Part of what I do at the halfway house is the menu planning and grocery shopping. At any given time, I have two residents who are my "pantry guys" who help me keep track of what we need to get, etc. Last year, one of them handed me a scribbled list on a crumpled scrap of paper that said: green peppers, milk, spaghetti sauce, HOPE!
He was a life-long alcoholic in his mid-fifties with thick silvery gray hair and a well-trimmed mustache. He had been a model resident--always doing his share and then some, but that week he was in a little bit of a rough spot, an emotional slump. He was as cranky as I'd ever seen him--surly and even a little snappish when really pushed by the younger guys in the house, which wasn't like him at all.
Later, when he had worked his way back into a better place, we joked about which grocery store aisle exactly you'd have to look in to find hope.
He left the house shortly thereafter and moved into our supportive living program--which provides some structure, but much more independence than the halfway house (I call it a three-quarters-of-the-way house) and did very well there.
He was working in a job he loved, had gotten his driving privileges back, was rebuilding damaged relationships with family and friends. Through it all he maintained his sense of humor, generosity and kindness to others. And though he could be something of a gossip (he knew the doings of all his friends and acquaintances with a precision unmatched by anyone else I've ever met), his interest in other people's lives was genuine and tempered with compassion.
Early Friday morning, we lost him to a cancer that first presented itself as a particularly persistent hoarse throat--for weeks, he thought it was just the lingering effects of a late spring cold.
May it be some comfort to his family that he had two healthy years in which he had gained some measure of peace--and yes, hope--within himself.
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