Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dying Clients

Last night, sitting in front of the t.v., laptop in hand, working on a new website and feeling guilty for not blogging more lately, I see a story on the local news about a shooting that happened over the weekend. He was a former client and I knew it was him when the age of the man that was killed matched up with the age of the boy I used to represent on misdemeanor charges after I did the math.

I'm amazed how many of my former clients have been killed over the last few years. One of my favorite first clients, whom I wrote about here, was killed in a car accident in the car that he supposedly driving when he ran from the police. Then there was the day a woman reached out and tapped my shoulder a couple years ago and told me she'd buried her son that day. He was a former juvenile client of mine who was hit by a stray bullet at his school, killed without even being involved in the fight.

Then there was the prostitution client who was found in the dumpster and the other one who was pushed out of the car on the interstate by her "boyfriend," only to be hit and killed by oncoming traffic.

And those are just the ones who deaths I heard about. I'm sure there were many others, like perhaps this guy, who might have died quietly, out of the headlines, or this person, whose recovery was inspiring but who went back to prison eventually and who struggled with hepatitis. I wonder if she's still alive?

Last Tuesday, election day, I had the best conversation with a woman who was a resident of the care home that was serving as a polling place. I was volunteering as a poll watcher and she approached me to complain about something I've forgotten. She and I ended up talking for a long time, about what it was like to be in a care home, and how much she missed little things like being able to cook for herself and being able to go for a run. She'd recently lost a foot to diabetes and the look in her eyes when she told me about missing "little things" like being able to jog or cook your own food made me want to go home, run, cook and quit complaining.

When we talked about her wanting to vote provisionally, she told me she couldn't remember sending in her absentee ballot as she'd been on a lot of morphine at the time.

She told me she wanted to make sure her vote counted because she didn't think she'd make it to the next one. I didn't know what to say, but I listened and I think that's why we got along so well.

Then later, a black man, also in a wheelchair and also missing a foot from diabetes rolled up to the polling place from his room upstairs in the care home. I tried to help him when they told him he couldn't vote, even calling the "hotline" they gave me. But it didn't work as the man couldn't tell us when he'd last voted, decades ago perhaps, and described moving since the last time he voted. It appeared he'd been "purged" from the list of registered voters and, being no longer registered, could only register for the next election, unable to vote in this one.

He looked very disappointed to not be a part of "this" and, like Gloria, the other one-footed voter, like he wasn't sure he'd live to see another one.

I thought of him both on Veteran's Day today and last week when it was announced that one Nebraska electoral vote, from Omaha, went to Obama. Something tells me that's what he wanted to be a part of.

1 comment:

Glen Graham said...

A very moving and heart-warming story. Well done.

Just listening to someone pour out their heart, taking the time to listen, sometimes people just want someone to listen. Someone to care.

Glen R. Graham, Attorney at Law, Tulsa, Oklahoma