I was in Chicago for studies for the first two weeks of January. Sometimes when you are away you miss the news. Last week, at lunch with a parishioner, I learned about the death of a 63 year old man who had wandered away from his residence at Brouillette Manor on January 02. He died in a nearby field. I was shocked by the news. I knew right away that man had to be Charles. A quiet and intelligent man who was always ready to chat, who usually had his notebook in hand, Charles was a joy to visit with whenever I was in the Home either for Mass or to visit his roommate, who is a beloved parishioner of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I was terribly saddened by this news as it is a tragic story. My heart goes out to the staff and residents of Brouillette Manor. The staff and management of the Home are good people who work hard to provide good care to the people they serve. I can only imagine how devastating this must be for all concerned.
On January 27th, many people of the Christian faith are marking the life of St. John Chrysostom who was a great preacher of the faith. He once famously said, “If there were no tribulation, there would be no rest; if there were no winter, there would be no summer.” The sadness of a cold winter that has taken the life of Charles, will give way to a springtime and summer of new life and new hope. That summertime will come because we as a people will work hard to do better. I pray that those in positions of responsibility in our system will do what is necessary in the weeks and months ahead to see to it that there are adequate spaces for people who suffer mental illness, people who are seniors, for people who have special needs, and for all who need the care and protection of our society. Charles’ death in the cold of a winter night is a tragedy that we lament because our system failed to provide the best level of care for him. As caring as the people at Brouillette Manor are, the nursing home was simply not the best place for him to be.
Ours is a strong and caring community. We must now look ahead, past this wintery moment, and ask how we can be better and what we can learn from it. We need to take a page from Charles and have a notebook ready so that we can jot down our revelations and our ideas. I will miss Charles, and I hope his death is not dismissed or forgotten, but a catalyst for change to a system where the vulnerable to often fall through the cracks. Rest in peace Charles.