Written by Shannon Bacon
Several years ago, Kevin and Petra came into our lives and we developed quite the unexpected, special rapport. Our relationship started with them dropping in for bathroom and coffee stops, but then took a beautiful turn into a true friendship. Then, as they began to trust Randy and I, Kevin and Petra dropped by the studio, sometimes daily. Most of the time they just needed someone to talk to about the day-to-day struggles of living homeless, but the conversations became much deeper. Petra began to open up to me, which was rare because Kevin said "she doesn't like other women, you're the first one." I was humbled, for sure, but mainly happy to be a friend to her, not to change her.
With her cute sideways grin, mouth shut always because she hated the way she looked without teeth, Petra began to talk fondly about her childhood. She had a son and family, and proudly showed us photos she kept crumbled up in her little purse. She would drink too much and look at me and cry because she didn't want to go back home to Las Vegas - she didn't want her family to see what the drug abuse and streets had done to her.
She spoke of her relationship with Kevin, "the love of her life', and we talked about the ups and downs of "men". She was so surprised when I told her I was no different, that Randy and I argue and struggle at times, just like her and Kevin. We talked about menopause, nail polish,(she loved to keep her nails painted), hairstyles and fashion. With a sparkle in her eyes, she told us of her love for flying kites and bowling.
Kevin and Petra would break up, get back together and then break up again, many times, but their deep, true love was always apparent. She was a pure soul many never saw because, in part, she was "homeless", but also many couldn't get past her sometimes drunken behavior. Petra told me she beat her meth addiction of the past, but she just couldn't fight the demon alcohol became for her. Believe me, she tried. Hospitals, and rehab only helped put a temporary band-aid on the problem. One week she would come in shy, meek and sober, embarrassed to ask me to help her fill out her Medicare paperwork. The next week, she would be drunk and loud, cursing the world...but, really just needing someone to be present, to look her into her pain-filled eyes. Like most of us, we want someone who cares and doesn't judge. I would just give her a hug, listen, and everytime she would leave our studio I would hug her and say, "Listen sassy, you stay out of trouble, you promise?" She would grin at me and tell me, "I love you." That was the last thing I said to her before she died a week later.
I remember one time when a young homeless guy came into the studio needing bus fare. Of course, I never have cash, so Petra heard us talking and offered her own money. She winked at me and said, "I have a little extra money I didn't tell Kevin about, so I can help him." She giggled and said, "A girl has to keep a little money for herself, for my nail polish and crap."
The odd jobs we gave Kevin and Petra didn't provide enough for them to get off the streets, but Kevin finally got a couple of jobs last month. They saved enough to get an apartment on Commercial Street. She was so excited and loved our "house warming gift", a little radio/CD player we kept at the studio. She had a soft spot for music. She would tell me happily, "We listen to music all day!" She was so thrilled to finally start over. Her helping heart then took in a young, homeless couple Petra and Kevin felt sorry for. They were forced to leave the apartment when the couple started cooking meth. She told me, "We just can't get involved in that crap, and we don't want anything to do with it." They packed up immediately and left everything behind and were back on the streets again.
We would give her clothes and shoes, and she would show up without them the next time she would visit. I would ask her what happened to them and she would tell me she gave them to someone else that needed them more than her. This was just a little of the Petra Randy and I knew.
Last night I watched the sacred, rich moments of light right before the resplendent sun set into rainbow colors, and I just felt Petra was in heaven. I saw her healed, laughing and worry and pain free. Rest in glorious peace, Petra. Your life has just begun.