She Thought She Was Alone in This Abandoned House and Never Expected What Would Happen Next‏

Beyond the untidy tangle of uncut grass and creeping vines, the house stood derelict. Leslie David slipped inside and began exploring. But as she prowled through the rooms, camera in hand, she found herself confronted by an unexpected situation – the house wasn’t abandoned and she wasn’t alone.

Leslie is more widely known by her online handle, “The Tourist.” Based in Ontario, Canada, she is part of a vibrant urban exploration community in the province that scours towns, cities and countryside for deserted properties and photo opportunities.

Posted on Instagram, Leslie’s work invites reflection on the fragility of our lives. Her photos capture not only the forlorn mood and fractured aesthetic of abandonment, but the human ghosts and decaying memories of what went before.

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Leslie was a seasoned urban explorer, but this house – the final stop on a birthday tour – had taken her by surprise. Who was this man in the living room? And what should she do next? The encounter would change both their lives forever.

The man’s name was Lawrence. His house was not abandoned – but he was. Immobile in the living room, alone and elderly, Lawrence was blind in his right eye and losing the left to cataracts. How would he react to an unannounced visitor in his home?

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“Even after noticing a stranger essentially helping themselves to his life, he was nothing but sweet and kind to me,” wrote Leslie on her Instagram page. “These old souls are still full of life and I feel blessed to have met this one.”

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Soon after, Leslie returned to the house and Lawrence opened up about his life. He talked about a bull that injured his hip in 2000 and his estranged brother who was sickly. He talked about his gratitude to Leslie for showing up in his life. It was the start of a moving friendship.

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“Tonight was the first of what will be many dinner dates with my new friend,” wrote Leslie on Instagram. “Over the course of three hours we ate and drank and laughed… 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.”

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But Leslie’s visit was also tinged with sadness. “He breaks my heart and puts it all back together in the same visit,” she wrote. “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.”

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Leslie decided to be the good friend that Lawrence needed. She brought him snacks and meals – food that was “easy to chew but good for the soul.” She promised that by the end of the summer, she would tidy and repair the house.

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True to her word, Leslie organized a team of “awesome boys with big hearts and strong lower backs.” Together, they removed the house’s broken appliances and unwanted furniture, cleared the trash and opened up some space for Lawrence.

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Lawrence was grateful and cheerful, but he his health was deteriorating. “These may be the last few months I have with my friend,” wrote Leslie. “I plan to make them as comfortable and enjoyable for him as possible.”

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“He’s informed me of his funeral arrangements and has asked me to be there,” she wrote. “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… The best day of my life was when I met him.”

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Fortunately, Lawrence and Leslie were not to be parted just yet. On their first outing away from the house, they stopped at a church barbecue and shared food prepared by local farmers, including “way too much pie baked by all their lovely wives.”

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But then weeks passed without any mention or photos of Lawrence on Leslie’s Instagram page. Touched by her story, her followers had shared her posts and updates widely. What was the latest news? Was Lawrence safe and well?

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There was good news and bad. The bad news was that Lawrence had been hospitalized following his last stroke. The good news was that he was now living at a local retirement home, his health much improved, and he was enjoying the company of new friends.

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Lawrence, of course, was much stronger than he seemed. On Valentine’s Day – also his birthday – Leslie went to visit him in the retirement home. She brought cake, love, and her dog, Violet. Many happy returns, Lawrence!

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Human connection is at the heart of this tale. As Leslie explained, she told her story “in [the] hope that it will inspire at least one person to reach out to someone they may have lost contact with or perhaps just forgot about.”

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As one fellow explorer, Freaktography, put it, “I suggest that anyone who reads this blog post follow The Tourist on Instagram and follow along with this amazing story and gesture of goodwill and selflessness and ask yourself the question – what would you do if given this scenario?”

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Of course, this touching story is far from over. Leslie’s latest post was taken outside the home, Lawrence waving to his audience. “I told him about all the people who were asking about him,” wrote Leslie. “We both thank you for your beautiful words and thoughts.”

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