His Name was Randy
I first met him at the Breakfast Church. He was a tall, lanky man. Probably in his mid to late 50's, although it was hard to tell sometimes because life had been hard on him. He always wore a clean white t-shirt, often with a denim vest complete with a flag pin, jeans, and a trucker hat. He carried a pocket notebook and a pen with him everywhere. He had the kindest eyes and an almost handlebar mustache that if coaxed would have totally curled up on the ends.
His face bore the signs of a life spent in a deep relationship with the bottle. Some days he would show up looking a little sallow, his cheeks sunken in and his wrinkles more pronounced. There would be stretches when we wouldn't see him for a while and I would hear through the grapevine that he had binged a little too hard and ended up in the hospital or detox.
He lived not far from the church in a duplex that sat on the corner at a 4 way stop. He loved to sit out on his front porch with the local oldies station blaring from his second floor apartment. In the summer, he lined the side of the house with big pots and grew beautiful big juicy tomatoes and many summer afternoons you could see him entertaining friends who lounged on the steps of the porch while he tended his garden.
He was a frequent guest of the breakfast church. For a while he came and washed dishes to work off some community service hours. He was pretty quiet and kept to himself but was quick with a smile and easy conversation when he was in the mood. Like many of the Breakfast Church regulars, I didn't know a lot about his story. For all the time I spent with Randy and many others, I wasn't always privy to their backstory- for many of them I would guess it was because they were fully living in the present. The past full of trauma's and hardships that where happiest left behind them and they were most content to talk about the here and now.
The thing I loved most about Randy what his habit of leaving little handwritten prayers tucked in around Breakfast Church. At first I didn't know who could be leaving them. I would find them next to the public phone, tucked in with the napkins, tacked to the bulletin board. Lovely prayers that thanked God for the day, for abundance, for grace. Prayers that asked for forgiveness and prayers that reminded you that you didn't walk alone. I finally figured out it was Randy when he very blatantly handed me one with a wink and a small smile, telling me I looked like I could use it. Looking back now, I wish I would have kept those little prayers- I think they would have created quite a devotional for daily living.
One morning I arrived at Breakfast Church and could sense the mood was grim. One of the guests who was especially close to Randy and had spent many days on his porch approached me. He looked distressed. "Did you hear?" he asked? "I didn't. What happened?" "They found Randy dead in his apartment. They don't know how long he had been there. I think he may have drank himself to death. I am just so sad that he died all by himself. I would have been there for him."
As is often the case when members of our community pass, there wasn't a memorial or answers to our questions, just lots of speculation and memories shared over coffee. I pass Randy's old apartment almost every day on my way into work. I think of him often- of his smile over a cup of coffee, of the delight over finding a hidden prayer, of seeing who was spending an afternoon on his porch enjoying a fresh tomato. And when he flits through my memory I give thanks for the ways he taught me to live in the moment. To know that each day is a chance to start fresh. And to remember that God is with me every step of the journey-