This I Believe

Sarah - Green Bay, Wisconsin
Entered on September 17, 2007

I believe in connections–the sort of connection that ties me to a 96 year-old woman whose home I now call my own.

Three years ago my husband and I bought a house whose previous owner had lived in it for over 60 years. She and her husband raised twelve children there, as my parents had in their home. I was aware the woman now resided in a nursing facility at the end of the block. Shortly after we moved into the house, we happened to meet her as her daughter pushed her up the sidewalk in her wheelchair. As we visited, I wanted the woman to trust we would do right by this house. She was pleased there would be children about the place and I told her how we looked forward to raising them there.

The woman and her children came by occasionally during the next few years–never knocking on our door, just wanting to be near and remember. I thought it must have seemed strange for her, even painful at times, and I wondered how my mom might feel if our family home were to become someone else’s. On one visit, her body and speech altered by a recent stroke, the woman verbalized little but expressed much when she said, “I miss this place.”

Two Sundays ago, I noticed the woman and her family on the sidewalk. As I greeted them, a daughter said the woman was receiving hospice care. I knelt down to say hello to the woman and touched her arm as I always did. The family said they were hoping to have a photo in front of the house. I felt relieved to be there to take the picture so they could all be in it. I took a few so one was sure to turn out: the woman in her wheelchair, wearing a cap that said, “Life is Good,” flanked by her loving family in front of their old house. A few days later, she died.

I believe in connections like the one between this woman and me. I learned to give meaning to them from my mom—a woman who also raised a big family and held it together. A woman who, rather than avoiding an old acquaintance in the store so she wouldn’t have to make small talk, would go out of her way to reconnect. A woman who would always go to the funeral. A woman who taught me by example to do for people in need. When I am mindful of connection, almost everything else seems to take care of itself. When I fail to appreciate connection, I know I am not being the person I am called to be. For me, out of an awareness of connections between and among people, much else flows: empathy, generosity, respect, love, investment in others’ life stories, a sense of justice, and faith that when we open ourselves to one another, we find God.