I know earlier I said my next post was going to be on the tornado cleanup and that I would share a story from a tornado survivor… but things changed after I published my last post. Here is another story… from another survivor…
Late this afternoon (yesterday now) I was informed that one of my clients passed away earlier in the day. I cried and then was in a state of shock the rest of the afternoon, because she is one of my clients that I have become very close to over the past two years.
Everyone is asleep and has been for hours but I just checked my phone and it’s 2am. I can’t sleep. She has been on my mind all evening and I’m struggling right now. Her death was very unexpected to everyone and I was scheduled to see her again at the end of the month. (wrote it last night but since didn’t get a lot of sleep, had a rushed morning so only now able to post)
A little background:
I met Rose (name changed) over two years ago. Her husband shot her in the neck and then turned the gun on himself. She survived the shooting but it left her a quadriplegic. She required extensive long-term medical care and was unable to stay at home with her family. For the past several years, she has lived in a long-term care facility seeing her daughter and family only every other weekend (only facility really capable of managing her high needs medical care was several hours away from her home). She did speak to her family everyday via speakerphone but I know that it was not the same thing as being home with your loved ones in person.
Not once in two years did Rose ever grumble or complain about her situation to me. Every time I met with her, she had a smile on her face and would always ask about Bugaboo. I was pregnant when I first met her, so she has kept up with Bugs from the beginning. I always showed her the latest photos of him and shared the latest accomplishments and milestones. She in return, would share about her daughter. Her beautiful young daughter excelled in school and wanted to become a doctor when she was older. Rose always beamed when she talked about her and swelled with motherly pride when I looked through the new photos her family brought of her daughter.
I knew she would get lonely so I would try to arrange for volunteers to go over during the week to read with her or just keep her company. Lately, we haven’t had any volunteers so, I would try to go and see her in between our normal scheduled visits. It was difficult for her to talk for a long period, so sometimes we would just sit in silence and watch some TV or laugh at a comedy show.
The latest of such visits, about two weeks ago, I took Bugaboo with me. I had taken him before to visit but it had been awhile. Bugs did great. He immediately took to her and babbled away as if he had known her forever. He counted to ten for her and then showed her his Buzz and Woody toys from Toy Story. Bugaboo spotted a birthday balloon on a stick that she had near her bed and he wanted to play with it. Rose just smiled as she watched him play with her balloon and told him that he could have it. She then told me about her latest visit with her daughter and that she made the honor club at school and a national honor society. She was so proud of her. She told me that she wanted her to excel in school and keep straight. She wanted her to stay away from boys until she was finished with school and make smart choices in future men she dated. She said that her mother and family were doing a great job raising her and she was pleased.
I couldn’t imagine being away from Bugaboo and only seeing him every other weekend for an afternoon… never being able to attend any school functions, parties, etc. I still can’t imagine how hard it was for her to hear everything about her daughter’s life after the fact and yet she never complained about any of it. She spoke of the things her daughter did as if she had been there first hand to witness it. Rose had such a great spirit about her and relied on her faith to get her through each day. I’m sure she struggled at times with her situation and would get down at times, but she never really let on.
At the end of our last visit, we talked about moving some of her photos around in her room so she could see them better and I promised to do it the next time I came alone. I made Bugs say thank you for the balloon and he kissed her on the forehead. As we were walking out the door, Bugaboo said, “Bye”, “love you, and “see you later.” She had the biggest smile on her face when we left the room. I’ll never forget it.
I only hope that she enjoyed the visit as much as I did. I even came back to the office the next day and told everyone that in my two years visiting her, that was our best visit yet.
Here is a woman who had every right to be bitter and angry about the hand that was dealt her and yet she kept a positive attitude and would actually thank me each time I came to see her. I should have been the one to tell her thank you. She inspired me.
I also can’t stop thinking about her daughter. She has been through so much in her young life dating back to when she witnessed her father shoot her mom and then shoot himself. She lost her mom for the first time when she had to live apart from her, and now she has lost her for a second time. My heart literally aches for her. Rose shared a lot with me about the life she wanted for her daughter, and how she was so proud of her for being strong through everything. I think I may write a letter to her one day and tell her some of the things her mother shared with me over the past two years.
Rose isn’t hurting anymore and is in a better place. She knew there was a reason and a purpose she survived the shooting and made the most of her situation. There have been several times over the past two years that I wondered how she made it through everyday. How could she lie in the same bed and room day after day for years and still have a great attitude? I believe it was all for her daughter. A mother’s love is a strong, powerful thing. I lied down with Bugaboo until he fell asleep and then just stared at him for what seemed like forever. I finally understood how Rose felt in that moment. I would do anything for Bugaboo and do whatever it took to be with him for as long as I could and that is what she did. She wanted to be strong for her daughter and fought to stay around for her.
Rose was a survivor. There was so much more to her story than what I’ve shared and I don’t ever want to forget her or the things she taught me through her story. Whenever we had any social work interns or practicum students with us, I would always have them read her chart and would then take them to meet her, because she was such a strong person and truly an inspiration to all who met her. No one ever walked away untouched.
I left straight from work to the gym and had not had a chance to tell anyone what happened and when I came home from the gym last night, Bugaboo was outside with his daddy playing in the yard… with Rose’s balloon… (I didn’t think to snap a pic last night of Bugaboo playing with it so just took one on my lunch break with my phone)
I’m really going to miss her.