Very thankful that God allows me to recognize a moment. Thankful that sometimes in my crazy life I have an encounter that changes me. An encounter that I'm pretty sure was set up by Him.
Ordinary, hurried morning, but today was the day that rolls around once a year where 18lbs of pressure squeezes the girls. Of course there's always anxiety and thoughts no matter how many times you've been through it. Today while waiting, I encountered the sweetest, strongest little lady I've ever met. I came upon her talking with another lady about all of her volunteerism. Busy lady. As others trickled in and out, thankfully i was allowed to wait a bit longer (God saw it as a time I needed) so I could talk to her a but longer. Somehow she ended up telling me how she ended up in Rome. No family, or kin, as she said. She told me she left her husband many many years ago. Apparently he was abusive and after 36 years she'd had enough. She'd raised 2 daughters, built a life, but after the daughters went off to college she was done. She told me she'd been asked before what triggered her leaving after staying for 36 years. She said she thought about that question for a few days and decided that the reason was, "not feeling safe in her own home, afraid to go to sleep at night." As she was telling me this, and others that came in, I sat in unbelief. Living with a man that you were scared of, living with someone you despised. I shared with her a blog I just read last night about a women and her cousin that met up in their granddads hometown to dance on his grave because of the abuse they endured by his hands, how they ended up going to the police department there and filed a report, knowing there was nothing that could be done since he was dead. How the the simple act of validating it by having a report made them seem lighter, relieved from the burden. How the kind policeman actually drove them to the cemetery but they decided it wasn't time for dancing. My new friend seemed to understand the bloggers feelings by the look in her eyes. She continued on by telling me how she started planning her departure, how she told her girls she was leaving. How one day as they both left for work, business as usual, she told her boss she had a doctors appointment at 10am and left. Left. Left with only the clothes on her back and that's all. Can't even fathom it. Wanting and desiring to leave so bad that you leave with nothing. She came to Rome and ended up at the battered women's shelter, aka Hospitality House. She told me how she went to the Salvation Army and they gave her 10 items to get started with, those 10 items included a belt?! Seriously? Only 10 items? She continued on with a little laugh about how blessed she was that one day she ended up with 2 jobs. Blessed?! She informed me that her working allowed her to rent a place in 2nd ave and life went on. Eventually, she had to face her demon in court but in doing so was granted a divorce and 1/2 of everything they had built together. Probably the longest 9 months of her life, but most freeing living at the battered women's shelter. I asked hesitantly her age and she proudly told me 87! Seems her daughters are successful, but I have to wonder about them since they endured their fathers wrath for many years. My 87 year old friend is a giver. Volunteering fills her days. Her smile and sunny disposition touching many lives. Somehow her smile, after hearing her story, was even more beautiful knowing it obviously covers years of pain, hurt, fear.
Upon leaving, I told her how much of a blessing it was to have met her and to hear her story. It truly was. As I was telling my boob smashing friend goodbye, my newest friend walked out to head to her next hours of volunteering...this time with special needs adults. I was dying to know if she found love again so I asked, "did you ever remarry?" Her smile gave way to seriousness and she said, "No way, who needs a man, I'm too busy, I go when I want to go, do what I want to do and I don't have to ok it with anyone." I told her I had just read of a lady who just turned 104 and her secret was that she didn't deal with men. Obviously, there's something to longevity and lack of drama/men. As we departed ways when the elevator doors opened, I bid her goodbye not sure if she was even aware how much she touched my heart in just the short time I'd been with her. I left feeling empowered, less worried about being man-less, thankful for being loved by a man that I didn't have to be scared of, reminded that we all have an inner strength to survive. Hoping that at 87- I have the spunk, drive, heart, knowledge that a man doesn't define me and a beautiful smile that covers some deep hurts, different hurts than hers but deep. Thankful that God allowed me to have an open heart, spirit and ears to hear what He had for me today. Feeling somehow my new friend could actually be an angel. Thank you God for encounters-big and small, old and new.