I went for a run today. I have been running the same loop almost every day for 15 years. I run other routes, but this is my favorite because I run alongside the ocean and I’ve gotten to know the people along the route. Sometimes I stop to chat, sometimes I just wave and yell “hello”, and when the timing is right, I help an elderly lady bring her garbage can out to the road. When you see the same people several times a week for over 15 years, you develop rapport if you so choose.
There was one elderly woman (not the lady I help with the garbage can), who I had an intimate conversation with in 1999. She told me her story. It was a sad story. An unhappy marriage. Abuse. Unfulfilled dreams. She had given up on herself and was living the life of a victim. We have seen each other innumerable times over the years since our conversation, but she pretends our conversation never happened. Maybe she’s embarrassed or maybe she doesn’t remember our conversation. I don’t know which, but whenever I see her, I still wave and say hello. Sometimes she nods and sometimes she turns away. I have no idea what she’s thinking.
When I saw her today, I stopped in my tracks. I could not move. I was paralyzed. It is obvious that she is dying. It was an eerie sight that I described here and then deleted. You don’t want to know the details.
She was on her way to get her mail, but she was struggling. I asked if I could help, and she nodded her head one time. I told her that her mailbox was empty. She nodded her head again and walked away. I walked away and cried. I don’t think I’ll ever see her again. I’m sorry; I’m not trying to be depressing. I’m sad because she looked so frail, some of our close friends are moving far away quite soon, and seeing the woman made me think…
People leave us. They may physically leave or emotionally disengage or both. When someone you love leaves you, it’s always painful for a time. I was in college when my grandmother died. My mom had called my boyfriend, (now husband–Rich), to warn him that she was calling with the news and asked that he be with me at a scheduled time when she was going to call because she wasn’t sure how I would react. My grandma and I were extraordinarily close.
When my mom told me, I felt angry. I remember saying to my mom that it was a terribly cruel joke she was playing on me. No, it could not be true. I hung up, locked myself in the bathroom, and cried. When Rich asked me if I was okay, I yelled that I was fine and to go away! I wanted to be angry because it seemed so much easier than dealing with the real feelings I felt—deep sadness. I didn’t get to tell my grandma everything I wanted her to know, and I wanted to give her one more hug. Rich broke into the bathroom and held me. He seemed to understand that I didn’t want to talk. I have missed her more than words can express. My only regret is that I didn’t spend more time with her when I had the chance.
Sometimes when dealing with feelings that are really powerful, it’s easier for me to write about it rather than talk about it. Maybe that’s my way of pushing the feelings away or processing. I don’t know which it is, but I do know that there have been many times when I have left someone or they have left me. People move away. Friends drift apart. Relationships fail. That’s life, but that doesn’t mean that we should give up on cultivating meaningful relationships.
The woman I saw today reminds me that we should make the most of our life, say things we want to say, do things we want to do, to try our best at everything we do, forgive, be kind, do not judge, and love with all our hearts while we’re here. I guess what I’m saying is that as long as you are alive, it’s never too late to embrace the people around you and live your life to the fullest!
“It’s never too late – never too late to start over, never too late to be happy.” ~ Jane Fonda
*Quick update on this post: I spoke with the son of the woman I wrote about in this piece. I just wanted to let you all know that although she is quite ill, he takes care of her. He also told me that she has Alzheimer’s, which explains why she looks at me as though we’ve never met sometimes. I’m just glad to know someone is taking care of her!