The old one was whiling away the morning, drinking his coffee, and working on the Sudoku number puzzles he cherished. When the word came that, the man who used to sleep across from him died from congestive heart failure the night before.

The old one felt a sting from the pain that pierced his soul. The man who slept across from him was his friend. The old one finished his puzzle, he used to take such delight in working the puzzles, but today he finished the puzzle with a sorrowful heart and a tear in his eye.

Someone asked the old one how he was doing. The old one paused then he told the same lie that he had told untold thousands of times before, “I’m doing ok.” When in reality, the old one wasn’t doing ok at all; he was barely hanging on to his sanity.

Time spent in prison, the shelter, had changed him. He could no longer hide behind the walls he had built, the facades he had created. His emotions hung on his sleeves easy prey to anyone who took the time to notice them.

He was lucky in one respect; almost 60 years of life had etched the lines of a sour mean man on his face and thank God, it was there. His face chased away the demons as well as the people who tried to befriend him. Yea, his face a double-edged sword, the sharp edges cutting just as easily in one direction as in the other, both edges tried to protect him from harm not only from the outsiders but from himself as well.

The old one just sat there in his grief and slowly shook his head.

The man, who died, told the old one when he walked out the door, leaving the 2100 men’s shelter for the very last time said, “I am free, finally thank god, I am free.” Then he added, “I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and knew this hell was over.” He was excited when he left the shelter; he was looking forward to the company of his wife and children and finding himself again. He never saw the Archangel of Death waiting patiently in the shadows for him.

The Archangel of Death claimed, my friend, on October 4, 2009. The reaper covered this good man with a cloak of darkness, calmed his fears, and carried his soul home.

The old one looked around, he looked in the corners, he looked closely at the shadows, but to no avail, he couldn’t see the Archangel of Death. He knew… he was there patiently waiting for the old one, and when it was the old one’s time to die the Archangel of Death would come for the old one and take him from his earthly bonds to his final destination.

With the passing of his friend, the old one died a little more today, just as he had done a thousand times before.