Yesterday I cried. I cried long and I cried hard. I cried for someone I’d never met, though I’d seen her once. She’d stood on the street and I watched people walk by her. As though she wasn’t there or was invisible. They walked by and I watched as she continued to stand, serene and peaceful and beautiful and still.
I never knew her, but a part of me loved her anyway. I loved her because someone I love also did. Love by osmosis.
Towards the end of her life, I sent her everything I could to make what time she had left enjoyable. I sent her notebooks and pens, socks and a scarf. I sent her a ridiculous floral paper lantern to cheer up her hospital room. It was described to me later as “a big hit.” I sent her essential oils that were a tiny drop in the pan of the medical help she was needing, but I attached to them a desperate hope that she would use them and find some kind of comfort that she must have so rarely had. Over these weeks. Over her lifetime.
I wanted to send her a picture I’d found that had written across it, “to one person you may be the world.” But I was too shy. It crossed some unwritten, unspoken intimacy that I imagined strangers didn’t, couldn’t cross. I regret that now because today my only hope is that she knew that. That she felt deep inside her troubled heart that she meant many variations of the world to many people, even one who never knew her.
I cried like I’d lost a friend.
But I’d cried before yesterday. I’d cried for her years totalling fewer than mine. I’d cried for all the awful things she’d seen and I never have. I cried for all the beautiful things I’d seen and she never would. I cried for the tragedy of people walking by her like she didn’t exist or mean something, like she wasn’t a human being just like them. I cried for the shame and the pain and the hurt that the way she was ignored and tossed aside must have multiplied inside her. And I cried for all the others who suffer and survive a lifetime of trauma and struggle, loneliness and isolation every day.
It could be argued that she is the one responsible. It could be said that she did it to herself. But blame doesn’t seem so important when the person you’re assigning it to can’t defend themselves. Part of me wishes I could step back in time and tell those people on the street that she’d be dead in half a year, but I wonder if it would matter or if anyone would care.
I haven’t really stopped crying for her since yesterday and it feels like a part of me always will.
May you find peace and rest in it, my friend I never knew.