I want to share Dan's Story with you...because in his way, he DID make a difference. Sometimes it takes a shock to realize why things happen the way that they do.
This is a story that won't leave my heart. The story of a man who wanted to leave a mark on the world. He wanted his children to love him. But, he made terrible mistakes, and had a lonely, sad life. I've had a hard time coming to terms with the part of his life I knew about, and he wasn't my friend, wasn't my family, nor did I know him well. He had a simple mind. That's just the way he came into this world, he was simple. In our modern terms, I suppose we would say, ''slightly retarded''--in some ways, he could function. He could drive a car, but not out of his comfort zone. He couldn't make good decisions, maybe no one ever taught him, maybe he didn't have the ability to do so. He never thought things out as to consequences, he only lived for the moment and for the day at hand.
His name was Daniel. He looked older than he was. And at nearly 7 ft. tall, with feet that looked like boats in tennis shoes, he was unfortunately a figure of fun, and had been made fun of all of his life. Far from good looking, he shambled when he walked, and unknown to those who poked fun at him, was in pain nearly all of his life from a body that was just too long and too large. In other words, he lurched. And yes, that's what people knew him as....Lurch. I surely do not need to explain that name to most of you. Sadly, he did resemble the TV character in nearly every way.
For years, I only saw this man when I was working. He would shuffle in the restaurant, usually carrying a filthy plastic coffee mug, to sit most of the day away and just drink coffee. Yes, he smelled. His clothing was never, ever washed--in the summers it was stiff and sweaty, in the winters he just piled layers on and left them on--all winter. Of course he smelled. And of course, I, along with a bunch of other people, never bothered to find out if he had feelings, if he cared, if he knew he had a nick-name as a figure of fun. I just went along with it all, too busy working to really tell myself I cared. After all, he wasn't my problem, was he? He was someone else's problem...and then, he disappeared. Gone. I heard through the ''coffee people gossip'' in the restaurant, that he was in prison, for a sexual molestation charge. For 10 years, maybe. I was rather shocked, because I thought he was simple, and harmless. But at least he was out of the way, right? I mean, he wasn't around taking up space, slurping coffee, smelling bad...that was the feeling of my coworkers, so once again, I gave it no thought at all and just went along with it.
Fast forward about 10 years. I can't work anymore, because I am disabled with MS and some other health issues. I no longer live a fake affluent lifestyle, I live plain and simply, my children are grown and I am alone now. And one day, I see him again. He is scarier looking. He also looks very ill and thin, and shuffles worse than ever. But I keep my distance. After all, this man was incarcerated for molestation, so I don't really want anything to do with him, do I? (and I called myself a Christian...) So, I knew he was around, but luckily since I didn't work anymore I could keep my distance from him. I went on with my life, enjoying my family and friends, doing my animal rescue work, I guess just thinking that being a good Christian was a selective thing--that I could help who I wanted and care about who I wanted and God wouldn't care. Not as long as I was doing something good, right?
Wrong again. I became good friends with a married couple who literally adopted me into their lives. They loved animals, I did too, we had a lot in common, we have been friends for maybe 4-5 years now. This couple is not rich. They manage their money very well...and they always find some extra somewhere and have someone or two that they are helping along in some fashion. When I came into their lives, I was surprised to see they even knew Dan, or his story, or what he was like. And they were helping him to survive...Dan did not have a good concept of money. He couldn't manage a household, couldn't cook, and couldn't understand anything other than the simple life he had with his dog, and a friend he had made in the same rundown trailer court. For several years, my friends were always doing things for Dan. Made sure he had food for his dog. Made sure his dog got to go to the vet, and made sure Dan didn't starve to death. He lived on disability, but had never worked long enough anywhere to make it a very big sum. They were shocked to learn Dan was a sex offender, but that didn't stop them from trying to help him. Then Dan got sick. Really, really sick. He fought leg circulation problems, as no one is supposed to be that tall. He had gangrene in his foot and leg, and lost some toes and a small part of one of his feet. He was in and out of the hospital here and in Evansville. The first time we went over there to see him, he had been there 2 weeks with no visitors. In the month he spent there, we were his only visitors at all. They found cancer in his upper thigh. So after the initial treatments, he asked my friends to come and pick him up. I was asked to go, so of course I did. We always take turns driving when one of us gets tired out, and I didn't mind.
