I decided to spend last Thursday in quiet contemplation. I wanted to take the day one minute at a time and just breathe. I didn’t want to worry about anything; I just wanted to be introspective. So that morning, I woke up slowly and took my time getting out of bed. I had a leisurely breakfast that consisted of a Powerbar and a diet coke. That certainly wasn’t an elegant or nutritious breakfast, of course, but I really didn’t care. I was thinking much deeper thoughts. I had to admit that I was sad, but not depressed. I just felt an overall achiness throughout my spirit that stopped me from being energetic. I finally got myself dressed and pushed myself to get on with my day. I didn’t have anything on my schedule, but I needed to get out of the house for a while. I planned just to run a few errands and then go back home.
My first stop was at Wal-mart to get my prescription filled. After placing my order with the pharmacy technician, I took a seat on the small, iron bench by the pharmacy counter as I waited for my order to be filled. As soon as I sat down, I suddenly heard a loud voice shouting from behind me. “What do you mean you don’t have it!” a female voice yelled. “No, you don’t understand. I need Holy Basil. Where is it?”
I tried not to pay attention, but I had nothing to distract me. I didn’t have my book with me and I didn’t want to search for my phone at the bottom of my purse. I told myself it was none of my business but as the woman continued screaming for the herbal supplement, I turned around for a quick glance. My eyes focused on a short, dark haired, older woman in a large trench coat and a brown scarf which was wrapped around her head. Her lined face was twisted into a hard scowl and her eyes blazed with anger.
Not wanting to catch her eye, I quickly turned back around in my seat. I didn’t want to stare at the woman. I didn’t want to listen to her but I couldn’t block out her voice as she continued to rage. “I can’t believe you don’t have it. You carry so many other herbal products. Why don’t you have that one? I know you have it somewhere. It helps with stress. And I have so much stress right now!”
Don’t we all, lady? I thought rudely. While I was getting anxious, the sales clerk answered in a calm voice. “Ma’am, I’m sorry. We just don’t carry that herb in stock…”
“It is called Holy Basil,” the woman repeated herself. “It is a common herb used to manage stress. I need it now. I swear I just saw it here with the other vitamins and herbs last week. I can’t believe you don’t have it now. I know it has to be here. Look again,” the woman ordered the clerk.
The sales clerk’s voice now began to rise in frustration as she stated, “Ma’am, I’ve already checked our stock twice. We don’t have it. I can try to order it for you….”
“But I needed it now,” the woman insisted. “You just don’t get it! I can’t handle my stress right now! I read that Holy Basil should help. You don’t know what my life is like. I have my elderly parents living with me right now. It is really stressful taking care of my mom and dad.”
I just shook my head hopelessly. So this woman is stressed because she has her parents living with her. God, what I won’t give to have my parents back with me again. Both my parents had crossed over. My father died of a brain aneurysm eighteen years ago.
And my mother…
Well, that very day was the seventh anniversary of my mother’s passing. And here I was listening to a woman complain because she had to live with her parents.
I had been living with my mother right before she passed. Mom had moved out to California from Kansas and lived in my studio apartment with me for the last nine months of her life. Though small disagreements, like when was the best time to take out the trash, would flare up from time to time, we got along well and I’m very thankful now that we had those last few months together. So now, I wanted to turn to the raging woman and say, “You don’t know how fortune you are. You still have your parents. Every single day, I miss just talking to my mother.”
And it is true. No matter how successful you are, you still need your parents. It’s hard to lose a parent no matter how old you are. I’m fortunate that I had my parents through most of my adulthood, but that didn’t make it any easier when they passed. Even as an adult, I felt no more prepared for their deaths than if I had been an orphaned child.
But now as I listened to the woman complain on the anniversary of my mother’s passing, I wanted to scream as I heard the woman’s voice continue in an anxious yell, “You just don’t understand. I can’t handle the stress.”
And then the woman’s voice began to choke with tears. “I have to take full care of my father while he is recovering from a major stroke. He has to learn to walk again and he doesn’t talk at all. And my mother, my mother has Alzheimer’s. Her dementia is so bad,” the woman suddenly sobbed, “her dementia is so bad, she doesn’t even know who I am.”
Oh, my God, I sighed heavily and tears burned my eye as I listened to the woman’s sobs. My father passed within two days of his brain aneurysm, and I only had to take care of my mother for five weeks after she had been diagnosed with colon cancer. I was my mother’s only caregiver, and I was constantly worried and anxious. How would I get Mom to all of her chemotherapy treatments and take care of all of her needs while working full time so I could continue to support us? I really tried to take care of my mother to be best of my abilities…but I know that I probably angry and tired, too. I’m surprised I hadn’t been standing in the middle of a Wal-mart somewhere screaming at the pharmacy clerk to find me something for stress. I know that in just those five weeks that I had took care of my mother before her death, I wasn’t always patient and kind, either.
I was ashamed now that I had judged this woman so unfairly. Her situation was none of my business in the first place, and therefore, it was beyond my judgment. So why did I make it my problem? Why did I take her behavior so personally? Now, I realized it was true. I never really know someone else’s situation or what they are suffering. I can never really know what another person is going through. Everyone is fighting a battle I know nothing about.
I wanted to get up from my seat and approach the woman. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was. But the woman was already walking away. She had given up on finding the herb she thought she so badly needed when instead maybe she just needed someone to understand what she was going through. I watched as the woman walked past me with her shoulders down and her head lowered. But I didn’t approach her. She was running past me so fast and my thought couldn’t seem to catch up with her. So instead, I prayed for her and asked God to send his blessings to her family. I also asked God to help me be more tolerant of other people’s emotions and outburst and to better understand other people’s situations. I prayed that all of us would find some level of peace that day.
I had no doubt right then that Momma, along with God and His many angels, were smiling down on all of us. And I smiled as I realized that there was no better way to honor the anniversary of my mother’s passing than to pray for another person seeking some a remedy for her home and family situation. I miss and love you. Rest in peace, Momma…
…And may God grant peace to all of us.