The thief's wake

By Bob Houghtaling
Posted 1/11/22

The line outside the funeral home 

Had many standing on their feet 

Far out past the parking lot 

And to a nearby street. 

Folks had come from …

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The thief's wake


The line outside the funeral home 

Had many standing on their feet 

Far out past the parking lot 

And to a nearby street. 


Folks had come from miles away 

In respectful grief –

Paying homage to this dangerous man 

Most knew as a thief.


As the parade inched toward the casket 

People chatted along the way – 

While some didn’t know him 

All had much to say.


He annoyed them during his lifetime 

By living a life of crime 

Stealing oh so many things 

But never taking a dime. 


They spoke of his activities 

And things he wished to steal– 

Many loved him for it 

Because nothing was more real. 


He never took their purses 

Or absconded with fine jewels 

In fact no law was broken

The thief simply broke the rules.


What did he take then

And why are they all here?

The thief stole so much more

Than things we think are dear.


After hours of shuffling

At a glacial pace

All of those with patience

Saw the calm thief’s face.


He rested with a smile

Within a simple box–

Giving off the countenance

Of a wise old fox.


And everyone who witnessed

His slumber so sublime–

Now finally understood

Twas they that took to crime.


Theirs was of indifference

His was of belief–

The things they all worshipped

Brought little or no relief.


His crime was of meaning

And trying to steal the hearts

Of those who had forgotten

That which keeps us apart.


The masses labeled him a reprobate

But was them who broke the law

For having no time for the sickly

Lonely and the poor.


Our thief tried to steal moments

Getting people to reflect–

Forgotten while still breathing

He now earned great respect.


Friends then stood before him

Hoping he’s not gone.

Staring at his quietness

It’s puerility we must mourn. 


Many would next say a prayer

Asking if he’d forgive

Something he had no power for–

They simply had to live.


With our eyes closed tightly

In that solemn air

Came forth a heavenly message–

“Steal time to simply care


Steal time for a neighbor

Steal time to lend a hand

Steal time to feed the hungry

Steal time for your fellow man.”


In silence we reflected

On words without a sound–

Spoken from a soulful place

With powerful resound.


On the funeral Sunday

A lesson it was taught

Without official charges

The thief still should be caught.


Soon the gathering departed

But something else was revealed–

That man’s need for each other

Cannot be concealed. 


The line long since dwindled

But imbedded is the belief

That the world was a better place

For the presence of the thief. 


A longtime contributor to this publication, Robert Houghtaling is theDirector, Substance Abuse Prevention/Mental Health for theTown of East Greenwich.


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