“I pray every night to die. I ask God to take me, but I guess he wants to torture me,” she said before the tears began to fall.
We were standing six feet apart without masks, so I asked if it was okay if I approached to give her a hug. She then fell into speechless sobbing, so I approached without permission and took her in my arms. Try as I might, I can’t remember her name, even though she was once my neighbor. She’s sixty-eight, around four feet tall, and can’t weigh more than eighty pounds. My hug was soft, because she felt so fragile.
It was an opening for her to talk about her pain, as she attempted to smoke without being seen by her daughter several thousand yards away. She has three children, and because of the state of her health, they recently decided to have her live with each of them in three-month cycles, and the impact to her psyche has been devastating.
She took me on a trip back to her childhood, through Catholicism, past a failed marriage, and the care and loss of her parents all the way to the present, where she feels her life is nothing more than a burden to her children and society. One day I will write her story as she shared it, what I shared in return, and what I feel to have learned in those few brief hours.
Her sorrow felt so raw that it seemed necessary to write just this much to bookmark the moment, because so many people, myself included, struggle with all the experiences and emotions she shared.
What do we do with our parents when they need support?
There’s no one size fits all answer. All I know is that the decision has to be one we can live with, should they die before us.
Who do we cry to when we feel our lives have been sacrificed for a self-defined greater good?
Maybe some only feel safe crying to neighbors, coworkers, strangers, or counselors; those who are often seen as capable of filing us away at the end of the day as part of a job well done.
After all she’d shared, I didn’t dare ask her name. Before parting we hugged once more, shared I love you’s, and though she has my number, it’s likely I’ll never see or hear from her again.
So I’ll end with a prayer:
May she soon find restful peace in an environment that feels like home, fully immersed in the garden she dreams to one day tend.
For those who’ve already found that peaceful place, may it never be lost to the regrets of adulthood or the pain of youth.