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.
She told me of her hard life, but said she was always close to her Creator and that this made her happy.She got around pretty well with one leg in her wheelchair. Even though she couldn't hear, she could talk, and others loved and respected her as a brilliant woman of much compassion. She was learning to use a prosthesis and explained to me how very painful it was, something I had not thought of before. But she said "Onward, onward," and how exciting it was, that it would be like having two legs, and she would be able to walk again. Then she got an infection on her foot. She was in the hospital a long time and did not heal. The infection spread and she ended up having her second leg amputated. I never saw such agony. Staff people were crying, and it was terrible.
She told me how she was about to use the prosthesis and now had no legs. The amputations were high and she literally had half a body. We talked about her spirituality and living from the mind, but it was awful for her. I would sit with her in her agony; grief is not a strong enough word. And then she would light up and say she was with her Creator and that she was happy. She said it doesn't matter how long one lives really, that you just transition, and that she doubted it was a big transition.
She said she knew I loved her, and of course she was right. She made a time to cry and a time to be angry, and then she and her Creator were together. She would talk about her wisdom, her children, her ideas about why she went through the things she did, and how she would become aware of how brief all of those experiences really were. She told me to stop feeling so bad for her, that suffering didn't matter because she knew who she was and that all of life was a spiritual experience. Once, asked if she was depressed, she shouted, "Never!" She said her grief was like waves and that she always liked the water.
She was exceptional. She made me search inside myself for that certain something that would enable me to endure what she had with such grace and even times of joy. I am still searching. She is a highly evolved soul and I honor her now. She was in my life as my patient, but was really a great gift. I honor her and wish her a million blessings.
4/7/2011 04:04:11 pm
I truly appreciate this blog and Dr. Edwards' book. She writes with such clarity and humanity, and makes me proud to be in this field.
4/14/2011 01:19:46 pm
This was beautiful.
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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.