I had a client once, Mrs. D, who was deeply depressed. Her son hired me to come into her retirement home, get her up from bed and into the shower, dressed, visit the nurse’s station for her meds, then make it in time to the transport bus which would take her to the local senior center three times a week. Without such assistance, encouragement, nagging–whatever you want to call it–she would remain in bed with the covers pulled over her head. As she followed my endless instructions and suggestions throughout the steps of our routine, she reminded me of deeply pained molasses.
A few years in, Mrs. D suffered what so many aging people dread: a fall. She simply fell while walking down the hall, and she hurt herself badly enough that she ended up in nursing home care. One of her sons made plans to move her out of the area and closer to his home a few states away.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be seeing her any more, I paid Mrs. D a visit in the nursing home prior to her departure. She was, as usual, very quiet. Her speech was slow and measured when she did talk, her economy of words so strict that they barely survived the fall from her lips into the freedom of unstifled air.
But she was perfectly clear. And honest. And concise. As I bustled around her room, seeing if I could get her anything or help in some other way, Mrs. D spoke:
. . .
It’s ok. You can laugh.
She was absolutely right.
I often sympathized with Mrs. D’s plight. Why couldn’t the son just leave his poor mother alone? If she wanted to crawl under the covers and simply waste away, wasn’t that her decision? I felt like a bully some days getting her to move along through the steps that eventually put her on that bus to spend her day with a bunch of people she did not know nor care to get to know. It must have been exhausting for her.
But there were other times when I would be treated to a glimpse of a beautiful sparkle in her deep brown eyes. Usually when her dry humor found some cause to justify an appearance. Those eyes spoke volumes. In them I could recognize the lovely woman who resided with her family in various picture frames carefully placed along the living room window sill.
I hope Mrs. D was able to find some pleasure after she moved. If she has passed on, I pray she is at peace and knows joy.
If I could speak to her again, have a chance to redo my goodbye, I would thank her. For I also recognized myself in her eyes. Not just the reflection of my annoying, over-zealous, Pollyanna tendencies, but also the deeper me that so much of that noise and clutter is designed to keep at bay. Keep quiet. Hidden.
I would thank her for doing more than simply putting up with me. For showing me what courage is. That it often involves the tiniest of steps, the simplest resolve. That sometimes strength is found in surrender. Or the simple act of taking the next breath. And that honesty, with ourselves and with others, is a gift–even though it can be one of the most difficult to give and to receive.
* * * * * * * * * *
When you are gasping
from the depths
relief from the beast
that grips your heart
in a velvet vice . . .
Who dares judge your choice
of life preserver?
* * * * * * * * * *
This post is dedicated to three very special, courageous friends and, of course, Mrs. D.