The Best People in Life

I was on the bus with a set of earbuds in my ears and watching a film on my hand-held device. I heard a line in a show about someone being the best person ever. And I started to ask myself the question of who it would have been. Aside from The Old Man or the family heroes; who would I say was the best person I have ever met?
I can say that first and foremost, the list would only be so long, but it would be hardest to pick the absolute best. Of course, we all have our own flaws. We are all human and we all have our imperfections; however, I think the best people I have ever met were still perfect to me in spite of their own imperfections.

For example, years ago, I went to a retreat out east on Long Island. And the retreat was run by this Franciscan Priest. He was a kind man, round-faced, and round bellied, with a boyishly kind smile that kept him otherwise ageless in an older man’s frame. He was soft spoken and loving —gentle, I say, and the kind of friend one could have that would never judge nor shame you if you came to him for help. Dare I say he was perfect? No, imperfections exist in us all. In fact, this man had an understanding of my past and addiction more intimately than I could have ever guessed because he too was a man of addiction.
I recall sitting with him, humbled and hurting, but yet refusing to let go of my secrets, which kept me sick, the kind old priest smiled in the most nonjudgmental way, lovingly, and expressed, “I don’t know what it is you did. But I do know you’re not doing it anymore.”
I knew he understood the hurt I felt. I suppose locked inside my vault of moral injury; this man was able to see through all which I tried to hide. And while I cannot say I knew this man long or even very well; I can say this man is one of the best I’ve ever met.
And way back in the year 1989, I met a short man named Mathias. He was a strong man. He was intimidating as well. He was hard on me too and unfriendly at first. I saw him as unkind and angry. That is I saw him this way until an ambulance came to take me away to a nearby hospital in the town of Ellenville for an attempt on my own life.
After returning to the facility, Mathias came into my room. See, he was no different from me, which I suppose is why Mathias was hardest on me as well. Mathias was much old—but then again, everyone at this facility was much older than me. I was just a kid to them. And, I was a source of their frustration because every patient in this facility saw me as themselves. I was a reminder of who they were as a young, punk kid. I was a kid junkie to them, a baby, and uneducated as to what life would be like if I stayed—everyone in rehab looked to warn me. But then again, it’s always this way. The older always warns the younger, but yet, the younger always looks up and shrugs this off thinking, “Well, you get high and you never stopped, so then why should I?”
Mathias came in my room. He was a large kind of man with heavy strong hands. He was a corrections officer and hated what he saw in the jails. He hated kids like me, dying off in rapid numbers, and all of us were crazed and glossy-eyed, running around and looking for a terrible fix.
Mathias broke this down for me. He talked to me with tears in his eyes. He spoke to me like a man who faced death on a daily basis and explained all of what I had to live for. I swear, had it not been for this talk; I doubt I would have had the nerve to continue. Instead, I think my initiative would have gone in the opposite direction and my next attempt would have been deliberately more successful.
I always wondered how Mathias knew what to tell me. I always wondered how he understood what I felt. About a year or two later, I learned that Mathias was found hanging by a noose in his apartment. I suppose someone in his family found him.
God, I wish he would have called me. I’d have known how to talk him down. I know this because I would have told him he was the reason I was alive now.
And then there was Kenny . . .
Kenny worked for The Old Man back in the day. And The Old Man liked Kenny, but Kenny had a problem similar to mine. He certainly lived through hard times and a hard lifestyle. In fairness, I suppose Kenny thought if he could live through his lifestyle —he could live through anything.
Kenny contracted the A.I.D.S. virus through his intravenous drug use. He sent Mom a letter from his place in treatment. In part, he asked Mom to send me a message.
“Tell Benny I think he’s doing the right thing. Tell him he wouldn’t recognize me now. My hair is the shortest it’s been in decades. Tell him I to stay where he is and to live a good life. And tell him I said this because it took me learning I was going to die to mean what it means to be alive.”
Kenny might not have been the best person to himself or did the best to others, but his kindness, which he lent to me when I was away someplace on a farm, scared, and wishing I could run away—it was enough to keep me going another day. And sometimes, another day is enough to help put distance between us and the past we can’t seem to get away from.
Father Anthony was a god man too. He heard my confession and the things I’ve told him will rest with him and they will never be repeated. More importantly, the things I told Father Anthony have been taken away from me, forfeited like as in I don’t wish to carry them anymore. And that in and of itself is enough to make me call Father Anthony one of the best I have ever seen.
Of course, I have to mention Father Mike.
Him . . .
God, I can’t think of a kinder man than Father Mike because at a time when no one would so much as talk to me; Father Mike showed me a kindness, which I could never recreate nor repay. But I try though. I do try.
My old friend John from the town; he was with me at hard times. And I know he knows this, but I love and admire him. He is my older adopted brother and should he ever need me —I would drop the world and run to repay the kindness he showed me. And then there was John from The Farm. And Tony and Kevin too. I miss Jim as well, although he is not the same and our last conversations were not good ones —I still hold Jim and the rest of them in this regard. Then there was Hank, my first real sponsor . . .and the list goes on if I think about it
Someday, I will find a way to repay them all. I pay what they’ve done forward. And who knows, maybe someone will regard me the way I regard them because in all honesty, —I would not be alive today if it were not for all of them.
This is my list of the best people.
All of them are humanly flawed in their own way, but to me, they were the best people I’ve ever known . . .

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