I share easy banter with a cheerful resident at the nursing home.
How are you? I’ll ask, and he’ll break into a full smile and say, Great as cake! or Fine and dandy!
But this morning he takes a long pause and his face is a grim fixed line.
I've got my hurts all stored up here, he says, motioning to his head. And if I keep walking, if I keep moving, it doesn't hurt so much.
I hope he means a headache but his eyes say heartache.
Can I walk with you, I ask? And so we move slowly down a long hall.
No one visits, he says, but I don’t care anymore. You get to a point, he says, stopping to look me in the eye, that you just don't care anymore. I guess that's where I am.
* * *
Some weeks, some days, maybe right now, I don't know what to do with this grief like a collection of rocks. Doesn't it feel so heavy? It's death, but not just death. It's carrying all the little losses — of age and health and hurts.
How did we live before we live now? How did we once tread lightly and still manage to make the days matter? I'm thinking of you, and me, and so many yous and mes.
I don't know what I'm writing, or feeling, but I know these words are a reaching out in love.
* * *
All day I think about the loneliness that circles this man and nearly everyone I know.
“We’re living in an epidemic of loneliness,” a colleague tells me.
* * *
A few hours later, a seemingly tireless volunteer leads a small group in song. Thin frail voices sing old fashioned hymns, and though my office is down the hall, the sound wafts my way and nearly breaks me apart.
Walking past, I hear her end in prayer: You know our hearts. We all desire healing.
Amen, I say, again and again, all the way home.