How I Learned What Alone Can Mean
She lay on the pavement where she’d fallen, staring past me and the other bystander as we both stood frozen, uncertain of what to do. Her legs had collapsed under her as she tried to stand from sitting in a device folks with disabilities use for walkers. Her calmness steadied us as we tried to figure out what to do.
Her plan, she had told me, just 10 minutes earlier, had been to walk from her car, parked at the far end of the crowded office parking where we met unexpectedly. (No handicapped spaces were available) That sounded reasonable – except she could not walk, even with the walking device, a walker on wheels with a seat stretched across the bars.
When I first saw her, poised and unmoving by her open trunk, she hailed me as I walked by, asking if I could retrieve her coat that lay crumpled by the rear tire.
Her incapacity startled me – as her aloneness dawned on me.
I fetched the coat, and paused.
Could I put the trunk down I asked?
Yes, she replied, still not moving.
She planned to keep an appointment for a post-op check-up on a recent double mastectomy. But getting from the car to the building, which for me was a healthy choice, was for her impossible. She also had MS. Plans can change with MS.
And she was alone.
Walking with a Stranger
As she tried to walk toward the building I stayed close, calculating the odds of both of us going down, given her infirmity and my age. We agreed using the walker as a wheelchair was the only solution. No other human being was in sight on that lot packed with cars.
Pausing several times because the solution was not an ideal one, we made it to the entrance, and a slightly elevated ramp. I could not push her up. At this point, a strapping young woman opened the door and offered to help, perhaps not aware how impossible the task would be of helping this incapacitated stranger simply to get up the ramp, and through the door to the elevator.
Before either of us knew what happened, the woman arose from the seat of the device, grabbing at the nearby-parked car. Her legs did not cooperate, and down she went. She remained calm as another observer of her fall yelled her concern
“Call 9-1-1,” the witness urged, while we tried to assess how to get the fallen women upright; she hadn’t hit her head.
At that instant a man rushed forward offering his strength. She cautioned him — getting her to feet wasn’t so simple, given the complication of her recent surgery and the MS.
Although I saw it, I can’t describe how he and the other helper got the woman righted in the chair . . . Perhaps there were unseen angels also heaving?
We got her to her doctor’s office and into the hands of the office staff, and parted.
Over her shoulder, she thanked us, as she directed her attention to the nurse.
Questions swirled: why the woman was so alone? How could she drive a car? Why on earth did she park so far from the door? Was there no one to help? How did her day end?
And why did I and the other person take our leave so readily?
Living with Questions
Persistent uncomfortable questions teaching me what family and friends mean, underline the aloneness of alone.
And I hear the voice of my friend, Barbara Black, at home now with the Lord who lived through Multiple Sclerosis, reciting one of her poems she wrote in 1991
What can solve the heartbreak
what can ease the pain
What can mend Creation
make me glad again?
Where did all the dreams go
citadels of joy
Humble little hope-lets
now my shattered toys?
Who will bear my sorrows
who knows grief’s dead weight
Who will stand beside me
wash away my hate?
Where is God’s great promise
where is light of call?
Did this broken spirit
ever give its all?
Does a better dream call?
Does pale sunlight gleam?
Does a tender Whisper
make these fountains stream?
My eyes are continually toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 25:15