Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cremating Mom

A watercolor on my wall by my friend John Barnard


A new sign showed up on the corner where the panhandlers stand with their cardboard messages of penniless vets and broken luck.
“HELP ME TO CREMATE HER” it declared. Under that was a blurred photocopy of a Depression-era woman who’d led a hard life, you could tell. It was labeled: MOM.
The man who held the sign was an aging, bearded street person. That’s all the detail I caught as I drove by.

I should have stopped and given him a couple of dollars because of the sign alone. I thought about that sign all afternoon.
With apologies to honest people down on their luck (I’ve seen the sign: BROKE AND DOWN ON MY LUCK, a truth if ever there was one), I confess that I’m cynical about cardboard-sign people. Two of my AA friends are former street people, and what they’ve said about panhandling makes me doubt all panhandlers armed with messages about their troubles. I never stop and give them money. Sorry.

But that sign, “HELP ME TO CREMATE HER,” got to me. Especially with that poor picture of a hard-luck lady called MOM.
What if it was for real?
Imagine the fellow’s plight. Imagine the coroner or the mortician saying, “It will cost [this much] to cremate her, sir. We will keep her until you raise the funds.” And there’s the fellow, trying to raise the money a buck or two at a time while his mother waits in the morgue.
What if it’s not real?
I think about the sheer originality of the cause. And the brilliant salesmanship that made him include the bad photocopy of MOM. The fellow deserves something for his creativity.
By the time I reached a decision, it was early evening (I think slowly), and he was long gone. So that was that.
A prayer is in order, and God can make prayers retroactive. So Lord, he’s one of your kids. Whatever his situation is, I hope his needs were met. Please rain a special blessing on his head to make up for what I didn’t do. Amen.
What would you have done? Or is that Monday-morning quarterbacking?

27 comments:

Susan said...

I always give money willingly. I don't care what they use the money for. I kind of wrote a post about this if you want to check it out. :)
http://inappropriatesue.blogspot.com/2010/02/my-dad-taught-me-to-pay-it-forward.html

Just Be Real/God Whispers In The Wind said...

Wow. Never heard or saw that sign before. God I am sure has met his need EO.

Karen said...

Chris, I nearly always give to panhandlers - that is, if I have something in my wallet and if I can stop. I don't feel righteous or anything except sorry. I think they're mostly Vietnam vets, and I don't care why they don't or won't work. I don't care that they get into a big old car and drive to the liquor store at the end of the day. I think when I see them, "Whatsoever you did to the least of these, this you did unto me."

There was a time I didn't help a stranger in need, and I still regret that failing. Like you, the opportunity has passed, but I still ask for forgiveness.

Karen said...

Oh, and if it wasn't for real, this guy wins for the creativity, anyway!

Shadow said...

sheeesh. i don't know. i think i would have been too shocked to react...

Secretia said...

Some panhandlers earn two hundred a day and live in a nice motel in groups, they have plenty of money all in cash. Some are poor.

Secretia

sarah said...

having lived on the streets....I think I wouldn't have given him money...I know people get really creative...they understand about pulling on heart strings....and anyways....his mother would have been buried....I would wonder why it would be so necessary to cremate versus burial...Great post...Sarah...and tell your friend...the picture is awesome.

the walking man said...

I would have donated the cadaver to a school of medicine if there had not been an autopsy. If there had i would have let the county do what the county does and felt little remorse about it for it ain't my mom but a few pounds of fleshly remains that need to be disposed. The one thing I would feel nothing over is the sign with the picture on it. The man was prostituting a memory regardless of the truth.

Brian Miller said...

you cant go back, but that you still thought of him speaks volumes...i am sure th eprayer was heard and answered...

Kristin H. said...

That's a tough one. I'm on the fence about cardboard sign holders. There are days I give and days I don't.

Enchanted Oak said...

I'm always in wonder when I read your comments. So many different minds at work! It really is a joy that we are all unique people with our individual perspectives, brought about by our own personalities and collection of histories. Thank God we aren't all photocopies of a single person!

Kim A. said...

I would have given just because my heart strings would have been humming. I agree about the originality...you would think that no one would make this stuff up. My prayers go with him too. He has a mom somewhere who would appreciate it.

♥namaste♥

Syd said...

I would have stopped to talk to him and probably asked for the funeral home so that I could make a direct donation there. I too believe that there are those who take advantage. When I pass someone who is homeless and asking for money for food I offer to buy them a sandwich. It makes me feel good.

chitowngreg said...

Thanks for the post. I try to always give to the people asking and not to have a lot of judgment about it. I figure they may benefit, but I know I'm going to.

Magpie said...

As I read the comments, I felt the same way - so many varied feelings. But obviously this one hit a nerve. I felt lots of passion in the responses.

Marla said...

I am with Syd. I never give money but I do always get involved. If there is a true need, I will do my best to meet my part of it. Sometimes the real need is just to be heard.

TechnoBabe said...

I did that once, gave what money I had with me to a man who wasn't holding a sign, but was living on the street. I went home and got some things together to give and went back and drove all around and couldn't find him. I thought that man, older and nice face, and sent love his way wherever he went.

Gabriella Moonlight said...

I give, I hade a quilt in my car for years to just have I guess and one night I was leaving a gallery downtown and a guy came up and said he needed money for a blanket as it was getting cold and he could get one for $5.00 at Goodwill, I gave him my quilt, he gave me a hug.

We don't have too many cardboard sign folks in WV, so I don't see them as much as I did in Oregon, I think that really this post/share speaks such deep volumes about your soul and your service to humanity.

Beth Niquette said...

Hi! My sister works for a funeral home. In our area, every months the funeral homes switch responsibility for all the corpses they don't know what to do with, or whom people can't cremate, etc. They keep these bodies as long as they can, then if no one shows up to claim them, bury them, or cremate them--the funeral parlor then takes care of it.

I highly doubt that cardboard sign was the truth. I'd give him a dollar for creativity, though...

Monkey Man said...

Your blog title intrigued me since we just cremated my mother. I agree with the crativity, but it's not worth a plug nickle to me. I know where that money goes and won't contribute. It was a hard line decision I made a long time ago. I will give food to their animals - they are the innocent.

Alan Burnett said...

I'm with the Walking Man and his solution. That is where my body is heading when the time comes, so my son will have to think up another cause if he plans on going begging.

Lou said...

My son was homeless because of addiction for one long, cold winter. God Bless the people who gave him money, food, and clothes without judgement. Those stangers got him through-- 24 hours at a time.

True giving is anonymous and asks nothing in return.

e said...

I give what I can, and do not care how it is used as it is not my job to judge those who need.

Nessa said...

i give to people i see if i think i should give. i leave the truth of it up to others.

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Patty said...

If I have the money I will give. Maybe that dollar will be the one that helps them hit their bottom?

One day I saw a man and his wheelchair bound wife parking their nice van. They were laughing and smiling as he wheeled her across the intersection, and there they sat with their cardboard sign and sad, sad faces.

I try not to look at what the sign says, but the person's face that is holding it.

annie and katrin said...

to give or not to give?
you gave your well meant blessing, from your God to his God. Whatever we give or not, every encouter we have, is Divine.

Dianne said...

Your titles always grab me. YOUR mom?

such a writer's writer you are. and observant. write what you know.
On Thurs. I will be reading 2 new poems, but I will not the first featured reader at Poet's Night Out 3rd Thursday. I traded because this March is madness..... I will be reader in May in A-town.

on that note,
the word verification is "hyper"
too much of which makes Di a dull girl....sooo tired....
love you, Chris.

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