Image for illustration only, and not the actual motorhome in this article. (Photo credit: Craigslist)
By Glenn Koch
I met my friend David Meyer when he parked his decrepit motorhome at the curb in front of a small rental house I own in Caldwell, Idaho. An extension cord ran across the sidewalk into it.
I knocked on the door and a tall older gentleman answered. My words were firm when I said, “Fella you cannot park your motorhome here, it’s against city ordinance.” Having been a landlord for over 50 years, and having dealt with all kinds of people, I was surprised and impressed with David’s polite response, “All right Mr. Koch, I’ll move it.”
Several days later I was again surprised at David’s ingenuity when I saw that he had indeed moved his motorhome, somehow squeezing it in the yard behind my rental house. Again the extension cord lay on the ground and into the house. This time, I said to myself, “I’ll let the city building inspector tell him that this did not meet code and that he had to move.”
For some reason the inspector never showed up and I was told by my renters that I was to collect half of the rent from them, and half from David. David was not one to talk much. He always had the rent money on time and carefully counted out down to the fifty cents. I learned that he suffered severe arthritis, that as a youngster his parents divorced and basically the streets of L.A. were both his teachers and his parents. David once told me that he had spent most of his life in jails.
Winters in Idaho can be severely cold. My guess is that the arrangement he made with my renters did not include the electricity to heat what was probably a poorly insulated old motorhome. One day in particular I stopped to collect the rent and the weather was well below freezing. It took David a couple of minutes to answer the door due to his arthritis and the cold. He came to the door all bundled up in a blanket and several layers of clothing.
I said, “David, let me buy you an electric blanket, so you can try to keep warm.” “No,” he said, “I won’t accept it, I’ll be fine, I’m used to the cold.” One could not help but admire this proud person who would not accept charity.
One summer day I received a call from the renters in the house stating that the police had arrested David and had taken him to the county jail.
Didn’t Jesus tell us that if we wanted to serve Him we should visit those in prison? I went to see David twice while he was in the local county jail awaiting trial and sentencing. David told me during one of these visits that he was a convicted felon and as a result was not to own guns. When the police arrested David they found a rifle he claimed he was storing for a friend.
The weeks go by, and it’s David on the phone saying he was sentenced to four years in the State prison in Boise, and was “about to go stark raving crazy with nothing to do and I’ve not been here long enough to have a job. Is there any way you could buy me a TV?” The prison would only allow new TV’s, which they had to purchase.
I realized I was probably being “conned” by a con artist, but recalled the offer of the electric blanket that he refused to accept.
Somehow the Lord would not allow me to forget this seemingly gentle person. I sent the prison money for the new TV and also wrote David a short letter every month enclosing a small-amount money order for his personal needs.
In my letters I purposely mentioned my church activities, prayers for him and also sent him annual subscriptions for Guideposts magazines. During the course of the four years there were several articles from prisoners who had experienced life-changing success from reading Guideposts and the Bible.
David would never respond to my letters that mentioned anything religious, Guideposts or the Bible. Finally I wrote him and bluntly asked if he had received Guideposts or read the Bible I had sent. He responded that he had read some of the Bible and that he passed Guideposts on to other inmates. This was as close as he would ever get to discussing God.
Surprising to me, but obviously not to David, was how rapidly the four years sped by. One day David called, excitedly stating that he had served his sentence and asked if I could pick him up at 1:30 on Friday at the prison. How could I say no? The prison guards were courteous and seemed pleased that he had someone to pick him up.
It was a gorgeous sunny winter day and the normally quiet David chattered all the way to Caldwell. I had made temporary arrangements with the same house renters to let him sleep in a pickup camper parked in the yard where David’s motorhome had been.
That afternoon I took David to his motorhome where we had stored it to pick up some of his clothes. Then to the post office to get a P.O. box so he could receive government disability checks; to the bank so he could open an account from the small amount he had saved from my monthly money orders; and finally to Health and Welfare offices to apply for food stamps.
In the parking lot at Health and Welfare David met an “acquaintance.” I watched carefully as David handed his friend what appeared to be money, but nothing was exchanged. My first thought was to confront David when he got back into the car about what could have been a drug deal, but I really didn’t know the details of what I had just witnessed so decided not to spoil what had been a wonderful afternoon.
I left David and his belongings with his friends at the camper. The very next morning (Saturday) I received a call from the Caldwell Police Department asking “Do you own the property at 201 Blaine St. in Caldwell?” “Yes.” “Do you know David Meyer?” “Yes.” “He is dead!” “What?!” “He died, and we are treating his death as a homicide, can you come to the house?”
Upon arriving at the taped off yard I learned they found David sitting up dead and there was a white powder on the floor, with the door to the camper latched from the outside!
Upon hearing of David’s death, the friend from the Health and Welfare parking lot went to the police and told them that he and David had been using drugs and that he had left at 1:30 a.m., latching the door from the outside as it wouldn’t stay shut otherwise.
I was stunned. The next day was Sunday and after church I briefly told my pastor the events of the previous day. He urged me to talk to “Hank,” a recovered addict and a member of our church.
Upon telling “Hank” the story, he said, “Glenn, I can fully understand what happened. When a drug addict is released from prison, his first thought is to have a celebration and party. David’s body had been clean for four years, and when he took his normal drug dose his system could not handle it, and it killed him.”
David’s story does not have the normal happy ending of most Christian Living articles. My hope is that it will somehow resonate and warn of the dire result of recreational drug usage. If so, perhaps David did not die in vain.
Please know help is available. Chances are the addict will not win this battle on his or her own. I believe the very best counselor is our lovingly forgiving Heavenly Father, accompanied by a trained healthcare professional.