I can’t stop thinking about this for the last few days.
I took this photo on July 31st, 2007 and posted it on ddoi under the title Doorway Sleeper.
A few days ago, more than eight years after the photo was posted, I received this email from this man’s daughter, asking to use the image on Facebook.
Needless to say, reading her email was an incredibly moving experience. I asked her permission to share her tribute alongside the photo. Thank you.
The man in the image is my father, and he passed away on December 26th (2015). This image spoke so strongly to me - more powerfully than any other image of him we have from his 63 years of life. Thank you for it.
This is the tribute that I wrote when I shared your image:
“Over the past couple of weeks, especially with the viewing and the funeral, I’ve been reflecting a lot on things that I haven’t thought about in years. Particularly, my relationship with my dad. It was always a complicated one, but what made it particularly complicated was so many assumptions the outside world would make when they hear the word “dad”. Often times it is assumed that a father is present, a strong male role model, and a very large part in the growth and development of their child. You only have 2 parents after all. However for me, it was always different. I didn’t see my dad a lot… for years in fact. I didn’t always have a positive relationship with him… I didn’t really have a relationship with him at all near the end. This made me feel all sorts of conflicted things when it came to his death. As people offered me their love, support and condolences for the loss of a parent, I wondered if I was really experiencing that. Because although he was a parent in title, he wasn’t always a parent in actions. But over the past couple of days, I’ve realized that he taught me some lessons about life and humanity that maybe only a parent could really have conveyed. And for that, I am grateful.
I debated whether or not to share this image with the world, as I believe it spoke to me more than all of the images I saw of him in the past few days combined. My Aunt described it as “poignant” and I could not agree more. I realized that in fact, this image has already been shared with the world. My dad was featured through this photograph titled “Doorway Sleeper” on a blog called Top Left Pixel, and my Uncle just happened to stumble upon it. My dad suffered from a disease known as manic depression (or bipolar disorder) and through a long series of complicated events, lived on the streets for many years. In fact, he ended up losing both of his legs one winter 7 years ago due to frostbite and gangrene. Although all of this was so tumultuous for our whole family, it taught us all such a powerful lesson. His physical and mental disabilities and his homelessness always humanized those that are often dismissed by society. Dismissed as failures, lazy, stupid, dirty, or worth ignoring… and yet they are all just people. People with a history, a life story, and a family. Nothing more or less than a fellow human being. This was such a critical message for me to learn at such a young age, and I have tried to always take it with me everywhere I go.
Dad, I know things could’ve been different in our relationship with each other, we could’ve been closer and more present in one another’s life. We could’ve this, we could’ve that. But everything happens for a reason. I know how much you cared about me, even til the very end, and that is something I will never forget. Thank you for bringing me into this incredible world, alongside 3 other beautiful humans. We will all continue to do you proud as we face our lives one day at a time. You’d surely be touched to know that we were by each others side through this, thinking of one another and being there for one another. I wish you could’ve witnessed it in life, but I will surely settle for you witnessing it in death. I love you. In the words of Aunt Jo - arrivederci bello.
I hope that this post will resonate with some people so that my dad can continue to touch lives and teach others even in his passing. That would certainly give me comfort.
Thank you to everyone who has helped me and my family through this very emotional time.”