because she just could not get something to match it after going to about five stores.
The next day Ronnie took off the baseball hat he wore all the time and he put on a painters cap which was so cool. He said to me that after all these years he should be an artist because it was such a pleasure to see the smile on her face and he whispered did you see the smile on my face when she paid me and walked away chuckling.
What can I say about Ronnie? I can’t really say a lot about a person that did not want much in life but dignity. That is all he wanted. He had pride and he never wanted that to go away. He had self-respect and kept on saying “I worked my entire life.” He would show his hands all the time indicating just that … For he did work hard his whole life. One of the reasons when he was homeless that he did not come to a shelter was that he felt that he worked so hard that he would continue to work from the streets and to get himself out of homelessness.
Ronnie you did get yourself out of homelessness…. And you got right into the hands of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I Loved To Work And I Worked My Whole Life
I Loved To Work and I Worked My Whole Life