For more than two years the woman from Zimbabwe has been confined to her small, ninth floor room in the local charity hospital without any where else to go.
The morning paper said that she was involved in a car accident that left her alive, but unable to move anything other than a finger. Slowly, painfully she points at a letter board to spell out what she wants to say.
Though her home is in Zimbabwe, she was in the states visiting her two grown children when she was involved in a terrible car accident.
Her current hospital bill exceeds a million dollars, but she doesn’t have insurance to cover the cost of returning to Zimbabwe and her round-the-clock care is more intense and complicated than either of her children can manage, so she is confined to her single, small, sterile hospital room.
Interviewed for the article, her children described the way their mother talks about wishing she were dead. She hates her confinement, the endless monotony her life has become and feeling like a burden to others.
Her son lamented how hard it was to have a parent who, more than anything, wants to die.
I imagined this woman, this mother, from Zimbabwe lying there with an itch on her face. How long would it take to spell out a request for someone to scratch it? How maddening!
I thought about her wish to be dead.
I imagined what it might be like to be so completely reliant on others all day, every day.
I thought about her children’s lives since the accident, forever changed by the new routine of hospital room visits, medical administration, worry, guilt …
For the first time since my grandmother’s death I understood its gift.
My grandmother suffered through a violent car accident too, but she passed away quickly and, most likely, painlessly.
She was lucky in her death.
I’ve known this all along, but somehow the details from the story in the paper made it more real.
I understood what it truly would have meant for my grandmother to survive her car accident.
My granny would have hated living the way the woman from Zimbabwe is forced to live.
In a very strange way, I felt glad for my granny.
I felt grateful that she didn’t suffer and that she went quickly.
Then I stopped and smiled.
Gladness and gratitude?
Those are new, eh?
Maybe I’m making a little progress with this whole grief thing.