I was coming out of Trader Joe’s this morning and putting the cart back in the parking lot area when an elderly lady was struggling to take one out. She could barely keep herself up. I took mine to her and said, “Here, ma’am, you can have mine.” I helped her get her empty bags and belongings in it. She looked up at me with such a shocking expression.
“Thank you,” she kindly said. To which I said, “No problem.”
“These days, at 85, I am invisible.” Tears formed in her eyes. And, I thought to myself, “It’s only a cart, not a million dollars…!” I told her that she wasn’t invisible. She stood there with such gratitude that I got a bit weepy. I was taken aback. Are we, as a society, that self-absorbed that we don’t see the joy in giving a simple supermarket cart to an elderly person? Well, of course, that moment opened up conversation for sweet Margaret and I. We stood there sharing what kindness is in this world and how it’s truly missing from so many. We hugged. She rolled herself into the store and I got into my car. Then it hit me like a giant freight train. Her word, “invisible” was exactly what I needed in order to release my own truth. I was transported back to a memory that I had forgotten.
Fifteen years ago I had a traumatic brain injury that to this day is still present. I was 33 years old. I woke alone in a park around midnight, with blood draining from my forehead, hands, and knees. I had a huge blot clot on the back of my head. I woke up thinking I was 19 years old. When I was finally taken by police and ambulance to the nearest hospital I was in and out of consciousness. As the next day developed I didn’t recognize any of my six children or my ex-mate at the time. I didn’t recognize anything from 2001. I was stuck in 1989. After 24 hours of scans, questions, spinal tap and other intrusive testings I was placed in room to heal and wait for the results of all the exams. They truly didn’t know the cause of my accident or what to do with me. I was stuck and felt invisible.
That night, I woke to go to the bathroom. Until that moment I hadn’t looked in the mirror. I still believed that I was 19 and I was being lied to…some conspiracy theory. It was like an episode from The Twilight Zone. No one believed me…not one person could understand how I ended up with such severe head trauma without memory. I saw my reflection and lost it in that bathroom. It’s bad enough that the lighting is atrocious but to see the aging from a teenage girl to a woman was devastating. To see scars and scratches and everything that was not there before was overwhelming.
I returned to bed and sobbed. I kept pulling on my IV as if that was the only lifeline available. I wanted someone to just point me into the right direction. I feared everything that night. I wanted to understand what had happened and how I was going to handle this new life…
…because, I knew I would be sent with total strangers to a home that wasn’t mine. Because I was not able to understand why I was at a park alone in the middle of the night. Because I had a new mate who was way older than me and not the husband that I had at 19. Because, because, because this was total shit and I was angry that I could not make heads or tails of this life that others insisted I was part of. Because, let’s face it you don’t know how strong you are until you have to use your strength to survive.
Shortly thereafter, a bodacious gorgeous black nurse entered my room. She checked my vitals. She held my hand while I sobbed. Then she grabbed a chair and sat next to me. She had a Jamaican accent. She was lovely. Her name tag said, “Cinthya” which I found endearing because of the spelling.
Cinthya sat with me for a long while. She asked questions. She let me cry and be completely raw. She told me things. These things have stayed with me over 15 years. She said that things happen every single day to push us to grow. I asked her what this particular event in my life was suppose to teach me? Cinthya stared into my eyes with her huge black gorgeousness and clearly said to me, “You will find the reason for it one day. You are not invisible so stop acting like you are. You have an opportunity to touch the world with compassion. And, even though you have not been shown compassion during the last 35 hours of this incident, I promise you that you will take this experience and pay it forward. You will have no choice but to live from your truth.” She showed me such compassion. And, eventually I fell asleep and Cinthya left.
In the morning I asked the other nurse to please ask Cinthya to come say goodbye before her shift was over. She assured me that there was no one with that name on that floor. She and two other nurses were the only ones working my room that night. I insisted that this woman had visited me. I even pointed to the chair drawn closer to the bed. The nurse, again, suggested that perhaps I had dreamed it because there was, “No one here during night, plus visiting hours stopped earlier in the evening.”
Now, folks, I might have dreamed that an angel came to console me. I might have been delusional with all the meds pumped for the pain in the body and my spinal tap. I don’t know. I don’t care because I lived that moment from a place of truth and compassion. But, what I do know is that someone took that chair and moved it closer to me. Some magnificent woman shared divine wisdom about grace, forgiveness, and how we are all here to love and change the world. She was pure love and I promised myself that I would always be open to every single experience that came my way, especially if I never got my memory back. To this day, I have lost a tremendous chunk of memories from when my children were young. But I also know that those experiences are somewhere in my cellular memories.
Today, Margaret reminded me of how we are failing in our compassion and kindness departments. We love to look out into the world and pretend that we can make a difference by wanting to do things “out there” when we need things in our own backyards. We forget that every single freaking day we get an opportunity to touch another. I am so grateful that on a daily basis I can experience it…one way or another.
When an elderly woman breaks over handing a shopping cart, there has to be something that we can learn from her. We are here to serve society with kindness and gratitude. I had just dropped off a huge car load of clothes and bedding to an abuse/battered women shelter before going to the supermarket. I was in full speed raw vulnerability and open to such gratitude for all that I have. I lead a charmed life. Margaret reminded me of such powerful acceptance and awareness. We are in this together.
Get your butts out there and help the elderly, the homeless, the children, and the neighbors in your area. They won’t ask for help. Your only job in this lifetime is to be kind and love. Pay it forward…you never know when your life can be altered in a second. Happy holidays and remember what this season is really about: LOVE!
I love you!!! You are NOT invisible. I see you. I feel you. I am connected to you.