A Conversation Avoided
A sunny day, not completely sunny because the sky had a bit of that milky blue the tells you a rainstorm may be coming. Over the water, which had receded to low tide, the birds were resting, the
tiny fish were jumping, and a few shorebirds were walking cautiously through the mud selecting little tidbits as they went along, leaving their footprints in the mud. Everything was like a lovely painting that someone should have captured to hang up in their living room or some special place so that they could return to it whenever they wished.
A walkway, wooden of course, had been placed around a large bird observation center building and it was on that walkway that I was standing and photographing as the birds and the fish went by. As I turned, a friend noticed someone standing not too far from us and she said, "Hi, how are you?"
The woman, who was rail thin, and whose arms were little more than bones sticking out from her rolled up shirt, turned toward us. It was then that I recognized a person I had known. Without a smile, without anything else, the woman responded, "I'm handling it." With that, she slowly turned and walked away.
There would be no conversation, no inquiry further than her simple, "I'm handling it." It wasn't even a conversation, but the briefest of interactions and watching her walk away, we all knew why that was.
People that we knew from several organizations also knew this woman and had indicated she had had some health issues after her retirement. It had been a retirement that she anticipated would bring travel and fun and she looked forward to her new-found freedom.
But a back problem suddenly revealed itself and the pain, they said, could only be alleviated through surgery, two of them. There had been surgeries and a period of rehabilitation, but that's all I had heard. Now, having seen her on the walkway, I knew that it was more than just a simple surgery to adjust an orthopedic problem.
I didn't know what I would have to talk to her about because she was so obviously on the verge of, dare I use the word, death. She was handling it, but she didn't want to discuss it with anyone else and I can certainly understand that. The birdwatching must have been a way to provide herself with some mental relief from what she knew was coming. She'd come alone.
Previously, only an hour before, I had been told about someone who had to deal with the sudden loss of a sister with whom she had a special, loving bond. There had been no health issues. Her husband found her lying on the bathroom floor. There was no intervention that could bring her back. She was gone.
Once again, I was reminded that each day we get up is one where we can make of it what we will. We may be the fortunate ones who can plan our days around activities we enjoy, go to meet friends for lunch, take a course or just sit and let the earth move beneath our feet.
Reminders like the woman on the walkway shouldn't be forgotten, they should be motivators. As the Latin phrase so aptly put it "carpe diem" (seize the day). Write it on your frig and be sure to look at it each morning.