Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Breakfast with an incredible shrinking woman

I hadn’t seen her in many years. Her little adopted son is now a university freshman with all of the dilemmas that teenagers invariably create for themselves.

Of all the coworkers I immediately lost touch with when the ops centre closed down, she was low on the list of people I thought I’d see again. We were both different people then. I had sensed conflict around her and shied away from that.

But bumping into her on facebook.com, I asked how she was doing and her answer compelled me.

I’m not well. But that’s okay...

I picked her up at her modest old home. She’s a fraction of the size she used to be but her eyes have not changed and that’s enough to recognize her. She brought her parking tag with us so we could park at the restaurant door.

I had been very familiar with the little charity organization she’d created. She financed insulin pumps for diabetic children in need while lobbying the government health insurance to assume this much-needed coverage.

I learned today that she succeeded a few years ago. Now no child in Ontario needing an insulin pump will go without one and Ministry of Health literature recognizes her efforts to this end.

She remains tight with the ministry, providing a buffer of reality between they and the self-interested, self-promoting national diabetes organization and all of their spin, while still lobbying, now for like coverage for adult diabetes sufferers – a service she currently provides to the best of her growing charity’s capability.

She’s allergic to insulin but takes a small amount, a calculated compromise, in effort to stretch her mortality a little further. She declares herself a medical wonder to have survived this long.

Each morning that she awakes to, is a bonus day for which she’s grateful and which she tries to make the most of – by logging onto the computer and dispensing vital counsel and assistance to fellow sufferers.

She ardently praises her husband. They’ve shared a deeply satisfying marriage built on unconditional love and tolerance. She worries about he and the boy and how they’ll deal with her absence. She begs that there be no funeral.

“If too many people come he won’t be able to handle it,” she says. “And if too few come, he’ll be hurt. If people want to pay respect, they know where the house is. They can drop by.” The lump in my throat silences me. “Don’t be sad,” she says to me. “It’s all okay.”

But I already know it’s okay. In essence I do not pity the sick and the dying. To suffer and die are the natural states of all life. I understand this intrinsically. I will desire no pity when my time for suffering or death comes. My pity goes to all those millions of people who are not celebrating their circumstances; their privileged health and wealth and security and who squander it; having no real understanding of their own lives and no connection to real happiness. I pity all those who are wasting their lives away – as I did for thirty-seven years.

“Tears don’t always mean I’m sad,” is all I managed to say.

These days I am easily overcome by any of a great many emotions, including, I now know, intense admiration.

FWG


5 comments:

Claudia said...

She is exactly the kind of person who I admire... I'm glad that you two got to reconnect.

Automattic said...

Wow, great post. Amazing how she worries about her husband and son more than she seems to worry about herself. Seems like an incredible person.

Anonymous said...

Richard it is YOU the incredible being that is able to capture the moment and the ambiance. Such talent , such insight and such bravery to put these things into words to share with others. You touched my life in many ways more than once and for that I am blessed.

Anonymous said...

This amazing woman is a great friend of mine. She has been with me through thick and thin for almost 18 years now. WE met in the hospital. WE were roomates and became instant friends. I was amazed then at what she had been through. In the present, even more amazed that she has been able to be so stong not only for herself but her husband and son. Words cannot express what this woman means to me. I hope she knows how tuely blessed I am for having her in my life. I want to say two words to her... Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I met her a few years ago, and I was drawn to her personallity immediately...she has a fiery spirit and a heart of gold. She works tirelessly to help imporve the lives of diabetics everywhere, by lobbying the Provincial and the Federal Governments to start paying for much needed supplies for diabetics all across Canda...and I know without a doubt she will do it.
I remember her asking me one time why I was drawn to her when we met, I told her it was her determination, love of life, and her caring spirit. There are so many more things I could say about her, but I wouldn't want to embarass her...haha TAT!!! Embarrass you now way.