It didn't take long to completely erase the man who wasn't very visible to begin with. I'm sure that most people who drive by or walk up the stairs by where he camped have no idea that a man died and laid in repose under the bridge for almost a week.
Probably the most disturbing part of the whole thing was the fact that people continued to bring him gifts and leave them near his body, never realizing that he was dead. When Don and Purnima went down to check on him and discovered he was dead, they found an envelope with a ten dollar bill sitting on top of him -- I'm sure whoever left it assumed Doug was sleeping and didn't want to wake the homeless guy.
Not only people, but the feral cat that runs from everyone but Doug (whom I'm sure the cat thought of as another feral animal) had left a couple mice and a rat. While Markie is concerned that the cat will go hungry without Doug to look after her, I think the cat was taking much more care of Doug than the other way around.
I wrote a blog almost two years ago where I called Doug The Dali Lama of Hillsdale. He may have been homeless and living under a bridge, but there were lots of people who found something noble about Doug.
The fact that all of Doug's stuff is just completely gone means most of these people will never know what happened to him. To those folks, I posted a note on the bridge:
A Note to Doug's Friends...
Doug passed away in his sleep last week, we believe from pneumonia. While it's easy to feel a sense of blame and responsibility for his death alone under the bridge, it's important to remember that Doug was a part of our community with many people who cared for him and watched out for his well being.
Whether he chose to live outdoors or was just simply one of those people who didn't fit into society, Doug found a place he called home for four years -- that place was under a bridge and his job was collecting cans and bottles and whatever else would keep him going, but he did his best to take care of himself in a place many of us would have never survived.
With his camp cleaned out there's nothing to show that he was ever here, but Doug was always in the corners and his passing leaves a hole -- we won't see him at Freddies, or in the cafe on the corner on a cold morning. We won't hear the rattle of his shopping cart as he rambles through the neighborhood looking for cans.
I'm sure many of us will look over, expecting to see his bedding and fire pit each time we pass his vacant camp -- for someone who lived in the cracks of society, he seemed to always be there, and it's hard to think that he won't be anymore.
May he be warm and dry wherever he is.