He was nearing 80 and though his eyes were still a vivid blue against thinning hair of white, the spark in them was fading.
Though his mind could still process how to walk and talk, sometimes his limbs would not obey and sometimes the words formed by his mouth were garbled and confusing.
Jack had an intellectual disability - the specifics of which I do not know, but don't think matter.
Jack's face, though clearly aged, was free of the lines that often adorn the faces of those who've lived and loved well. There is a kind of beauty to an old face belonging to someone who's beloved, don't you think?
But in Jack's face, though I spied beauty, I saw no love. In fact, all I could see clearly was that Jack had lived a long, long life of being unloved.
Unlovedness is state of being, a place of longing, a wary gaze, a blank look where knowing should be.
Unlovedness is not just the loss of love, it is never having known it.
Unlovedness is what you see before you avert your eyes from the huddled form on a snowy street, homemade sign propped against a crumpled coffee cup. Unlovedness is a plea written in shaky block letters which reads: I am homeless. I am hungry. Please help.
Shelter me. Feed me. Love me.
Unlovedness is what you read about in your local paper, where the headline screams: "Townsfolk Fear For Safety, Call For Tougher Laws!" and the piece goes on to describe some boys who wreaked havoc on the houses that border their "home" - a residential facility where they have lived since "graduating" from the foster care system six months ago.
Want me. Know me. Love me.
Unlovedness is what you see when you tiptoe into a nursing home that smells like loneliness and regret, where residents sit listlessly in the chairs on either side of the entrance way, waiting.
Remember me. Miss me. Love me.
Unlovedness reads like this, when I tried to capture the essence of Jack's life, in a journal entry this past Monday, a mere seven days after meeting him:
After he left here last Thursday, he was trundled over to a local nursing home, because the people
he was home-cared by felt that his needs (dementia, wandering, forgetfulness, rages) were beyond their comfort and care abilities.
Jack spent Thursday and Friday night(s) in the nursing home, locked in his room.
On Saturday, nurses reported that he was lethargic and difficult to engage.
On Sunday, Jack refused breakfast.
And then he refused lunch.
That afternoon, Jack curled up in his strange new bed...and died.
Most here believe that he died of a heart attack.
I think he died of a broken heart.
Today is Valentine's Day, Jack.
I can only hope that today, now that your entire lifetime has passed, you will know love.
This one's for you:
"John Doe #24" by Mary Chapin Carpenter