Remembering Jimmy, a homeless alcoholic, on this Easter Day

Today is Easter Sunday. While for many people it is the day for the giving, receiving and consuming of vast amounts of chocolate. In the Christian tradition, it is the most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, celebrating the resurrection of Christ and symbolises new life.

This morning I was thinking about Jimmy who I knew for the last 20 years of his life. He was a homeless alcoholic. He used to sleep in the old tram shelter in Norfolk Square, along with his best friend, Hughie.

Jimmy KearnsJimmy, or ‘Snuffy’ as he was known at that time, had been in the British Army for 20 or so years. He once told me that he had left the army with one obvious ‘skill’, he knew how to drink! He said that the worst aspect of being street homeless was dusk. He would watch people come home, put their lights on, and close the curtains. It reminded him, each and every time, that he was out there, with no home.

One morning he woke to find Hughie slumped up against him, dead. That day he decided he wanted more than life, and death, on the streets. Within 24 hours he was in our Addiction Services.

For the remaining two decades of his life he enjoyed life in all its abundance, to borrow a phrase from the Bible. He remained sober, became a fixture in the Alcoholics Anonymous fellowship, and worked in Stanmer Park. I used to see him at the bus stop at the bottom of St James Street on his way home and on my way to fetch my daughter from school. He was, invariably, whistling. He would never fail to mention to me how good his life was.

New life can mean so many different things to different people. I know Jimmy had a deep faith. Others do not. But whatever your personal beliefs are, new life is possible. Jimmy found it through recovery from addiction. I am grateful that my life was touched and enriched by his.

(Note: The original post did not have the photo of Jimmy and me, but was added in May 2016).


One thought on “Remembering Jimmy, a homeless alcoholic, on this Easter Day

  1. Thank you Andy for remembering Jimmy. I was also touched by Jimmy and am grateful for that. He later went on to be known as “Paddy” to many. He helped hundreds of people to recover from their addictions. He left a legacy and is still quoted and mentioned today and so he lives on. I was able to see him in his last days and even then he was still talking of his wonderful life. He was a selfless, kind man and even when we said goodbye his thoughts were with others.

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