The first time I saw her last summer - an old, frail-looking woman walking so slowly with a cane to brace her steps - my heart instantly went out to her. I thought to myself a woman this age should not be left alone. She had difficulty walking, each stride carefully taken else she would lose her balance. If it were not for her cane, she would definitely trip off.
I had to resist my initial reaction to help her. Something told me she was different. She was limping, and was literally dragging herself when she walked. But I also saw determination in every step she took. From the way she moved, she seemed to have gone through a heart stroke, which probably rendered half of her body paralyzed.
Every morning since then, she had become a familiar sight to all of us. We would see her garbed in her sweaters with matching toque and scarf, rounding off the corners of the walkway in our apartment complex, all by herself.
I tried to imagine myself in her shoes.
"Oh, it is utterly helpless to be trapped in a body that will not let me do what I want to do, or to be dependent on a piece of wood to keep me standing. It is so tiring to physically drag myself from the comfort of my bed just to brace the early morning creepy chill, just to fulfill this hateful walking regimen. Oh, this entire thing is so pathetic, and so hopeless. When will I see the end of it?"
I had to correct myslef - does she really think that way?
"Oh, now, I no longer have to drag myself from bed just to get up. Thank God I have this most reliable cane to bear me out. It is cold outside but the sunshine would feel good on my skin, and maybe I can complete 10 corner rounds instead of the usual 8 this time. Oh, how good it is to feel that I am improving everyday. How it gives me hope that I am making progress day by day".
Yesterday, my daughter and I saw her walking down the pathway again. She still had the cane in her right hand, but her steps are faster this time, more resolute, more assured, more determined. She has definitely gone a long way compared to the first time I saw her.
My daughter said she pitied the woman. I told her no, she did not need pity. She is to be admired and modeled for her courageous spirit. She's made a choice to overcome her circumstances, and I know she will.
2 years ago