“…because life is short.” And she so clearly meant it – even though she struck me as too young to really get this concept. I had asked her how she was – and when she asked the question back of me I replied that I was happy. I surprised myself. I knew I was a little manic and feeling good. I knew that I was also grieving the death of my best friend just five days earlier. Happy – interesting.
How old was she? 26? Who am I to be deciding what kind of wisdom people are or are not capable of? She had a radiant, benevolent demeanor. She was physically beautiful, but even more she was personally beautiful. When she smiled at me, I felt really seen – she showed up with a lot of power, like there were no layers of self-protection. She was poised and grounded, but also willing and able to really extend to the other, to connect. I lit up because she was so lit up. We have lots of cool customers, but some of them really take your breath away.
I was totally fascinated by who she was and how she got to be this way. I think that young people feel that life will go on forever, unless they have had tragic death around them. (My son had several suicides and car accidents in his circle when he was around 20 years old.) I asked her, “How did you come to understand all this?” She said she worked on the farm her family leases, that she has two kids and a husband and some extended family around. That she was from Mexico. “I learned this from my mother – she told us that life is short.” I think she said that she had not had deaths around – just that she got the concept.
I knew the truth that life is short because my best friend died last Saturday. He actually had a good long life at age 86, but when his end came, it came so breathtakingly fast. The ER doctor on Thursday said he had ten weeks left (dramatically shorter than the previous most pessimistic prognosis of one year, with his prostate cancer spread to his bones and his liver) – and then he lasted about 36 hours. When the hospice nurse called me at 5:15 a.m. on Saturday, I knew immediately what the call must be. She apologized, “We usually try to call in time for family and friends to come in before the patient passes on, but he skipped some steps.” It’s a truism that it was merciful for him: he was in a lot of pain and his proud independence would have suffered even more from becoming incapable to take care of himself. It just wasn’t the right timing for us. (His son was en route from Ontario.)
I felt so connected with Elena that I broached the topic that I was mostly reserving for coworkers – I told her about Monty’s passing. Her immediate compassionate response touched my heart. I have been in and out of being able to genuinely feel around this, but looking at the sweetness of her face and the love in her eyes, I was able to feel. What a gift to give someone – to help them feel. I’ve got a hunch that Elena helps the people around her feel the gamut of feelings. I really do want to only want to be me, but part of me wishes I had grown up in her family. I always wanted a sister.
Elena – I told you I was going to write this, and you said I could use your name. Did I get it right? What would you change or add? Thanks for coming through my line.