For those of you who don’t know, I work two jobs. One is in critical care and the other is in a half-way house for women with substance abuse and mental health issues. I’ve been doing both jobs for about four years now and it has been an exhausting but extremely rewarding haul.
When I started working at the half-way house there was a woman who had been there just a few months and she was a couple years older than me. She’d had a long life of drugs, alcohol, physical abuse and depression; both of her adult children were following in her footsteps and she was completely fed-up with the whole process.
As she progressed through the program, we cultivated a relationship. Our personalities were very different and I was not especially fond of her overall. She had a difficult time letting go of old behaviors and toxic people from her past. When situations got “tough”, she reverted to the old habits of manipulation and bullying; the whole staff spent significant time calling her out.
She graduated, returning to her home where she dealt with her adult addict children and her formerly abusive spouse. I was extremely skeptical of her continued success. Weeks came and went. She kept in touch, sponsoring new women entering the program and continuing to lead her family by example.
About a year after graduation she called to say she had been diagnosed with lung cancer and she wanted to thank us for giving her her life back. She went through chemotherapy and radiation, continuing to work with women in addiction and expressing gratitude for the opportunity to live the last part of her life sober and straight.
She died a few weeks back. Last night her husband brought her belonging to the half-way house for the ladies to go through and pick what they needed. She had remembered what it was like to move in –with only the clothes on her back– and she wanted to help others as she had been helped.
I stood in the lobby bawling like a baby with residents gathering around me. We looked through her things and I smiled as some of the ladies found their first pair of jeans since being sober & straight. Little things matter and small gestures change the world for someone.
I love you and I’m proud of you.
This moment of silence is for you.