Monday, August 11, 2008

A Sad Soul

I have met my new friend Anette, a 77-year-old Caucasian widow during our church’s annual outreach project a few months ago. She doesn’t share my faith but she believes in the existence of God. She lives alone in a two-storey grandiose house with a big yard that needs regular mowing. With her limited pension, she can barely afford to hire a grass cutter. So we volunteered to do it, at least every other week till winter.

She has spent the prime of her life taking care of her ailing husband who eventually succumbed to diabetic complications while she was in her fifties. She has serious back problems (her tendons and ligaments have twisted due to heavy lifting of her husband while still alive) that run through her legs. She takes pain relievers daily which provided little comfort over time. The last hope is a back surgery which could cost her her life.

She is in such physical distress, but this is nothing compared to the pain that is searing through her heart. Anette is a very sad woman, with the burden of solitude weighing down her soul day by day. Her gaze reflects an inner ache, her voice a hollow vacuum.

Her children had long left her behind (2 daughters and a son are in Winnipeg while another son is in Toronto) to live their separate lives. Curiously, none of them bother to pay her a visit though they are only a distance away. They only meet on important family occasions like birthday or Christmas. Anette speaks fondly of her children and wishes in her heart that someday, all of them would have a happy reunion in that grand house of hers.

Something has gone wrong somewhere, and I am not about to pass judgment.

My family makes it a point to visit her every Sunday, just sitting for about two hours with her in the kitchen, talking about nothing over a cup of coffee. One time just as we were preparing to leave, Anette told me: “I hope I can fulfill whatever expectations you have from me”. I replied: “We don’t expect you to do anything for us, it is our pleasure to do something for you, and it had been a privilege that you allowed us intruders into your heart”. Her eyes were red with tears when we parted.

I am drawn to Anette, and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s my way of appeasing my guilt of leaving my mother behind. In my lifetime, I am happy that I am given the chance to meet this wonderful woman, and hopefully to touch her soul in a positive way.

But I will have to admit this - everytime I see her, I feel a gnawing fear inside me. She reminds me of how fragile life can be, and what will become of us all by the end of the road. When all is said and done and we have loved and given everything we have, and then find ourselves alone when dusk time comes, from where do we draw courage to get out from the abyss of despair and loneliness?

In my bed of thorns, He is the fragrant rose;
In my wilderness, He's the stream that flows;
A shelter built with loving grace,
His refuge shall be my dwelling place.
© 2002, New Spring Publishing, Inc./Chips and Salsa Songs

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