Being human is enough.

On Thursday morning I was walking to a permanent frail care guest’s room. Getting older is lonely business. Your body simply does not allow for your emotional needs to be met. Days are long and isolated. I make a point of popping into each room before I even have my tea, just so my guests are reminded that they are important and cherished.

I heard laughing from her room and assumed it was Netflix that was so entertaining, but realised quickly it was an interaction taking place between her and our cleaner. I walked in and found the upper class, 86 year old lady giggling with a Malawian, not very educated cleaner. Our guest was beaming and she pointed to the cleaner saying, “This is my friend”. The list of what they have in common is very short, but somehow just being human is enough. Just wanting a friend and some connection and kindness is enough. I was delighted for both of them to have this friendship and proud of them for being brave enough to cross the many boundaries that could keep them apart.

With this sweet incident fresh in my mind, I was asked by a doctor to come see a patient in hospital and discuss his options for recovery with us. I heard that he was not from South Africa and survived a huge trauma. He had been in hospital for two months but miraculously survived complex surgeries and was ready to be discharged to a sub-acute facility.

I met with his wife. She was distraught. She could not speak English. Imagine the weight of a reality where your children are in another country while you try to navigate saving your husband’s life, all the while communicating with doctors and nurses in a language you do not understand, amidst a pandemic, aware of the grave possibility that your soulmate could die any moment.

We sat down together and with the help of Google Translate, pieced together what her needs and his needs would be. She told me their story. My heart broke for this tiny young mother overwhelmed and also totally alone.

I started crying myself, and suddenly we were both fluent in whatever language we needed to communicate.

Vironikisa Tugaleva said, “In some ways, we will always be different. In other ways, we will always be the same. There is always room to disagree and blame, just as there is always room to take a new perspective and empathize. Understanding is a choice”.

I think we do not need to understand. Sometimes, we just need to show up. It turns out the language of joy and pain, of laughter and tears, is universal.

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