Today while in the swimming pool, I met an 87-year-old woman. If you can believe a woman can be beautiful at that age, believe that she was beautiful. Snow white hair, a rosy almost wrinkle free complexion, and when she smiled, you just couldn’t help but smile with her. How her face lit up and her eyes danced with joy when she smiled.
We talked for over an hour. Although both of us came to exercise, she to stimulate legs that refuse to walk without a walker and I to simply enjoy the rejuvenation water always seem to bring to me, we did not. We talked; rather, she talked, I listened.
She told me about her lovely neighbor who had moved next door to her a few months back and how she cooks dinner for her one or two times a week. She told me about her deceased abusive alcoholic husband that she had married and divorced two times. She told me about the men that had sought her affections since his death and how she resisted their attentions out of fear. She told me about her only grandson that she raised since the age of two when her son and first daughter in law divorced and discarded the child. She spoke with pride of him for he is now a professor of geology in a major university. Then sadly, she told me that for all his achievements and through all the love she gave him, and all the years that has passed; he still suffers from bouts of depression resulting from being abandoned by his parents as a child.
She also told me something else. She wants to leave this world, she said. It is not that she is tired of living; she simply does not know how to live anymore. No longer can she do the things that she did before. Her legs and her hands refuse to cooperate.
Her son lives less than a mile from her. Oh he dutifully comes when she calls him. But she is not comfortable in doing so. You see his wife, her second daughter in law of thirty years, does not want to compete for her son’s attention. She and her grandson might be tolerated on holidays but clearly are and have been an unwanted intrusion in the life the son has carved with his wife of thirty years. Oh the pain in her eyes when she speaks on this can cause a heart to break.
She wants to leave soon she said. She said she has finally come to terms with the limitations of her life.
I watch her carefully and I am afraid for her; there is finality in her voice, determination in the lifting of her chin.
As we prepare to go our separate ways I ask her not to go away yet. I ask her to stay awhile in this world, in my world. I tell her of the joy her company meant to me today and what it can mean to others.
I’m not ready for her to leave this world. I need, no, we need the gift that she is.Proverbs 11:16
A gracious woman retaineth honour:Proverbs 31:10