(The Champ’s latest at EBONY touches on why dying alone is a fear many of us share)
At a friend’s request,Â I attended a birthday party at a Veteran’s hospital a few weekends ago. The party was for her great uncle—a resident there—and we celebrated his 85th birthday with some cake, dancing, and pictures in one of the hospital’s common areas. After a couple hours or so, we walked him back to his room, said our goodbyes, and left.
After leaving, my friend noticed that I seemed a bit down—odd, considering that we just left a birthday party. She asked me what was wrong, and after stonewalling her for a couple minutes, I finally let it out.
That was my first time in a veteran’s hospital.Â And, I was not prepared for what I was going to see.
I knew veteran’s hospitals existed. My late grandfather actually worked in one for over 30 years. I also knew that many of these hospitals are populated with mentally and physically disabled men who either have families and loved ones who don’t have the financial means to take care of them or just don’t haveÂ anybodyÂ at all.Â But, knowing they exist and actually visiting the hospital and seeing these men in the final stages of their lives are twoÂ separateÂ things.
That it’s located in aÂ secludedÂ part of the city, hidden by trees, engulfed by hills, and adjacent to a youthÂ detentionÂ center doesn’t seem accidental. It is, by every definition of the term, “out of the way,” and while it isÂ presumptuousÂ to say this, I couldn’t help but think that the majority of men (and women) there were placed there to be out of our collective way.
Seeing and thinking about this upset me.Â And, this is when I thought about my parents.