My son bought the place “as is.” I quickly realized how limited my imagination was when it came to what that meant.
There were a couple of old abandoned trucks accenting the lawn. Outbuildings were crammed with aged lawnmowers, ancient bedsprings and broken chairs.
The house was covered with clapboard siding, steel panels and corrugated sheets. Inside, the owner’s possessions were stacked, packed and stuffed into every corner, cabinet and cubbyhole. From old mail to empty bottles, the house was littered with fragments of a life.
In the kitchen, there was a hole dug through the floor and into the ground for fish. In the living room, plywood covered the floor where they found the body, a week of hot August days after she overdosed.
We made trip after trip, carrying mold-riddled books and moth-eaten clothes to fill a dumpster. Mice had chewed their way through the house, and maggots had feasted in the fridge.
We worked in the filth, cursing the disgusting mess the woman had left behind. It was only afterward that I realized that this “as is” may have been the sum of a human life.
It was sad that strangers sifted through all her earthly possessions, deciding what was to be kept and what was destined for the dump.
It seemed unnatural that nothing in this woman’s life — not even the few photos we found — had any sentimental value. We didn’t know her. Any friends and family she may have had did not care to take the time or confront the grief.
Here was this woman who lived alone at the end of the road on the edge of community. Maybe her life was good for a while and then went off the rails. Maybe it had always been a struggle to fit in, to be around others. Eventually, everything she had became part of a barricade to protect her.
There was a Bible in the house. I wondered if she had ever read Psalm 102 where David cries, “I eat ashes like bread and mingle my drink with tears.”
I took a moment to mourn her passing and the heartache of it all. The pain she must have felt and the despair that she was trying to outrun was everywhere.
Wherever we suspect it, we should be there for them.
Often, there is little we can do, but it is still better than leaving them to others “as is.”