A Blessing to Others
(original post March 5, 2015)
I just returned from a bus trip downtown to where I worked up until September 2010 (when benzo withdrawal took me down). It’s a very cold snowy morning, so, within minutes of coming in the door, I had my sweat pants and a soft, long-sleeve Penn State T-shirt on. I left very early this morning and did not have time to sit and enjoy my daily coffee quota. So, yes, my next-to-favorite mug is here beside me filled with a nice brew. I even have some tunes from London’s Best Smooth Jazz quietly playing and the window shades pulled up so I can see the snow continue to fall. It’s a perfect scenario for reflecting on the day that has transpired thus far.
My trip this morning was an annual trek into the city to deliver a bagful of chocolate candy (and some Swedish Fish) to a woman I used to work with. Today is her birthday which I remember only because it is three days before my son’s birthday. She wasn’t there this morning because she was snowbound, so I put the bag of candy on her desk and “visited” with other former co-workers.
As I sit here and rerun the day through my mind, a few different things stand out. I woke up very early and lay in bed thinking about the trip and whether I wanted to travel in the nasty weather or postpone it and just stay home till another day. I ran the alternative options for the day’s activities through my head if I were to cancel my trip. The first thing that came to me was that I might compose the “white paper” I had mentioned in my book. It has to do with exploring a new paradigm of addressing mental health care (both diagnosis and treatment). I had also mentioned a new paradigm in previous posts here. The white paper would begin to put “flesh” on the skeleton alluded to in those previous posts. My brain began to get “in the zone” as I lay there, so I quickly keyed in some words and ideas in an email to myself (since the laptop in my bedroom has less than useful word processing capabilities).
Nevertheless, I decided that I needed to make the quest into the city for one other reason - one that I had put off for a very long time. During most of the first eleven months of my withdrawal experience (which started when I quit drinking in October 2009), I went to my place of employment in the city (which is not to say I was particularly functional during that time). A woman named Barb would get off at the same bus stop, and, over time, I confided in her about what I was going through. She was very compassionate and made many of those annoying “suggestions” to me, but I could tell she was really concerned about me. She prayed for me. She had members of her church pray for me. She even brought me a bottle of “blessed” water one morning – “Don’s Blessed Water” was written in marker on the bottle. (Not sure what that meant, but it was the thought that counted.)
In September 2010 (one month after my last dose of clonazepam), pure terror hit me and I could no longer go to work. I never returned. I’m sure she had no idea what happened to me or if I was even alive. Over the next four years, I had often seen her as I drove by her bus stop to go pick up my grandson. I would always tell myself that one day I would stop, but I never have.
This morning I purposed to get on the early bus despite the snow. Maybe she would also board the bus. As the bus approached her stop, it began to slow down. I couldn’t see the stop because I was in a side-facing seat. One person boarded and walked by me to her seat. It was Barb. She appeared to be very tired and sat down, immediately closing her eyes. I didn’t say anything. In another twenty minutes, we were pulling up to our bus stop. I got off first and waited until she caught up to me. I spoke to her, “Do you remember that guy you used to pray for who was so sick?”
She looked at me strangely because she didn’t recognize me. (I had a full beard then which has been reduced to a goatee.) She responded, “Yes.”
I glibly said, “He is me.” (The excitement obviously affected my grammar. I don’t normally sound that moronic. )
She stared at me and we hugged. “Oh my goodness! It is you. For the longest time I asked other people on the bus if they knew what happened to you.”
I then caught her up on what has been happening with me and that I am so very well now. She remembered me and the blessed water. But the highlight was that she told me this made her day and that she was so blessed to know that I am alive and well. She thanked me over and over for making the trip so I could let her know. It was like a celebration.
I have been processing that encounter ever since we parted this morning. She could truly discern that I had been in anguish all of those mornings years ago. She couldn’t feel the torment, but she saw the pain somehow. She didn’t try to “fix” it by telling me what I needed to do to make it better. She didn’t tell me to pray harder or have stronger faith. She didn’t tell me that I needed to act. She “acted” by doing things for me – praying, giving me water that had been blessed in some way, and especially by listening to me whine and whine and whine. She had an “active” part in trying to help me.
In doing those things for me, even though they didn’t make me feel one iota better at the time, they blessed me because they were an expression of her love and compassion for me. I think, in some sense, I returned that blessing to her today – not so much in my compassion toward her for having compassion on me, but more because of her joy in knowing that she had a part in my healing. She was blessed because what she prayed for came to pass. And what she prayed for had to do with love for another human being. It’s one of those simple yet profound mysteries that I recognize but will never understand with my human brain. It has something to do with the Creator’s love.
Soon time to go out and shovel some snow. Life is good.