I want to share a story.
I do not know. I wish so much, so much – that I did.
I was 7 years old. We were visiting my mother’s sister Jenny at the home that she lives in, in Pretoria. Jenny has Cerebral Palsy and lives in a large place with others that have disabilities ranging from head injuries to simple physical restrictions.
My mom was in Jennifer’s room, and being a curious and emotionally driven child, I remember standing in the door way and looking down the long passage. There were a few people in wheelchairs, some quiet and still, and others making a noise. So, I did what any child would do, and meandered off towards them to get a better look.
But… before I got to them, I got to the doorway of the room of a woman that I will remember and be grateful for, for the rest of my life.
She looked at me at the same time as I saw her. She had short dark hair that was sticky with sweat and clung to her pale face. She was in her bed, and looked so small and frail. I didn’t think of it then, but now – I know she was no older than 30. Close to the age I am now.
I was overwhelmed with sadness, even at that age, and stepped in and walked over to her bed. As I got closer, I saw that under the blankets, she had no legs. She noticed me see that, and her eyes filled with tears. Her throat moved with her sorrow, and I knelt next to her bed, and watched her eyes and the deep, deep pain that she was in.
She said nothing when I said hello. I saw her hand, and took it in mine. I smiled, and she smiled back, through her crying, and I kissed her face.
I sat with her for what felt like a long time. I don’t really know how long it was. I remember though that a sister from the home apparently stood in the doorway for some time, and watched quietly. I heard her say, “My name is Michelle”
The woman in that room couldn’t speak. No one ever visited her. She didn’t smile. When I asked the nurse what was wrong Michelle, I got a strange look.
How do you know her name?
She told me.
Michele can’t speak, baby. Did you see her name on the door?
No. She told me…
She passed away the next day.
If I could talk to her I would ask her, and tell her that she was loved. That she was beautiful. And that, even though I was just a curious kid, she touched my life in a way that left an impression that is one of my clearest memories, even thirteen years later.