Jamie’s last wishes
He was told he has six months to live. But this new grandpa, at 46, seems to be at peace with the idea of dying.
The second time I meet Jamie Murphy it’s 9:06 am at the Starbucks on Alhambra Boulevard and I offer to treat him to his usual morning fix: a Venti Caramel Frappuccino with an espresso shot and half a banana. The barista, as always, pours him extra froth into a tall cup, since, he says, the creamy texture helps with his stomach pains. Another barista mentions that they haven’t yet seen his clip on Channel 10 news, alongside the city council and Mayor Darrell Steinberg, advocating for Joshua House, a new hospice for homeless terminally ill men and women here in Sacramento. He’s been a regular lately, living across the street at the Motel 6 for about a month now, hoping for permanent housing and finding comfort in regular visits from his social worker, Lyfts to the local cannabis dispensary, and the immense support, love and assistance from the Sacramento community and his church.
On a good day, Jamie is able to bask in the Starbucks’ outdoor space and finish his breakfast, but this isn’t one of his physically agile days. The pain becomes intolerable after my fourth question and we are forced to cut this interview after, ironically, 15 minutes.
The first time we met he seemed vivacious and vulnerably showed me a letter from his doctor stating he has barely six months to live. Each day is unpredictable. Despite the fact that his pancreatic cancer has spread to his failing liver, and his body won’t be able to sustain another round of chemotherapy, minimizing his chances of survival, he resonates a sense of purpose. Still, in between sips, obviously swollen belly aching, both holding back tears, we manage to exchange some words. While I am hopeful for his recovery, this new grandpa, at 46, seems to be at peace with the idea of dying and hopes to at least make it to Universal Studios before his death, as well as to be a voice for so many homeless folks enduring similar situations in the city of Sacramento and beyond.
Jamie, so tell us a little bit about you.
Well, I was born in Salinas. Born on January 29. I ended up in Sacramento because of housing. Just because it was cheaper here for me. I haven’t been back there in a long time. My mom actually died when she was 54 of pancreatic cancer. It was in 2005. I wasn’t able to be there when she passed away, and I took it pretty hard. Really hard. This is hereditary I believe … and now I’m dying.
How did you come to a point of being homeless?
I was with my fiancé for about 11 years, and I got sick about 11 months ago, and I guess she just couldn’t handle seeing me … seeing me die and stuff. It was tough for her, so I had to leave. That led to me being here, to this point of living at a motel.
How did you start getting help from the community, and how has that experience been for you?
I really don’t know. I go to my doctors regularly, and now that have liver failure they stopped chemo, and now it’s just about them getting me comfortable and getting me hospice. I’ve been getting donations and I still need help with that, for food, clothing, everything a person needs to survive. I’ve got a GoFundMe page. All I have is what people give me. I’m extremely grateful for the community. Very grateful. I started going to church about three years ago, and a year ago, after I got sick, I got baptized, and the church has been very helpful in supporting me. The county is placing me in housing and looking to get me into a safe place to live so I can pass away. They are moving me to another hotel today on a 21-day voucher. Every 21 days the city renews it until I get housing. I’ve got a social worker helping to move me to another motel today. I’m really excited about finding a place.
So you’re 46 years old. I think a lot of us don’t realize our life can change in 11 months. We focus so much on material gain, but we could end up homeless or terminally ill tomorrow. What’s come to be more important to you?
Yeah. I think the spiritual aspect of life is more important. This is only temporary. This body. Spirituality, that’s forever. It’s very important to make sure you’re all right with God. Put your trust in God, the way I’m doing right now, and somehow I’m being taken care of. I give all credit to God. Right now, my chest is hurting, my chest is killing me and I don’t know how long I can sit here honestly. When it’s time to go home, it’s time to go home.
The first time we met, you mentioned you were on Channel 10 talking to the mayor about Joshua House. What is it exactly?
It’s the first hospice in Sacramento for homeless people, to get them off the streets and into a safer environment. It’s about getting people in my situation in a place where they are safe and can die with dignity and peace, and that’s all I want. That’s all I want for these people.
I know you’re going through a lot of physical pain right now, but what helps you cope and feel better?
The medications they give me, most definitely help with the pain management. Other than that, I smoke cannabis. So I’m 420 friendly and I really believe that has really helped a lot too. I do think that those medications help. Especially people that have terminal illness. I’m all for that. I’m for anything that will help people for whatever needs, whatever problems, they have. I want people to have the same chances. I want people to just be safe.
I love your tattoos! What’s the name on your neck?
Thats of my ex, Samira. She was one of the most important parts of my life. I don’t see her much. I think she’s with someone else. I’ve got a 28-year-old daughter named Megan, and on January 9 she had a baby, and I’m a grandpa. (Smiles.) They live in Chico, and I haven’t seen them in a while.
Any wishes you wish to express?
Oh man, I would love to go to Universal Studios before I pass away. Pretty much I just wanna be in a safe place to pass away. I don’t think I have long, I mean, I really don’t feel good. The doctor said it will kill me if they do chemo and I’m just hoping that I get in somewhere before I pass. I just want people to continue to support Joshua House and help people get out the streets and into safer spaces.