So, we are on our way to Olney from Evansville, in the SUV with myself, Dan, and my 2 friends. Since she has a medical degree, my friend is more up on the medical aspects of all of this than I am. Dan was talking, trying to listen to all of the well-meaning advice coming his way in regards to his open wound, chemo treatments he would have to be taken out of town for, and on and on. Since we were on such a personal level by this time, I simply asked him if he had children, and if so, where were they? He told us they lived close by....one in Olney and one in Calhoun, and that he had grandchildren, but he only got to see them for a few minutes on Christmas. They were not going to come to the aid of their dad, haul him to chemo treatments, etc. That was pretty obvious. So, the treatments started and that was just for about 2 weeks--Dan landed back in the hospital again, blood infections, etc. He just didn't understand what clean meant, how to cleanse himself to keep his leg from getting worse, and it looked like he wasn't even going to keep his leg, now. It was bad. But...Dan got sent home anyway. They couldn't find a proper nursing facility that would accept him, as years before he had been a sex offender. This was tragic. When he went home, he couldn't walk. He crawled into his trailer, and down the hall to his bed.
And now comes the hardest part of the story, so forgive me if I have bored you. How Dan lived is not how anyone, anywhere, should live. My friends had taken him inside--I just heard what they said, couldn't believe it could be that bad. But now, Dan had to stay there, and they said it was so cluttered and filthy it had to be changed somewhat. So the next day, we loaded up a ton of trash bags, took an SUV and a truck and went there. Such a sight I never hope to see again....ever. The porch was crumbling, but the smell that came from inside that trailer was like no smell should ever, EVER smell. Something horrible, rotten, terrible, like something huge died and couldn't be removed. But I wanted to help...for you see by this time I had long since figured out that this all happened for a reason, my being there. I'm sure you figured that out, too. And I actually WANTED to help, so that's why I was there.
Dan has a mentally challenged buddy, that lived next door. He showed up to try to help, but had NO idea what to do or how to do it, what to throw away, and why? we would throw anything away anyway But we had to do something. There were years of stuff stacked in there....more magazines and papers and clothing that had never been washed than you have ever seen in your life. And everything we tried to touch had either mouse feces on it, roaches on it, or had been urinated or pooped on by a dog that didn't get let out often enough. We wore plastic gloves and old shoes and old clothes, but still. As I said, the smell was simply unbelievable. With every item I picked up or sorted, every mouse or roach I dodged, every pile of feces I saw, all I could think of was--this is a human being! This is one of God's creatures, too! How did this happen? How did it ever get so bad? Could we ever, ever make a difference at all? We worked all day long. Hauled off truck after truckload of simply sickening stuff that could never be saved. My friends worked in the back of the trailer where Dan would spend most of his time--trying to make a path for him to the bathroom from his bed, etc. I finally cleared out another bedroom and went to the living room to work. It was worse than the rest, if that's even possible. I filled many bags, working fast and furiously, and finally just looked up to see if it had made any difference at all yet.
And then I saw what I was supposed to see, I guess. I had walked right by it all day, and never looked. A big picture of the last supper. And another picture of simply Jesus's face....I had tried a bit to talk to Dan to see if he wanted to talk to a pastor, or if he wished to hear the Bible or even have one. But, never got a straight answer and I really wasn't sure just how well he could read, so I didn't push that part. I left it as it was, that if he changed his mind all he had to do was say so. But then, I saw the pictures, rising above all the filth and the debris and the smells. I knew then that someone other then me had tried to plant those seeds, maybe long ago. It made me glad that he might know the Lord, but sad that he had to live the way he lived. Very sad.
Dan collapsed that night. He fell and could not get up. He never should have gone home, but he did, and we couldn't fix that part. He went back to Evansville to the hospital. Now remember, he told us he had children. Two sons. I had asked their names, and he had given them readily--even told us where his boys worked. So my friend went to see the one son who worked in town, and told him, your dad is dying. He basically said the wounds were deep, and he would go home to his wife and discuss what to do next. He didn't want to hurt his family, and all of this was new to this young man--suddenly having to make medical decisions for a dying father he didn't even know well. So, one son made the right choice, he went to see his father, they made amends that were decades in coming, and Dan passed away from a variety of issues that his body simply couldn't fight any longer. The other son refused to come, but that's a whole other issue so I won't go there.
Did it have the right ending? In a way, yes. I think he wanted family around him more than anything in the world, he had tried to be a better person, and didn't really ever have any guidance to be one, nor was he smart enough in a lot of ways to think for himself about life's issues. Do I feel bad? Yes. No one should have lived as he lived. Ever. But...and I do say BUT...I truly believe that he believed. He did. The signs were all there. I hope he is now healed, in body, mind and spirit, and knows that he did, in his way, make a difference. He, along with his lifestyle and way of living and very simple ways, was still a child of God. We were humbled...we had new appreciation for what we do have in life, and are more willing to share it than we were.
Godspeed, Dan. And thank you. by Jenny Lawless Beagle
Luke 6:31 - Do to others as you would have them do to you.
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