“we are all born / so beautiful / the greatest tragedy is / being convinced we are not”– Rupi Kaur
“Did you hear Demarco is dead?”
I stood in stunned silence. The question floated in the air for a few seconds. On the front steps and the porch the usual chatter and bustle of a Monday morning continued. The unusually cold morning was softened by the clear skies and sun warming the brick patio of Manna House. Death seemed out of place.
I had not seen Demarco for four or five months. The last time he was at Manna House he was fresh out of prison, but full of hope. Sadly, it was only in prison that he had finally found some stability, and regular meds for his depression. He had said he felt “together.” He was ready to get started with some program that he was confident would keep him on a good path.
“What happened?” I asked. “What do you know about his death?”
The guest did not know much more than that Demarco had been found in one of the abandoned apartments a block away from Manna House.
I went inside to share the news with Kathleen and to see if she or Ashley might be able to uncover anything more. A call to the morgue confirmed that he was indeed dead. He had died on April 1st, Easter Sunday. We heard on Easter Sunday, “O death where is your sting?” My answer, “It is right here today.”
I went back outside and starting talking with another guest. He grew up here in Memphis; went to Manassas High School. “The old one” he said, “not the new building. Really I went to school high, not high school. I never finished.”
“Did you ever finish?” I asked.
“Yes, in prison. Got my G.E.D.”
“You ever think about going on for more education?”
“I haven’t. You think I could?”
“You’re smart. I hear the community college is free now. Why not start with one class and see what happens?”
“I might. I can’t work anymore like I used to with this busted up arm.”
This afternoon, I came across this line of poetry today from rupi kaur, “we are all born / so beautiful / the greatest tragedy is / being convinced we are not.”
I wonder sometimes about what a guest was like when he or she was a child. Did she know her parents’ love? Were his parents excited and happy when he was born? Did they hold her with love and pride? Did someone read books to him before he went to bed? Did she have enough to eat? Did he go to good schools where teachers cared about him? Did she have a stable home and not have to move every year or every six months? Was he always treated with respect?
The main work of Manna House is telling our guests, showing our guests, serving our guests in such a way that they know they are loved and that they are beautiful. They come to us convinced that they are not.
At the end of the day, Kathleen texted me a photo she had found on her phone of Demarco. He was beautiful. And he was loved.