This morning I woke up to sirens going off below our bedroom window. Not unusual given the fact that Gorge Road West is a major corridor for ambulances moving across the city. What I didn’t realize at the time, as two emergency vehicles moved slowly through the traffic in the direction of Gorge-Tillicum, was that they were on a mission of recovery rather than rescue. Later that afternoon, after returning from business, I went up to the mall to pick up a parcel. As I left the post office, I turned left on the sidewalk to go home, my parcel and newspaper tucked under my left arm. Immediately my attention was drawn to what looked a makeshift memorial of sorts on a bench where a local character usually sat, rain or shine. As I moved in closer to check out the display of candles, I see in the middle a homemade card expressing condolences at his sudden passing. A lady came up behind me and immediately started to fill me in about this poor man’s sudden demise. Somebody had found his body over in the park that morning along with his swag of earthly belongings only feet away. In the six year that we saw him around, he had a unforgettable swarthy, weathered look about him, definitely from living outside in the elements. While I greeted him quite often, he didn’t say much in return, likely because I never gave him any money, unlike others who never had to be asked to give. Those who regularly passed by could be often seen spotting the man a fiver or on occasion even a twenty. I never remember ever seeing the man beg. He obviously had his dignity even when times were lean. But this is not the complete story on a sad life. Later this evening, a friend gave me the rest of the tale which, while explaining a lot, only deepens the pathos. In a nutshell, he is alleged to have worked as a clerk at the local liquor store years back, but was let go because of a serious alcohol problem. Over the years he wandered around the community as a lost soul with no desire to get his life back in order. He would sit for hours by himself nearby the store that fired him, silently staring into space until one of his many acquaintances would stop for a brief chat. I always wondered what was going through his mind as he sat there, clad in leather jacket and heavy dirt-stained trousers. I would hear, as I pass, snatches of conversation that indicate that Dave had an abiding interest in the bigger world around him. One time I heard him wax eloquently on how a relative had made millions on the TSX, a rueful reminder, if true, of his own misfortune. I am telling you all this because today I was interviewed for a job as a paid companion with the mandate to be a ‘friend’ to those going through life-ending issues. Trust me, the irony of this event is not lost on me. While Dave will forever remain  a stranger to me because I waited too long to hear his story, I will, hopefully, not wait so long the next time a stranger crosses my path on a regular basis.