John McGraham was 55 years old that October night in 2008, when he sat down on the 3rd Street sidewalk that he always sat upon to pass the time.
He’d lost his job in the ’80’s and sank into a deep and permanent depression. His family tried to get him to go for help, but he wouldn’t. Instead he chose a homeless life where the local merchants and immigrants looked out for him. The locals loved him. He never caused any trouble. Just passed his time on the sidewalk.
That October night in 2008, a local barber who hated homeless people, pulled up in front of John, poured gasoline on him and lit him on fire. The burning barber was finally captured, brought to trial and now serves a life sentence without possibility of parole. And he’s not allowed matches.
The neighbors rushed to help John. But they were too late. He died from his burns.
He didn’t want to be committed. He didn’t want to take anti-depressants. He wanted to pass his days the way he did. He never asked for help, though he received it from the locals.
He’d be 58 today, still sitting on 3rd and Berendo. Though a touch of arthritis is kicking in and sending him to shelters more than he likes. His sisters and brother make sure he has what he needs as much as they can, and bring their kids to visit him. He is the ghost of Christmas present.
For John, I add this lament.