“Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and the wrong. Sometime in your life you will have been all of these.”
~ Dr. Robert H. Goddard 1882-1945
Yesterday I went down to the local shopping mall nice and early. I needed to get bloods done, fill some prescriptions and pick up a few things. I’d planned to go the day before but circumstances intervened so here I was, trying to get my errands done before I started work.
All the stores I needed were already open, although most of the centre was still shut. While I waited for my scripts I treated myself to a breakfast of coffee and a toasted sandwich in celebration of finishing the last of my current Lyme drugs. I sat at a table outside a cafe, in the middle of the mall, watching the centre slowly come to life. The lady at the opposite table looked up and smiled and then turned back to her ipad and latte. It felt good to be up and about and getting things done.
My solitary meal made me think of my precious Nana, who passed away on the 16th of November last year. Joycey would often order the exact same coffee and toastie and enjoy a little break in her day when doing her shopping. We September Girls have similar tastes.
As I was sipping my coffee I heard Nana’s voice loud and clear, “Darling, she’s not okay.”
I looked up, startled.
“Go see if she needs some help,” Nana’s voice urged kindly.
Right in front of me was a frail elderly woman limping and struggling with a shopping trolley. Her arm and face were badly bruised and I wondered if she had fallen recently.
“Excuse me,” I asked, “are you okay?”
Looking at me, confused, she placed a hand on her chest. “Are you speaking to me?” she asked weakly.
“Yes,” I said, standing up and walking the few steps over to her. “Are you okay? Do you need some help?”
Her hand clutched at her top and her eyes filled with tears. She nodded her head and began crying.
I took her by the arm and sat her down at my table, and moved the shopping trolley over beside us. I asked if she would like some water, and fetched a glass, and then ordered her a pot of tea.
When she had finished crying, I asked her again, “Are you okay?”
“You know,” the old woman said, “I prayed yesterday and again this morning. I prayed for help but I didn’t know who to turn to. There’s only my son and me.”
As she sipped her tea she told me her story. Maud (not her real name) is eighty-three and lives in a unit not far from the shops. Her sixty-year-old son has recently been released from prison. He’s the only family Maud has, and he has no-one and nothing after many years in detention. Since his release he has been drinking heavily, and has begun assaulting her. Maud was afraid to say anything in case he was locked up again, but now she feels like a prisoner in her own home and her son is becoming more and more aggressive and unstable.
As Maud related her situation I too sent up a silent prayer, asking for help. I wasn’t sure what to do next or how best to deal with her situation.
But it was all okay. The woman at the next table came over. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing,” she said. “I’m an off-duty policewoman, and I can help you with this.” After getting some details and reassuring Maud, the police woman excused herself, stepped away and made a few calls from her mobile phone.
What a kind and good woman. Within half an hour she had organised for an ambulance to attend to Maud, and for Maud’s son, who had broken his parole arrangements, to be taken back into custody.
I rang the hospital late yesterday and found out that Maud has a fractured cheekbone. She is resting well and I have promised to visit her. Over and over again she thanked me, and all I could think of was how little I’d really done. I’d simply asked an elderly woman, who was obviously struggling, if she was okay. And it had come at the prompting of my own beautiful Nana – the first time I have heard her voice in spirit.
It’s such a simple question: Are you okay?
It’s also a question that binds us together, weaving a thread of humanity and kindness through all of our lives so that we may be supported and know that we are not alone.
Last night I lay in bed and thought about the events surrounding Maud. I had shifted my day around to accommodate an emergency reading the day before, which is why I ended up at the shops so early yesterday. A policewoman sat opposite me. Maud stopped her trolley directly in front of both of us. I heard my Nana’s voice, which caused me to speak to Maud and ask if she was okay. Maud got the help she needed.
How can I not believe that there is more to life than this? That our prayers are heard? That love keeps living and giving, even when our loved ones have passed…