[This post is written by my wonderful younger sister, Sarah. She is out on an adventure in the world, and she wanted to tell a story from where she works; a nursing home in Australia.]
I knew a man of few words.
Literally, very few words. He was able to speak 13 words and these were used rarely and only when prompted. He could count to ten, say his first name, and “good boy” in reference to himself. He was born with a mental deficiency which caused his inability to communicate verbally. Who knows what his mental “age” of cognitive understanding was. To me he was a 63 year old resident with a beautiful spirit who could communicate volumes. He was estranged from his family and fell under the care of the state, who knows when, who knows why. He ended up at the nursing home where I am employed, a place which specializes in caring for mentally ill geriatric patients.
His past is a mystery and will quite probably remain so.
For a man in his position he was extremely kind and joyful – never once did I see him lash out towards anyone in frustration or anger. He would even protect his nurses from other angry residents, stepping in between the aggressor and his nurse, ensuring her (sometimes his) safety. He would show his joy by rubbing his hands together in a “namaste” position with a big grin on his face, and would jump with happiness.
He loved to dance and would take your hand while grooving to the beat, smiling and infecting everyone around him with his effervescence. It was a difficult task to find anyone who disliked this man. Even with his inability to speak, he understood what was spoken to him and always found a way to respond in his own special manner.
Sadly he passed away last week. It was quite sudden and came as a shock to us all. His funeral consisted of a handful of staff who could manage to get out of work, his roommate, and two other residents.
My heart breaks with the inherent injustice of this situation. How is it that such a kind soul can lead such a difficult and limited existence, while incredibly dark and cruel spirits out there roam the world free to explore all it has to offer? Why?
My partner says, “Well, this isn’t heaven and life isn’t fair.” Yes yes, I know this very well. It doesn’t stop my heart from grieving and wanting to make this sort of injustice known.
So I write.
I ask anyone reading this to be aware that there are people out there – beautiful, magnificent people – who deserve your love and attention, kindness, patience and perseverance to help them experience the best that life has to offer during our collective time on this planet. If you meet someone with a mental or physical deficiency/trauma/impairment, please treat them as you would anyone else. Even go so far as to show a bit of love and compassion. Please do not stare, do not make snarky comments or laugh at the way they communicate and interact with the world around them. Also, do not be afraid of them – they are simply people. You do not know their story and this is just the lot they were given. I cannot speak for everyone, but I can make a guess that they are making the most of it. Just like you. Just like me.
I write this in honor of the man of few words, that his story might inspire change.