on the wrong foot entirely.
I suppose it is partly because I am a bit of a dreamer and mostly because I am especially susceptible and vulnerable to harsh words.
I found, before I’d really had a chance to begin my day, my feelings hurt, my spirit bruised and my pride wounded.
It wasn’t the first time.
It won’t be the last.
But it always hurts.
Always chips away a bit at the self confidence I work so hard to achieve and hold on to.
Always makes me feel less than I thought I was before.
And so it went.
I cried my tears and kept the ones threatening at bay more to prevent curious questions than anything else.
What am I supposed to say after all? I had my feelings hurt?
That answer is met with shaking heads and comments like ‘girl, you need to toughen up”.
Yes. I know.
I wasn’t going to let it rule my day, though, that I had already decided. Maybe I was on the verge of tears. Maybe I did slip away and cry a couple of times during the morning. Maybe I did berate myself for being the way I am and wishing fervently that I could change it. But …
I decided right off that this would be a day of encouraging others and lifting them up as I wished to be lifted.
The day progressed fairly normally, with fluffed pillows, niceties exchanged between patients and family members, little touches to encourage those who were ailing; the usual day to day stuff I always do.
None of that, however, prepared me for what I would encounter in the late morning hours.
He was my last patient, and I knew from research that his wife had been gone for many years and his youngest daughter, the last of three children to die, had passed away two years before.
For all counts and purposes, he was completely and totally alone in the world.
I went into his room and introduced myself to him. He looked at me for a long time and I wondered if he understood what I was saying.
Then he spoke, his voice barely above a whisper and said “I thought for a moment that I had died and gone to Heaven. You remind me so much of my sweet Lacy.”
As it turned out, Lacy was his daughter, his favored child and one who worshiped her father. He asked me to sit, which I did, in the chair beside his bed, and he proceeded to tell me about her.
She cooked him dinner every night and made sure he had snacks in his kitchen. She took him to the park and on long drives into the mountain when the leaves changed in Autumn. She had, he related, a way with stories and often sat with him, while he ate his dinner, and told him one story or another.
He focused those tired and aged blue eyes on mine and asked me if I would tell him a story.
I didn’t have the heart to say no. I told him a story about a rogue squirrel which found it’s way into my sister’s swimming pool and the adventure and hilarity that followed.
He laughed out loud until he nearly wheezed and said it was the funniest thing he had heard in a long time. He smiled a wide smile, crinkling his wrinkled face until his eyes nearly disappeared altogether.
It was a wonderful moment for me … this laughter on an old man’s face.
I rose to bid him goodbye and he once again caught and held my eyes in his gaze. He, with sincerity and a love that nearly shattered me, said “I love you, Lacy, you know that don’t you?”
I took his frail hand in mine and after pressing a kiss to his papery cheek, said ‘Yes. I Know.”
In the few moments I spent with him, the beauty of his spirit helped to heal my bruised one and the harsh words of the morning were forgotten, useless and harmless against the joy he brought to me.
I had intended to swing back by to check on him and to tell him how much my visit with him had meant to me, but before the end of my shift, he left this world.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to tell him how he touched my life. It was my intention to encourage him and yet, he brought me a kind of joy that comes about only once in a while.
Harsh words will always hurt me. It is my nature. I cannot change who I am at the core, but the encounter with the man who knew me as Lacy gave me something wonderful to bring up when the tears threaten.
I cried for him, but not out of sadness. No, that would have been wrong. I cried because I, not as Lacy, but as myself, never got to say goodbye.
Life unfolds as it should and while some of it is painful, for the most part, it is an incredibly wonderful journey.
I was blessed to know Lacy’s dad.