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A body found last night -- Was it Fred?
This is an update on the original hub. I wrote:
“I am on pins and needles this morning waiting for a phone call. You see, my son called me last night and said that a body had been found near some railroad tracks, and the ID on the body was that of his friend, Fred. He said that his and Fred’s mutual friends were calling everyone they knew to see if anyone knew of Fred’s whereabouts. No one had seen him in three days. Regardless of the outcome, I want to paint the picture of Fred, the human being, not the statistic.”
Sadly, we learned that the body was Fred. The real story was far different from what we had been told. His body wasn’t just found near the tracks, and there was no suspicion of foul play. He was killed on the tracks by a train. The video from the train’s camera showed that he walked onto the tracks and the train couldn’t stop. Upon hitting Fred, the train stopped and the authorities were called. Fred’s death was ruled a suicide. His friends all say that Fred would have never committed suicide because his strong Catholic faith would not have allowed him to kill himself. They all agreed that he had never exhibited any suicidal tendencies despite his personal problems. The circumstances of this death leave us wondering why Fred didn’t hear the appproaching train.
Fred was legally blind and may not have seen the train. Fred was also homeless. He had people who cared about him, but nobody seemed to know how to help. Three years ago, I became acquainted with Fred when he lived with my son, henceforce called "Junior", for a few months.
By the way, Fred was his real name, but out of respect for his family, I still won't give his last name. I liked him and I called him “Fred Flintstone” in order to distinguish him from another friend of Junior’s with the same first name. He thought it was funny. Frankly, I think he enjoyed it because I thought enough of him to give him a nickname.
Fred found a job as a cook in the cafeteria at the Lighthouse for the Blind. It was within walking distance from the house, so living there was convenient for him. Then he suffered a flareup from a back injury he already had and was forced to leave his job. Fred was also a recovering alcoholic and after this setback, he fell off the wagon. He agreed to go into a rehabilitation program, which was a residential program, and he moved out of Junior's house.
This program lasted several months and when it was completed, he attended Alcoholics Anonymous on a fairly regular basis. By that time, Junior had acquired another roommate and there was not enough room in their small house for Fred to move back in. He moved to a homeless shelter on that side of town run by a Christian organization. To stay in residence, a person had to attend Sunday church services at the shelter. Fred had a problem with generic religious services because he was a devout Catholic. He insisted on attending Mass, which at his church was held at the same time as the services at the shelter. Whenever he went to Mass, he had to remove his few personal belongings from the shelter because he was not allowed to return that evening.
On those occasions he would stay at Junior’s house. Then the “Christians” would allow him back into the shelter until the next time he went to Mass. I use the quotation marks around “Christians” because I find their views to be superficial. It is their shelter, and they can admit or forbid admittance to anyone they wish. However, the fact that this man was trying to put his life back together and kept being booted out of this shelter for going to church seems like an antithesis to the practice of Christianity to me.
The last I heard, Fred was sleeping on a park bench. Junior said Fred sometimes came by the house to do his laundry and occasionally stayed a day or two, especially in bad weather. He said that Fred had several friends at whose homes he sometimes stayed.
Fred received help but why was it inadequate? Was it his fault or a failure of the system, or both? Fred was blind and had a very painful back injury, the combination of which should have qualified him for disability. Junior said that Fred applied at one time for Social Security Disability, so what happened there? Was a blind man with a bad back turned down? Disability is difficult to get, so did they make it so hard he gave up? He was one of the deserving people who should have qualified. With a regular check and food stamps coming in each month, he might have been able to rent a small apartment and get his life back together. If only he could have stopped drinking
Junior had made the statement that if the body was that of Fred, it would be no surprise to him and his friends. He said that Fred had been hospitalized several times after being beaten and robbed by other homeless people. Once he was so severely beaten that he was in the hospital for two days with a bruised spleen. They were not surprised that Fred was dead, just at how he died.
Fred is not one of those cases in which a person is homeless because of poverty. Neither did Fred choose to be homeless, but he was controlled by demon rum. He came from a comfortable middle-class family. He was divorced and had a daughter who is now in her 20s, and she is coming home for her father’s funeral. Fred will have a decent funeral and interment by the family who loved him, which is more than many homeless people can expect.