I met Mary Ann in Renaissance Assisted Living a little over a year ago. She was new to the facility. She struck me as having a great attitude. She wasn't there by choice. She was grieving her home. Yet, she wasn't resisting her current fate. She told me, "I'll get used to it and this will feel like home soon enough."
I paid careful attention in part because at that time, my parents were also grieving their house and former independence. They were still resisting their new reality.
They did settle in eventually. I was touched by the sincere expressions of sadness people expressed over my Step Mom's passing. I was moved and heartened by the genuine caring I felt toward my father, both from staff and other residents. I also experienced an unexpected show of support toward me, from Mary Ann.
Mary Ann came in to the dining room, and shuffled over with her walker to my side of the table where I sat with Dad and Dave. She asked me, "How are you doing?" "I'm okay," I told her. "Well, if you need someone to talk with, call me," she told me. "Thanks! I appreciate that," I replied.
It was hard for me to explain that we were experiencing more joy and love than grief and loss. It was hard for me - and us - to convey to anyone who hadn't been through the whole journey together how much sweet tenderness and grace there was in this loss. It hadn't occurred to me that I might need support. It hadn't occurred to me that I might reach out to an assisted living resident to get support. I was surprised - and touched - by Mary Ann's offer. If I had felt the need to talk, or even just had more time free from my focus on Dad, I would have taken her up on it. I wanted Mary Ann to know how deeply her offer affected me.
When Dad and I got up to leave, I asked him to excuse me for just a moment. I went over to Mary Ann's table and touched my heart. I said, "Thank you. Your offer means the world to me."
One of Mary Ann's table mates said, "Mary Ann has a beautiful heart."
"I figured that out about her right away," I replied. And I had. I just hadn't realized how confidently and generously she would share it.