On Friday, September 1st, 2017, Marion and I were waiting for a phone call from the ambulance driver who would notify Marion of when they were ready to pick him up. He was wincing in pain as he paced back and forth in front of me. I sat in the same chairs that I sit in when the Skid Row Running Club congregates for our morning runs, on the second floor of the Midnight Mission. His phone rang and after he hung up he said, "Okay, they're here." I grabbed two of his small bags and we headed downstairs together, following the same path the runners use to exit the mission for our morning runs. The ambulance was parked directly in front of the mission's courtyard along 6th Street, the same location where we begin our morning runs. Two uniformed ambulance drivers lowered the gurney for Marion to lay on. I gave Marion a hug and told him that I would see him soon. Marion was getting a ride to St. Francis hospital in Lynwood to die. The doctors have given him no more than a few months to live. No more treatments. No more hope.
I met Marion in September of 2016 when I first arrived at the Midnight Mission. I was immediately attracted to Marion's generous spirit and lighthearted humor. Though he was a few years older than me, the more we spoke, the more I realized we had much in common. We shared stories from our past, our current struggles, and our hopes for the future. After recovering from a relapse around Christmas of 2016, Marion discovered he had difficulty swallowing. Tests revealed a malignant tumor in his throat. He would have to begin intensive radiation treatments and chemotherapy. Despite the painful cancer treatments, Marion always maintained a positive outlook. In August of 2017, he went for a series of scans and tests to determine if the cancer had subsided. The results were devastating - the cancer had nearly spread to his entire body.
On Monday, October 2nd, 2017, I went to visit Marion in the hospital to deliver a greeting card I wrote to him. Watching him in the hospital, I realized Marion is deteriorating faster than anyone expected. He had lost a tremendous amount of weight, required a breathing machine, and was heavily medicated. The medical staff expect him to pass in less than a couple weeks. As I walked home from the hospital I reflected on the words I wrote to him in the greeting card. I let him know he was missed and a great example of how one can show strength and courage through such a difficult process. I also reminded him of God's love for him and that He will soon do away with all suffering and pain. As I reflected a little more, I realized I had not dated the card. I believe we attach dates to greeting cards/personal letters because a small part of us realizes that the closeness shared may not always last. The date provides a marker in time, an opportunity to reflect back on that person/time with nostalgia. Think of the countless birthday cards and love letters we've received from those who are no longer in our lives. When we know we will be close the person forever, attaching a date seems meaningless, even inappropriate. These relationships are 'timeless', or in this case, 'dateless'. For example, it would seem peculiar to attach a date to a letter of affection to my mother. We will always share unconditional love which would make such a 'time marker' unnecessary.
I'm grateful to have met Marion and to have been able to share a dateless greeting card with him. Sadly, Marion left us Thursday, October 5th, 2017. I will remember him forever. Life is precious.