Sunday, July 8, 2012

Three Old Ladies

I had the opportunity to take a lady to Mass today.  Lady #1.  This particular lady walks very slowly with a walker and her legs are like mine during a bad dream, heavy and nearly impossible to move.  As I bent my head as closely as possible to hear her quiet and low Hispanic accent, she told me that she has lost two husbands and two of her four children.  Two of her sons burned in a fire when they were 25 and 27 years old, and she was most recently widowed on Mother's Day.

I felt selfish and petty when I recalled my grumblings about not being able to find someone else to take her, as this meant my own family had to split up to pick up the other lady we take to Mass every week.  For the brief inconvenience, I was being tremendously blessed by this woman and she was blessed by being able to receive the Eucharist.

This lady has survived the two things I fear most on earth - losing my husband and my kids.  I asked her if it was difficult to believe in God during those times after she lost those who were closest to her.  She said "No, I believe in God.  He gives me strength.  He keeps me going."  As simple as that. 

We swung through McDonald's on the way home so she could get a hamburger for lunch and I dropped her off at the front door of her apartment building.  I will probably be able to find someone to take her to Church next week, but, selfishly, I wish it were me.

Lady #2 - I called my Grandma after I dropped her off.  I haven't talked to her in at least a month, and for the first time ever, I didn't visit her when I was in KS last week.  She asked me when I was coming up again, and I felt sick to tell her I had just been there, but didn't "make it by".  As a woman who has spent her entire life building an emotional fortress to buffet all manner of pain, I don't know how deeply this omission hurt her.  But, it hurt me, when I realized I could have brought her a little joy and I didn't.  She makes no bones about how I'm her favorite, even though she knows she's not supposed to have favorites.  She listened to me prattle on about what I did instead, and said, "Well, it sounds like you had a nice trip, anyway."  Ugh.  I feel terrible.  I'll never pass up the opportunity to make it by again. 

My Grandma is a woman who never learned how to love properly.  Her husband was an abusive drunk and three of her five children suffered violent deaths (one to war, one was run over, and one from a drug overdose).  She says if she had to do it all over again, she wouldn't have children.  I'm sorry to hear her say this, because if she hadn't, my father and many others wouldn't exist, but it gives an idea of the pain that her life has borne.  She says she is physically unable to cry; she ran out of tears a long time ago.  But, I love her, and today I can see that I need to make more of an effort to do so, because it's too easy not to.

Lady #3 - Yesterday, on the way to her hair appointment, I told another sweet lady about how my Grandmother feels about her life.  This particular lady just turned 94 and says "Oh, I just don't know what people would do without children!"  This is a lady who received 26 birthday cards, 35 phone calls, and 7 bouquets of flowers on her birthday.  This is a lady who has loved well and is loved well in return.  I think this is the way God intended it, but our own choices and other's choices can change the way the story ends. 

I believe a life of pain and suffering and loss can be used for good - to form a greater bond with our Creator and to depend less on creatures.  I believe we have to learn this before we can enter Heaven, so it is like an unwrapped gift if we can recognize it.  I also believe a life full of love and good things can lead us to our Creator, if these things lead us to the Giver.

In spending time with these ladies in person, or on the phone, it is too easy to notice the disparity between their lives.  But, ultimately, I think their commonality is greater.  They are children of God, albeit older children, who have years and years of life behind them.  They live alone and are dependent on other people to cook for them and to get them where they need to go.  They believe in God and that He is the source of their strength.  It is a good thing, because as they know, all other things pass away.

Dear God, Thank you for people who have lived through things I think could kill me.  Thank you for their years of life and the wisdom that comes with them.  Thank you for opportunities to help people come closer to You.  Please forgive me for those I have missed.  Help me to see them with greater clarity and please give me the grace to love those who have little or no love to give in return.  Thank you for being present in the Eucharist, for being our strength, and the One who keeps us going.  Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I now I'm jealous you got to take Lillian to her hair appt. I love her so much.