My Friend Al, Part One

My friendship with Alton Milligan started about three years ago with a phone call from his sister Mary. Al had moved to Pascagoula in order to be closer to the V. A. hospital and services at Biloxi. This was after Katrina and the availability of a place to live in that area was scarce. Mary told me that her brother had lived a wild life, but now that he was facing the end with some serious illness, he was ready to consider his eternity. Of course I said I would go by and see him.

I had passed by the facility where he was living many times, but never knew anything about it’s occupants. I think it was started as an assisted living type facility but they had decided to take in boarders of all types. It was obvious some of the people there could not take care of themselves, yet they were receiving little help. I found my way to Al’s room … a small room with enough space for a twin bed, a dresser, chair and nightstand. The lights were dim enough and his eyesight poor enough that he did not notice the roaches that didn’t bother to run away. I visited with Al for a while and he acknowledged his participation in the church earlier in life. But after five or six marriages, most destroyed by alcohol, he found himself alone. Because of a botched throat cancer surgery he had to be fed through a tube in his stomach. He told me that when he was at the bottom of the pit he would pour whiskey through the feeding tube. He did allow me to pray for him, though he was uncertain that God could forgive all that he had done. I began my friendship by assuring him of God’s mercy and grace, and that there wasn’t a sinner that God couldn’t forgive.

I began to look forward to our weekly visits, and I know Al did too. I sometimes brought elder Jim Ingram along with me and they enjoyed talking about the cars they had owned when they were young (although Jim was only in his 60s and Al was in his 80s). Visits with Al were mostly made with my silence and his talking. He was so lonely. His family lived in Arkansas and Colorado. He never had any children. His sisters and a brother (and their children) were all that was left. And their health was too poor to see him.

After some months of visiting Al in his terrible living conditions, discovering that his medications were being robbed by one of the owners, and that he was being taken advantage of financially, I made it my goal to get him out of that dump. Through the help of my friend ‘Uncle Mac’ (a Christian brother, friend, and very high up in the American Legion organization), we found him a room in the V. A. facility in Collins, MS. This is a beautiful facility that I have passed many times and admired on Hwy 49. As bad as it was, though, Al resisted moving. Finally he told me he didn’t want to move up there because I wasn’t there. Our friendship was cemented.

I’d like to tell you more about Al and what happened next. I’ll do that tomorrow. Thanks for reading.

John

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