Sunday, July 16, 2006

Feeling "O-ld"

My daughter Natalie sits by Bea’s bedside. Bea recognizes Natalie immediately, which is unusual these days. Natalie bends down so her head is at the same level, leans in, and they start talking.

“Do you have a job?” Bea asks, an important point of reference in this modern world.

“I do. I have a good job. I take care of myself and make a lot of money.”

“How did you manage that?”

“I’m smart, like my Grandma.”

Bea’s smile is wider than I have seen in a long time and it lasts. Natalie’s comment has given her a big kick. That smile alone surely makes the visit worthwhile. Bea looks up at Natalie with love and pride while listening to a description of what the job entails.

“How do you feel?” Natalie then asks.

“I feel o-ld,” Bea says softly.

The way she divides “old” into two syllables says a lot more than the word. It intimates that she is going to die soon and leave her darling granddaughter. The delivery is almost apologetic, as if one should be expected to live forever. But Natalie knows better. She’s a grown woman now, not the child Bea used to receive in her home over many summers.

“You are old,” Natalie says simply.

She, too, communicates more than the meaning of those three words. Her voice offers acceptance of the reality Bea fears, the approach of death and separation from the people she loves.

Sometimes words do not express everything. It is the way we say those words and the emotions behind them that communicate true meaning….

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