I spent a lot of time in my previous job speaking to people. Many of them who were near to then end of their lives, many who were terminally ill or were dealing with life altering conditions. Some were young, as young as 8 years old and still afraid of the Boogie Man. Others were ancient, 80, 90 years old and had survived not one, but two World Wars. All of them fighting their own battles, but each one of them had one thing in common, they needed someone to listen, someone to talk to.
For the most part, I was there to make sure that they were taken care of. Administering meds at different times of the day, cooking up nutritious meals for breakfast, lunch & supper, that sort of thing. But, that was the easy part, because although all of these things contributed to their well-being, the only thing all of them wanted was someone to talk to, someone who would really listen to them.
You see, they’d talk all day, most of them anyway. Talk to their daughters 3000 miles away, enquiring about their health and what they were eating. They’d talk to their doctors who’d ask them about their symptoms and medication refills. They’d talk to their friends who never stopped by anymore, because their lives were far too busy. Talk, talk, talk! Lots of talk about lots of important things, but all they really wanted to talk about was what was on their minds.
I guess that’s where I came in. I’d sit and listen for hours as a 98 year old war veteran suffering from cancer, would tell me about scaling the Straits of Gibraltar. I’d listen to a 9 year old girl, who suffered from more than 10 epileptic episodes a day, tell me all about her imaginary friend Bunny and their magical adventures. I’d listen as 48 year old artist and icon, dying of an incurable brain disease, shared her life stories with me, using what was left of her memory and limited vocabulary. I’d listen to them all talk about love, life, loss, about their fears, their hope and dreams, about how they’d been forgotten, how all they wanted was for someone to care, all they wanted was to say the things they never got to say.
I have conversations with people because sometimes all anybody needs is someone to listen, sometimes people just want to hear about your problems to escape their own bleak reality. Sometimes it’s just good to know that there’s someone else in the room and you’re not alone.
Most of the time, it wasn’t so much what they said, but what they didn’t say that stayed with me. Their eyes and body language spoke louder than any words could ever and the saddest part was that their daughters 3000 miles away or friends who only remembered them by means of Christmas Cards once a year would never hear those unsaid things, which could not be said in a letter or in telephone calls. The conversations I had with these individuals are some of the most memorable and treasured conversations I’ve had in my lifetime and they will stay locked in my heart forever.
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