By Cheryl Mattox Berry
My heart was heavy this Thanksgiving after learning that an older cousin had passed away – homeless in Chicago.
I lost contact with Mary after she moved from Memphis to New York and then Chicago. She and my grandmother exchanged letters, and Granny would pass along news about her. Granny died in 1991, and I’d occasionally hear something about Mary from other family members.
When I asked my cousin if she ever heard from Mary during a trip home last week, she told me that Mary had died several years ago. This was also news to Mom, who was Mary’s first cousin.
Apparently, Mary and her husband split. She called her younger brothers and told them she was homeless, and asked them for money so that she could come home. They sent it and waited, but she never arrived. They later learned that she had died.
No one knows why Mary didn’t get on that Greyhound bus.
I’ve often wondered whether the homeless women I see on the streets have relatives who don’t know about their predicament. I’ve seen one young woman panhandling through two pregnancies. She even had her baby with her one day as she begged from car to car.
Another woman used to approach motorists at a busy intersection near a big mall. I saw her recently in a wheelchair with an amputated foot. Did she get run over by a car? Lose the foot to disease? Did she tell her folks?
I know some homeless women have mental health issues, and others don’t want to be told what to do. Still, I can’t help but think that many of these women get lost and don’t know how to ask for help or think that their relatives don’t want to be bothered with them.
Had I known about Mary’s situation, I would’ve tracked her down and brought her to my mother’s house. Knowing that there were relatives who loved her and would’ve put a roof over her head, and cooked her a big Southern meal but didn’t get a chance breaks my heart.