On June 28th, Amanda and I traveled to Stevens Point to say our final good-bye to Frankie aka Frankenstein. All our final good-byes are hard. However, Frankie's was even harder because it was laced with guilt.
Frankie stumbled across the Marty Bus recently. I saw him approach and asked if he wanted lunch. He climbed aboard and proceeded to greet everyone as if he knew them forever. He sat in the back and proceeded to talk with Curt. I assumed he had been on board before and I had missed it, as he seemed very comfortable with everyone. This was his first visit and a visit that replays in our minds and hearts. Frankie hung around after we closed.
His smile faded and tears filled his eyes. “I have no where to go”. We had no answers for him. We had no where for him to go. We have been begging the city, the city council and the police department for a place to go. For a safe zone for camping for our clients until a more permanent solution to be enacted.
Frankie returned and each time he did, we would yell out “Hey Frankenstein”. He would bring his laughter. He would bring his pain. He would also bring injuries. We would ask who injured him and he would simply say “I am okay”. On Frankie’s last visit, he showed up with an open wound on his head. I again asked him who did that to him. Tears came to his eyes, and he told me “Never mind”. We have a policy to never push our clients in the trust building. We never felt comfortable when Frankie walked away, but we also thought we had time. We were wrong. Later that night, Frankie's life ended. He was hit by a car downtown.
Amanda and I went to Frankie’s beautiful service. The room was full of those who loved Frankie, those who tried to help him, provide him shelter and help him find his way. There was tears and laughter as stories were told. One story sums up Frankie. A new pastor was giving a sermon at a local church. Frankie found his way into the church and on to a couch in the back. Soon the sermon lulled him into a deep snore filled slumber. After the service the pastor went to wake Franky and introduce himself. Frankie hopped up, gave the pastor a rib crushing hug and said “Hi! I’m Frankenstein!”
Guilt…it weighs heavy. Frankie's death was avoidable. If we had a place for him to go, he would not have been wondering the streets late at night. If we had a place for him to go, his constant injuries may have been prevented. It is always my belief that with each rising sun, there is hope. Frankie ran out of rising suns. We ran out of opportunities to get someone to listen to us, to help us help Frankie. We ran out of rising suns to give him a safe place in this world. We ran out of rising suns to heal the trauma that led him to a life of addiction and homelessness.
Frankie’s photos were shown in a slide show. They showed a beloved man with many friends in the community. One photo took my breath and continues to haunt me. It was a photo of Frankie hugging a friend in high school. A handsome young Frankie with a warm smile and bright eyes. My mind went to the path that led him from a young man with hope for the future to the shell of a man with tears in his eyes telling us he has no where to go. My only comfort out of this is he is no longer in pain. He is no longer here to be battered. I hope wherever he is now, he is at peace and feels like he belongs.
“Grief is not as heavy as guilt, but it takes more away from you.”
― Veronica Roth, Insurgent
Saying goodbye to Frankie was hard. Watching his friends and family in pain was hard. However, the hardest part of the night was watching Amanda struggle with guilt. It is a guilt I also felt and felt before. However, I brought Amanda into the world of homelessness. She is a natural and I could not ask for a more compassionate outreach worker or advocate. I feel responsible for her pain and the weight she carries on her shoulders.
Good-Bye Frankie aka Frankenstein. Thank you for the double rainbow that greeted us as we left. Thank you for the lessons we will take forward in our lives and our work. Thank you for crossing our path. We will heed your words to “Love life and people”. Rest well, my friend.