I am just home from having made a difficult, but most memorable trip to Seattle. My sisters and I cleaned out the apartment of my mother who is struggling with Alzheimer’s, and got her settled in assisted living. It is indeed the beginning of “the long goodbye,” and it has been a good while since I have had such a tough week. But while it might be tempting to “kvetch,” (i.e. “fuss” in Yiddish,”) what I was struck by during my time in Seattle was the kindness of strangers.
First there were the staff members at the care facility. They hailed from all over: Ethiopia, the Philippines, India, and the States, and their tender care of my mom helped me to relax. I knew she was in good hands. Then there was the crew who manned the front desk. They were the cheerleaders who treated each victory at getting one more piece of furniture moved and squared away like a touchdown at a ‘bama/Auburn football game. They even bent the rules a bit and allowed my son and me to move some pieces through the lobby out into his waiting truck, rather than use the freight elevator and go out through the parking garage.
There came one day, though, down toward the end of the week where I “hit the wall,” as they say. My heart was breaking over having to watch my mom say goodbye to so many of her treasures because there simply was no room for them in her new location. Nerves were frayed, muscles were tired, tempers were short, and I needed a moment to “leave and grieve.”
The facility, one of the finest in Seattle, was undergoing extensive remodeling, which is always a nightmare. I found what I thought was nearly a secret passage where I figured I could let my tears flow without disturbing anyone, and wouldn’t you know it, I was discovered by the Director of Sales for the whole shootin’ match.
“Are you alright?” she asked. I managed to croak out an “I will be.” She intently listened to my brief description of what was going on, and said the simplest thing: “This is very hard, what you and your family are going through.” All I could do was nod in agreement. And then she, a complete stranger, showed me kindness that gave me the strength and space to settle down and go get back into the fray.
“Here,” she said, “Come into my office. I am going to be away for about 15 minutes, and you can have it all to yourself.” I let her lead me almost like a little child into my newfound “sanctuary,” and she closed the door and left. There I wailed and prayed. I thought of the cautionary tales all around me I was observing, and became more determined than ever to get my own life in order. I thought of the fact that at the age of 92, my mom’s days are limited, and how much I wanted to build the last part of my relationship with her on this earth. I wondered whether her mind would allow it.
Now, while Peggy, the Director of Sales probably has encountered someone in my temporary emotional state on several occasions, I am sure there is no place stated in the facility’s policy manual that she be required to let me use her office to have a come apart.( Hence, the subtitle of this Publisher’s Point: The Kindness Of Strangers.) While I intend to do my best to tell her what a difference her dear gesture
made to me in that hour of great need, I don’t think Peggy will ever know on this side that her spontaneous kindness gave me what I needed to get through a uniquely rough spot, regain my strength, and get back to my post. She made me want to “pay it forward,” and by God’s grace, I will.
Ali Elizabeth Turner
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