The distraught woman could hardly sit still at our Love & Lunch meeting. She kept looking around and talking about how her head was spinning.
Then she said, “I lost someone dear to me. “
The other women offered their sympathy. I listened to my 6th sense. This was more than grief.
She then told a story of how this man meant everything to her. How he had paid her rent and called her regularly, picked her up and drove her to the mall, making her get out of bed when she had no motivation. Since his death she has been homeless, moving from friend to friend, place to place.
Then she said, “I held his hand while he died. He was sitting right next to me, and I held his hand til it turned cold.”
I felt my own mother’s presence. Her last words were to my father. “Hold my hand.” So he did. For the last 2 hours of her long and lovely life. And my brother Paul took her other hand for the very end.
I listened to my intuition and asked my distraught friend when he had died. “2012” came the answer. “I know I am stuck. I have to get on with my life.”
We listened to her. “I am the only one who knows how I feel.”
I agreed with her. I said, “All of us here have lost someone. We all know what loss feels like to us. Two of the women have come from El Salvador. They left their families and loved ones behind. Two of the women from the island of Jamaica came here for a new start. We all know how our own grief feels, but only you know how your grief feels.”
She spoke of the emptiness. Our prayer for the day spoke of God’s longing to fill that emptiness. It spoke of Teresa of Avila and her great love for the Divine.
I asked my new friend if she would allow us to hold her hand as she had held the hand of the man she loved, as she did for him what no one else could do.
Her face shifted with this idea. Someone to hold her hand. She looked somehow peaceful. She then said with a lighter voice that her doctor had told her to find a women’s group. I told her she is welcome in our women’s group every Wednesday from 11 to 1.
She seemed relieved and peaceful, even smiled, surrounded by a world of new friends to share her story.
In the afternoon I went to my IVC meeting. There were losses there too. A few members had not come back. Some agencies were no longer available. And a few of our spouses were sick or injured.
I told about the woman who held her beloved’s hand until he died. We all know how wonderful and important it is to have someone to hold our hand. Then each recounted how long he/she has been with IVC. I started the Long Island Chapter in 2002. Dennis came in 2003 or 4. Jack followed, then Nick, then Fr. Damian our Jesuit Animator, then Maryellen, our coordinator. We spoke of all the places we had held our meetings, and some of the placements and people from the past.
Our deep gratitude for all the people who have gone before us or come with us, all those who prepare our books and readings, our retreats and blogs, and for our pope and his open approach to God working. We really heard Pope Francis focusing on the person, not just “the poor”, but the person. Our readings even quoted Dorothy Day feeling sorry for an administrator who wanted to eliminate poverty, but never spoke of the people.
Our contact with those who are struggling is a source of gratitude and humility. We know we need God’s love and help, and we are willing to be acting from a place of gratitude and love. Thank you God for sharing our church’s treasure of those people who are willing to receive our love in their poverty and in our poverty until the two poverties become one for the greater glory of God.
Louise M. Sandberg is a IVC Spiritual Reflector and Volunteer, as Director of the Mary & Elizabeth Center which reaches out to women in need on Long Island, NY. She is a pediatric home care nurse and facilitates Wildflower groups for women healing from childhood abuse, praying for healing of feelings and memories.