My neighbor of 16 years passed away last week while I was away on my business trip. She was 94 and had lived on her own up until three months ago when her health started to decline, and was moved to a facility where she could be cared for.
Fiercely independent, she insisted on doing most things on her own. She rarely asked for help, and when she did ask, she did so reluctantly.
This tiny Italian-American woman was the epitome of strength. I can still see her riding the lawn mower she proudly purchased so she could do her own grass…at the age of 85. Ryan and I had a heart attack every time she rode that thing…but she loved it. She had numerous falls, but she always came back home from the hospital ready to continue living life on her own terms…such a fighter.
I hadn’t seen her or talked to her in her last three months. I thought about her often as I passed her house every day. But I never took the next step to visit or reach out. Part of it was due to my own selfishness…a large part of it, in fact. There were a million reasons why I didn’t have time. I was traveling for work. I had kids to attend to. I needed ‘me’ time. I hadn’t visited my own family as often as I would have liked.
In the end, none of that mattered. What matters is that I didn’t put those things aside for just a hour or two and stop to visit with her.
I think she knew we cared about her. I had visited quite often earlier in the year when she needed help on a daily basis …and it started to consume me emotionally. I wanted to do more for her, but I wasn’t technically ‘responsible’ for her. After becoming overwhelmed with that and life in general, I had to back away for the sake of my sanity. I couldn’t sit by and watch her struggle, but there wasn’t much else I could have done for her.
Except, I could have just been present. And therein lies the life lesson. Sometimes there’s nothing to do but just be.
May she rest in peace.