Inner City Diary
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He's wearing my tie!
October 14, 2001
She pulled me closer in the car and said quietly, “I have to tell you something before we go there.”

I wondered what else she could tell me, less than 20 yards from the gravesite. I had already heard lots.

Jimmy died ugly. An alcoholic who was warned by doctors that his drinking would kill him. He took pride in proving them wrong - for awhile. One day he started bleeding internally. He wandered around the house coughing up gobs of blood, his 70 year old wife following with a bucket. When she tried to call for help, he used what remained of his strength to smack her away from the phone. I remembered her telling me what it was like to watch Jimmy die. When he finally passed out, she called a friend to take him to the hospital. It was too late. He died.

She didn’t want people to know Jimmy had died. When I probed for a reason, she said, “Jimmy was a bad man.”

After awhile, she told me, “Jimmy did bad things to young boys.” She said she was afraid. Now that they’re older and can’t take revenge on Jimmy, maybe they would take it out on her. I asked her if she felt responsible, and she said she wished she had done more. Social isolation and years of physical and mental abuse, however, had made her passive. I couldn’t picture staying in that situation. I wondered what horrible secrets she would keep of their past.

Knowing they had nothing to do with church, I said, “You probably don’t have anyone to do the funeral. I’ll do it for you Maggie.” She thanked me.

That night before the funeral, I wondered why I had offered my services. What would I say? What can be said at the funeral of a child molesting, wife beating alcoholic? I couldn’t speak glowingly about his life or offer any hope of eternal residence with the Protector of Innocents. I don’t have much good to say about diddlers and guys who beat up women. No reason to talk sweet about a monster just because he’s dead. No sense lying.

But then what’s left to say? Sometime after midnight, words came to me and I put them on paper.

It was supposed to be a simple graveside service. Just Maggie, the guy from the funeral home, and another from the cemetery.

I wondered what she needed to tell me before we went to the graveside. She said, “I don’t want you to be shocked when they open the casket.”

I assured her that this was not my first funeral, and I was already prepared for the fact that his face was swollen from the way he died.

“No, there’s more” she said “that’s not it. When they open the coffin, you’ll see. He’s wearing your tie!” I didn’t know how to respond. Apparently one of my ties, purchased at our yard sale, had become the favorite tie of this child molesting, wife beating alcoholic.

Sure enough, as they opened the coffin, there was Jimmy. It was a pretty weird feeling. Four of us around the grave and the guy in the coffin - wearing my tie.

Starting the graveside service, I didn’t have much to say about Jimmy. I directed my comments to Maggie. I shared a few words about God’s care for widows. I took note of her care for many neighbourhood cats, dogs and birds. I encouraged her to receive the care of others in this new phase of her life - from the Creator to her neighbours. She interrupted and started talking about the neighbourhood.

As we talked, I reflected on my ministry in the neighbourhood. Even when there’s lots to be angry about, and many unanswered questions, there are still some people who need our care and who can be blessed by a few positive words.

Feeling the weirdness of life and death, we hugged and turned our backs on the casket of the man being lowered into the dirt. What would you have done?
Copyright 2001
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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Contact info:
New Life Ministries
514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929
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