I don’t know that I’ve felt so sad, consistently before, at any other life stage. The sadness is not for naught though, and it feels stretching. I can feel myself slowly growing into a better person because of it, which encourages me and makes me know that the blue is valuable because it shows the yellow to be all the more yellow on those days where the sun shines. Today, again, I spent the morning at the senior’s home. Today it felt as though my heart broke. The sadness there is sometimes nearly palpable.
I was at the end of my shift and was sort of numb already, because of all the sadness I’d encountered in the drab little rooms. I held beautiful little ladies in my arms today as they sobbed with dignity. The word lady was sadly pluralized today. Before this place, I’d never known up close what it looks like to wish for death. So many of these lovely old people aren’t negative, they aren’t cranky, but some of them are just depleted of any wish to continue on.
At the very best of times, I don’t have an overflowing emotional reservoir to draw from in the support of devastated people not able to continue on alone anymore. To say that I’m not a shining example of EQ is an understatement. I focus on task more than on people. I can do happy, but there’s very little else in my emotional repertoire.
And so as I made my way to the front door after having signed out in the volunteer book, I felt like a dishrag that someone had wrung out – and ruthlessly at that. As I walked along the corridor, a dear little lady with pink-rimmed eyes came to her doorway. I know now that she was looking for some human contact. I mustered some cheer and asked her how she was. She bowed her frail little head and said How am I? The Lord took my best friend away from me yesterday. Her shoulders seemed too tiny to bear such a burden and I felt that familiar ache in the back of my throat and even tears sprung to my eyes. I looked over her shoulder and saw her husband’s empty bed, stripped bare to the mattress. The sight of it was harsh even to me, and I had hardly known the man. The unthinkable had become real; he’d died and left her. We walked into her room together, united just for a moment in shared grief, hers gapeing and monstrously large, mine amateur but growing as I touched her frail arm. I hugged her for a long time, and gathered what remnants of self-control I had left about me as I did. She told me over in various different ways how she wasn’t sure how she’d go on now that he was gone. I knew that she would, though. She had the obvious markings of a survivor. She’d been a single missionary in India for a large chunk of her adult life and had only met Seth later on in life.
As she talked about him, I could see that she was one of the few who truly counted her days with him as blessed. She cherished him but didn’t wax on dramatically about it. Her love – her quietly deep love – for him was enough in and of itself and she clearly didn’t feel the need to dramatize about it, or about her loss of a life’s partner. The dignity of it – and of her – made me feel stabs of shame for all of my own repeated displays of silliness through life. She was beautiful, truly beautiful, in that moment and when it’s my turn, I want to be just like her.
I wonder what it’s like to wake in the morning one day, to look over at one’s husband – a many decade’s old friendship – and to see him lying there lifeless and gone from this earthly place. Sadie asked me to pray that God would give her courage this week and it strikes me that she’s not the only one who needs it. Please pray for this dear lady if you are one who does.