She was about 80 and didn't consider herself old. She lived in a nursing home with her husband, who usually didn't know who she was. She couldn't hear, so doing therapy with her meant you had to write her notes, and very quickly. She was also extremely intelligent, probably gifted, but then in her era most people didn't care if a woman was gifted, and she was pushed to get married and have children. She got dialysis a few times a week, and I hadn't known how brutal a process this is, involving sitting up for hours and having huge bruises to show for it. She had one leg as her diabetes necessitated an amputation.
I never knew anyone as grateful for life as she was. She once told me that she knew I would cry for her when she died, but that she would be living in glory, happy as can be in a better place. Yet she was human. A doctor once talked down to her and she was understandably very angry. She was very religious and said that people with their egos made her sick. In mid-session she started to laugh and said, "Look at me! I'm not much better than he is or I wouldn't be so upset!" We talked about how it is easier to not involve the ego so much when not challenged by someone who is really stuck there and how quickly we can fall. She often said she loved me, and told me I was not a pompous ass. I would tell her sometimes in my field you end up being therapist to someone superior to you and you keep learning from them. She smiled.
Aleta Edwards, Psy.D.
I am a psychotherapist in private practice, with a strong interest in shame and perfectionism. I will periodically post my thoughts about these topics and other observations relating to emotional health.