Based in south Louisiana, Release & Gather is a blog by Holly Rabalais.  Her posts explore people, community, and matters of the heart.  Everyone has a unique journey.  Welcome to a window into hers.

Deliverance

Today marks one year since my last blog post on Lamin. After Lamin left the rehab hospital in May of last year, the Salvation Army graciously housed him while I continued searching for a program that would accept a recovering alcoholic who was deaf and knew no sign language. The task was beginning to seem like a near impossibility when Baton Rouge’s O’Brien House contacted me. They didn’t normally accept deaf patients, but because Lamin could speak and could read they were willing to give it a shot. Bless them.

For the next three months, the wonderful staff at OBH worked with Lamin and helped him stay sober. Mike and I visited routinely, taking him to doctor’s appointments and making sure he had his medication. He began receiving his disability income again, and while he still blew money at the thrift stores (this man loved to shop!), he put extra money into an envelope that we kept for him so he could get an apartment once he had completed rehab. He was doing so well and even joked that he had to go to the thrift store because he was gaining so much weight that he couldn’t fit in his pants anymore.

As summer ended, the staff at OBH said he was ready to transition into an apartment located behind the regular facility. He would rent an efficiency apartment with a shared kitchen and bathroom. We celebrated as he signed the lease to his new place and paid his deposit and first month’s rent, then went to Walmart and the thrift stores to get him set up with bedding, food, toiletries, etc. To make things even sweeter, a day or two after he moved in I was able to locate and speak to his mom on the phone. 

The same afternoon, I went by his apartment to tell him the good news and to call her so she could hear his voice. I knew immediately something was wrong. Some other residents were hanging around outside and complained that he had gone to sleep and left something cooking on the stove the night before. The apartment manager had to open his door since he couldn’t hear us knocking. He was sleeping heavily and seemed disoriented when we woke him. He was sweating and smelled bad. I knew.

We called his mom, and she cried for joy at hearing his voice. I wrote the things she said in a notebook for him. After they talked, I addressed Lamin’s condition. He was adamant that he had not been drinking. When I left, he was angry with me for not believing him. Two days later, OBH had to call an ambulance because he was complaining of chest pains again. I went to the hospital where a social worker spoke to me about his condition. He would be discharged to another detox facility.

Finally I received a call from a place in Lake Charles. He was there and in treatment, then the next thing I knew he had been discharged to a group home in Baker. One of the residents there called me, and I took Lamin his belongings that OBH had stored for him. I could tell he had been drinking again. He was agitated and arguing with the other residents there. We left and told him we would check on him in a couple of days.

The next call I got was from someone telling me he had been admitted to the hospital again. This was the cycle, and I couldn’t keep up with him. As he drank more, he called me less. The last time I saw him, I left work to go downtown where a former OBH resident had found him drunk, crying, and depressed. I parked my car and walked a block and a half to the place the man said I would find them. I thanked him then hugged Lamin and told him to come with me. I  put him in my vehicle and took him to One Stop, a place for the homeless to shower and find resources to help them. Across the street, I met with the director of the Bishop Ott Men’s Shelter. He told me if Lamin would not drink for the rest of the day, he’d feed him dinner and give him a place to sleep. I wrote down the requirements for Lamin, hoping in his drunken state that he understood. He agreed, and I left to get back to work. 

That was the last time I saw him. I waited for the next time I would get a phone call. The OBH staff messaged me that he had shown up there drunk one night, and some of the residents had to pull him from the street where he had passed out. Then I heard that he’d had some kind of heart surgery. News always came after the fact, and I never quite knew where he was.

Just over a week ago on Sunday, May 21, I received word from OBH that the hospital had called trying to locate Lamin’s family. He was in ICU and “some decisions needed to be made.” I contacted his nurse and told her I would try to locate them and have them call. I asked if he was awake--I didn’t want him to be alone. “No,” she slowly replied. “He’s...he’s on life support.”

It was a blow, and my heart was crushed. I emailed the brother I had originally contacted, thinking I would not get a response for a day or two. Within the hour he called me. His mother was on the phone with Lamin’s sister, who lives in Baton Rouge. I gave the brother the hospital information, and he thanked me profusely, telling me he would keep me updated

The next morning he called and told me Lamin had been admitted the prior week with chest pains. His heart could no longer support him. Lamin's brother had booked his mother on a flight to Baton Rouge on Wednesday. His sister would be going to the hospital that evening. I waited, not quite sure what I should do. On one hand, I knew his family was there and needed to take care of things. And if I was honest with myself, I didn’t know if I could see him in that condition. On the other hand, he was my friend. I wanted to hold his hand one more time and pray with him. I wanted to kiss the shiny, chocolate skin on his forehead so maybe he could feel my presence and know he wasn’t alone. In the end, I waited. And I missed the opportunity.

This morning Lamin’s sister called me to tell me he had passed on his own. His family did not have to decide to remove the life support. He went on his own. I had planned to visit him on my lunch break today but never got the chance. 

On May 28 of last year, three days before Lamin moved into the O’Brien House, I journaled about a passage I read in Lamentations:

"This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD." (Lamentations 3:21-26) 

That word “salvation” in verse 26 means rescue: deliverance, help, safety, salvation, victory. 

Lamin and I often spoke of how God would deliver him from addiction. We specifically read Psalm 18 and 26 together--well, he read while I drove. :) 

Deliverance.

We prayed and waited for Lamin to be delivered from his addiction, and today those prayers were answered. Not in the way we wanted or expected, no, but he has been rescued. He is free from his emotional and physical suffering. He is in the presence of our loving Father and Savior. He has finally been delivered, and for that I rejoice. 

A couple of weeks after we met, Lamin told me that I was sent to him by God. He was sure of it, he said, as he gave me a copy of an AA meditation he had read:

“Wherever there is true fellowship and love between people, God's spirit is always there as the Divine Third. In all human relationships, the Divine Spirit is what brings them together. When a life is changed through the channel of another person, it is God, the Divine Third, who always makes the change, using the person as a means. The moving power behind all spiritual things, all personal relationships between people is God, the Divine Third, who is always there. No personal relationships can be entirely right without the presence of God's spirit.”

I do believe our friendship was Divinely appointed. And I know I will see my friend again one day.

Letting Go