Last night was a particularly sad one at work. We had a little old lady pass away – which in itself is not so unusual. What was heart-renching was her husband. He came and was so completely lost. He was dazed, could barely make eye contact, he had almost shut down. To make matters worse he was all alone – it was just him and his wife living here. Their child lived halfway around the world.
This poor man was so hard to watch – everyone’s heart ached for him when they looked at him. We put him in a side room so he could have some privacy while his wife was being taken care of. I went in to check on him after a while and when I looked through the window I could see him sitting there, crying all by himself. So I went in and sat with him for a while and held his hand and let him tell me about how happy they were together. 56 years of togetherness. Through his tears he told me how fortunate it was that two days ago he had unburdened his soul of something he had kept from her. And how much they had loved each other.
I let him tell me how he kissed her goodnight. How he woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. How he found her on the floor. And then it was: 911. Help. Rushed orders. Hushed conferring. I asked him if he wanted to call his daughter and he said “No, I don’t want her to worry”. Always the parent, even now when the earth is tilting. And then it was: Say goodbye- hope she can hear. His pastor came in a little while later to sit with him. I was glad because no one should ever have to go through something like this alone. This is not the first time I’ve seen our frail elderly all alone, dealing with life’s urgencies, traumas, and heartbreaks without a loved one there by their side. And for a moment I judged this child of theirs who had left her parents, to live halfway across the globe. But you have to leave judging – we get glimpses of people’s lives, not the whole picture of a family’s story. My heart does go out to this man though…I wonder how long he will survive being alone, a half instead of a whole.
When he went to leave he stopped by my desk and said “I’m leaving now miss. She’s gone.” And he walked away.
Funny thing this life. When you’re single you cannot imagine living a lifetime with one person – becoming so much a part of one story, instead of two separate ones. And when you’ve been together longer than you were apart- when you have known each other longer than not known each other – lived with them longer than you lived with your siblings, or your parents, you must not be able to imagine being single again.
Funny thing this life.