I stopped my car in the street a while back to let an old man cross the road in front of me. Well, he was crossing anyway, so I kinda had to. He was small, and he had long, grey, straggly hair and a long, beige, saggy coat. He was hunched right over and he shuffled his feet and carried some bags. I am willing to bet he hadn't showered in quite a while, and I'm willing to bet he didn't live with a roof over his head. And unconsciously, involuntarily I felt this surge of feeling towards him. My insides just filled like a rising tide with sympathy and care and sadness... grief for him, because this is not how it was meant to be. Once, perhaps way back in his youth, his life was not like this. This was not what he was heading for, this was not how it was supposed to turn out. And I know what that feels like.
I said once before that I don't particularly have a new found empathy for people in tragic situations, but perhaps sometimes now I do. I struggle to hear news of people dying, and my mind shifts quickly to the newly bereaved, to all that goes on around this news-flash death, and to the lives of those who have been plummeted in to the pit of grief. I know what it's like there and I am so sorry you are here too. I'm so sorry.
At kindy gym with the kids the other day I raced passed a man sitting on one of the crash mats. He, like me, was surrounded by kids flying everywhere, jumping, running, climbing, bouncing balls, chasing hula hoops, shouting, laughing. And he was missing a leg. In place of his lower right leg he had, not so much an artificial leg, as a metal pole with a piece on the end. And an immediate and again very involuntary thought arrived in my mind, "I know what it's like." You and I, we have something in common. All these people here are the same, but you and I are different. We're missing a part. You're missing a limb. I'm missing a husband.
Never could I really know what it's been like for him, and I won't underestimate it. He must have suffered pain and loss and perhaps even horror that I can't imagine. But I'm still pretty sure I'd give up my leg to have my husband back.