For as long as mankind has been building structures, we've also been abandoning them. Eventually, someone might come along and give a deserted building a brand new life, but many are just forgotten. These buildings, some once incredibly great and grand and some ordinary, are left to become more and more derelict, until they crumble away to nothing.
That's not to say that the buildings that have been left behind are without any visitors whatsoever. Many folks out there have made exploring abandoned structures their hobby. Called urban exploration (or urbex or UE for short), this outside-the-box pastime involves exploring man-made ruins and is often paired with a love of photography for people to document their adventures. A young woman, who goes by the_tourist on Instagram, is just one of these urban explorers. The Ontario-based explorer and photographer got much more than she'd bargained for, though, last year when she entered a seemingly-abandoned house.
"This is Lawrence. He lives in a house I had believed to be abandoned. The driveway is overgrown, the roof is caving in, and the interior would lead anyone to believe this land had been deserted. I found him in the living room."
"He has a hard time getting around so he spends most of his time in there. Alone. He is missing his right eye and has cataracts infecting the left. Even after noticing a stranger essentially helping themselves to his life he was nothing but sweet and kind to me. He was even nice enough to let me take his picture which I will always treasure. He is a beautiful soul and I plan on visiting him a lot. I'm posting this picture in hopes that it will inspire at least one person to reach out to someone they may have lost contact with or perhaps just forgot about. These old souls are still full of life and I feel blessed to have met this one. I'm making him some meals to take over this week. I don't think he's eating very well, if at all. Some veggie soup and mashed potatoes will hopefully help fill him up a bit. Easy to chew but good for the soul. He overwhelmed me with how kind he was ... I can only hope to return the favor a bit."
"Tonight was the first of what will be many dinner dates with my new friend. Over the course of three hours we ate and drank and laughed. I was fortunate enough to hear about his life. His struggles and his triumphs. This truly was one of the best experiences of my life, and I can't wait to share another meal with such a gentle soul. He is THE kindest man. He has melted my heart."
"I brought him some chili and tea biscuits and some snacks for the next few days until I can make it back later this week. I hope to have most of the trash cleared out and a few repairs done by the end of the summer. Give him a bit of his home back. He breaks my heart and puts it all back together in the same visit. He told me he suffered a stroke about a week ago. He said he couldn't move his hands. It took him over four days to seek medical attention. This was just one of many heartbreaking stories I heard last night. He just needs a friend ... Someone to make sure he's okay ... Reassure him he is loved."
"The house that stole my heart - this is the exterior of my new friend's home."
"Tonight we sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful evening. He explained to me how his injuries started in 2000 when a bull fractured his hip. He told me of his brother's illness and how they have lost touch. He said I was a blessing to him. I told him I couldn't put into words what he means to me."
"Dinner dates done right."
"Keep your promises."
"Lunch with a friend."
"We had a BBQ at work one day so I packed him up a plate and brought him some drinks. He would always sit outside under the same shady tree by the side of his house."
"Promises kept. An update on my friend - he is in good spirits and is very happy to have some room in his home."
"I've managed to remove his old fridge, stove, and chest freezer, along with numerous bags of garbage and other content. This was all made possible by a very generous company and a few awesome boys with big hearts and strong lower backs. I can't thank everyone enough for their support and generosity during this period in my life - and in his. He is beyond grateful, not just to me. He knows you are all following his story. After a few recent visits to the doctors, it's apparent that his health is declining, rapidly. These may be the last few months I have with my friend and I plan to make them as comfortable and enjoyable for him as possible. He's informed me of his funeral arrangements and has asked me to be there. I told him I wouldn't have it any other way. He shared something with me that will stay with me forever. He said the day I showed up was the best day of his life. As self-righteous as I feel writing that, I understand how he feels. The best day of my life was when I met him. He gave me the chance to really do something for someone - an act of kindness with no expectation of reward. It's a rare opportunity and I'm glad I was able to accept the challenge."
"Update: A few weeks ago my friend asked if I would go to a church BBQ with him ... Our first outing!!! I was so happy he had asked me and couldn't wait to go."
"Tonight was our dinner date ... The food was amazing ... Provided by the local farmers in the neighborhood and way too much pie baked by all their lovely wives. It was great to see him out of the house and around the people he's known his whole life. Driving home tonight I couldn't help but think to myself how lucky I am to have this opportunity to be a part of such a wonderful person's life. My friend is truly a blessing."
"Well, it's been a while since I've posted anything about this handsome fella so I figured I'd give everyone following his story an update. After a prolonged stay in two different hospitals after his last stroke, Lawrence is now living at a local retirement home and doing much better."
"He's safe and warm and seems to be fairly happy to be around some new people, although I know he misses home. I bring my dog Violet with me when I go for my visits, and she has now become a favorite around the home and she seems to enjoy herself thoroughly (indulging in yet another cookie as seen above). His birthday is coming up shortly (Valentine's Day), and we can't wait to celebrate with him, properly ... With less pastry for the puppy."
"Happy birthday to this young fella!"
"My mom made him a cake for his birthday ... I brought it to him right after dinner and didn't think he'd be too hungry... I've never seen someone eat anything and enjoy it so much."