I met a woman a few days ago. A couple really. For the sake of privacy, I will never say much more than that. I am so blessed to be able to meet new people for my job, sit in their homes, and share snippets of their lives. But sometimes you have this moment that gets really big and pops like gum on your forehead. And while you’re peeling it off, you realize you’re indelibly different.
So… I met this couple… She looked so young for her age, and she patted her hair softly as we sat at the table, she, her husband, and I. We were talking business. I know she has, at least, the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. We met five years ago. She didn’t look much different. She seemed a little nervous. And she didn’t look at me much in the eyes. She had a childish look about her when she did look at me. She didn’t understand the conversation. And she had to check with her husband before she answered some questions.
These moments used to make me cry all the way home from my appointments. I felt this searing pain when I saw someone who, in my estimation, was suffering. And I would picture her face for days and days. I would wonder why God allowed these things or if there was even a God– if this is what happened to beautiful people. How could this woman lose her memory? Why does her husband have to sit and watch her leave slowly, dedicated to taking care of her, because that’s the kind of man he is. He said it was his choice to take care of her. He isn’t going to let someone else. (cue love song and tears falling)
I can tell something has shifted in me over the past few years in this business. I didn’t see the pain or the sad story as the headline. I saw something really beautiful. I saw a man and woman, sharing a life that isn’t perfect. They didn’t complain one time. They didn’t tell me how unfair it was. We laughed. He talked freely about the situation in front of her. She trusted him.
He said one day she won’t remember him. But today she looked at him because he is what she remembers. As other things fade, he is still there to remind her of something good, of some place to stand when she forgets this moment or the moment before. That’s what goes first, the last few moments. Not the memories. Their story is still in her body and mind.
I didn’t feel pain in that room. I felt love. I felt resolve and peace. I felt safe there. I felt a gift so many people don’t have. And here’s the thing. Life is a bitch sometimes. It isn’t easy. It isn’t what we think it should be. But it’s what it is. It used to feel sad or daunting to see that, to see the scars of reality on people and their lives. But now, I feel no fear. I’ve seen a hell of a lot in my business, in my life. And you’re probably muttering under your breath, “I have too.” Well, if you’re alive, if you’re breathing, you probably have. But there is something so immense and freeing about knowing you are fine. You have chosen your response. You are dedicated and vulnerable and you are there, present, stepping in a pile of flowers or shit. Either way.
I can’t imagine there’s a greater lesson. But I realized I have given up a lot of fear. And I realized I was in the space of someone who had too. And it was all ok. I haven’t been tested with losing my partner to Alzheimer’s. I have no idea what that feels like. And honestly, this man doesn’t either– until every next second of the day comes. And that’s life. Every second coming. But we can take it like this man, this woman. We can see it come, and love ourselves for our part in it, the best part we can play.
I wish that for you today, for a little less fear. A little less anxiety. A little less clenching. They say it’s all going to be fine. But you decide what that means. And you live in that space how you choose.
How do you end that story? Don’t know. I am starting to wander and repeat, as all great writers do. And I accept that this story will go to my 200 closest facebook friends today. But that’s maybe all it was supposed to do. Another story about life and fear and letting go. Because that’s what I keep learning to do.
To you and yours today. To stepping in flowers or shit and knowing you’re fine either way.
Extra olive in that martini.