Something happened yesterday that surprised me.
It shouldn't have.
Freda lives in the neighbourhood where I work as an advocate at Christie Gardens. She says very little. Days might go by without her speaking, and if she does, she only says "yes" or "no." She still communicates, though. She has the most incredible smile that makes the sun rise and the stars twinkle. Her face lights up whenever she sees me, and it makes my day. She can't walk, so she spends her days in a wheelchair. A staff member assists her with her meals because she has difficulty swallowing, and she eats slowly and carefully. Sometimes she coughs.
She and Susan sit at the same table. Susan is a tiny, Asian lady who is non-verbal. Her gorgeous brown eyes follow your movements but she doesn't smile or speak. She has multiple challenges with meals as well, and assisting her to eat is a long and sometimes difficult process. There were times when my heart would break for her as she struggled.
The two ladies sat beside each other at opposite corners of the table for well over a year. They didn't talk, but they communicated.
Just in case you think meals are serious and silent, let me assure you the opposite is true. Those of us who are helping, talk and laugh and communicate with everyone at the table, including these two ladies. Freda laughs with her whole body when something strikes her as funny. Susan watches with her chocolate eyes and listens. We love them all.
Two nights ago, Susan died. After many months of struggle, she left us as she lived her last few years. Quietly.
Yesterday at lunch, the care partner who was helping Freda asked if Susan was coming to lunch. Another care partner replied, in a hushed voice, "She died last night."
There was a pause. Although I didn't notice at first, Freda's face turned crimson. Huge tears rolled down her cheeks and she began to sob. Immediately we rushed to hug her and reassure. Her friend suffered no pain. Susan was free from her struggles now.
It took several minutes for Freda to stop sobbing, and we held her tight and silently mourned with her. Although they had never said a word to each other, there was an unspoken
I was surprised, but I learned a lesson that day, and I will never be surprised again.
"Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." Matt. 5:4
*the names have been changed