Not too long ago, I had the privilege of meeting an 87-year-old lady we’ll call “Polly Pilly” at a hospital I work at a few hours a week. I know this name sounds REALLY made up, but, I’m telling you, it is VERY, very close to her real name. Just seeing her name on the medical chart made me want to run in and see what her face looked like. I was tripping over people’s rolling IV poles in the hallway trying to get in her room as quickly as possible.
Polly Pilly was all smiles when I opened her door. Within moments, I realized that she had no problems that I needed to address. When I wear my professional hat, I’m a speech pathologist. In hospitals, one of our roles is to evaluate a person’s ability to swallow safely and efficiently. Polly seemed to be doing very well as soon as I saw her. She was talking to me, laughing with the nurse and, in general, looking ready to head out the door and to the nearest casino. It seems that she had a neurological event that came and went within about 24 hours. Although I wouldn’t wish any type of event warranting a hospital stay on anyone, secretly, I’m so glad it happened to Polly Pilly.
I love that lady.
After doing what I came to do, Polly began sharing some stories like older people tend to do. She was making me laugh out loud repeatedly. Out loud! One of my favorite stories she told was about when her now-grown granddaughter was 5-years-old. Polly shared this story after talking about the church she loved, her faith and “those greedy preachers on TV.” She and her hard-of-hearing husband were babysitting their granddaughter one day after school. When the little girl came in through the front door after getting off the bus, she strutted into the kitchen to where Polly and her husband were sitting, hiked up her leg, pointed in between them and arrogantly said, “That’s my bagina” in a very, very matter-of-fact, straight-faced way and then went on about her afternoon.
I asked Polly if she shares this story when she sees her granddaughter now. She said, “OF COURSE! I always just ask her if she’s still got it.”
She had a few other funny stories like that, but she began to share more about her husband. Since I had the time, I listened. She said they were married for 57 years and that he was her best friend. After he got sick, he asked if he could go home to die beside his wife. He died in her arms. Her husband died a few years after her oldest son died. Hearing these things made me tear up, but Polly just smiled. She is confident that she will see them both again someday and realizes that life is short for all of us.
Hearing her perspective really weighed heavily on my heart as the days passed and I learned about two people I know who have lost their husbands. Within a week of each other, a family childhood friend of mine and a preschool teacher that took care of both of my sons in Mother’s Day Out when they were babies lost their husbands to brain cancer. The childhood friend of mine has 3 young kids with her husband and the youngest is a year old. The preschool teacher has 3 older kids with her husband.
They both loved their husbands very, very much. Both talk so openly about their husbands being their best friends. The loves of their lives. At the viewing for my childhood friend’s 35-year-old husband, she emphasized to her friends and family that we should never take our significant others for granted. Ever.
I loved that.
I know not all of us are married. Maybe we’re married and we don’t have the marriage we would like. Maybe we hope to be married again or to meet “the one” or maybe we love the single life. Despite where we are in our relationships, I know we all have people we love. Hearing Polly’s joy and perspective, and hearing her tell funny stories after being in so much emotional pain through the years, makes me realize that, despite the intense hurt we may feel at times, the sun really will come out tomorrow.
(Annie was so smart.)
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