The Woman Who Lay Beside Me

Sometimes life throws you curve balls. Many times they are unexpected and you need to think on your feet. You know those moments in life where you have to pull yourself together and be the strong one, even though you wish you could just dig a hole and slide on in. This was one of those instances.

I found myself needing to check in to the local hospital in Warsaw, Poland. Having no idea what to expect and what I was about to experience led me to doing my best in being present and not freaking out. I was one of the lucky ones that day, I got a bed in a shared room. Sometimes these things, that we might take for granted, are an opportunity to learn something either about yourself (most likely) or someone else.

As my husband and I were escorted to my room for the next few nights, I was introduced to my roommate. She was a woman in her late sixties and spoke no English. Which I am really ok with, although I love to meet new people and be out an about, I generally love my quite time.

As the days past, “the woman who lay beside me” and I began to communicate. I know that may sound a little ridiculous but it’s true. So we weren’t able to have lengthy discussions but I did learn a few new Polish words to add to my repertoire. We laughed as I struggled to pronounce the Polish words for fork, knife and spoon. We talked about our grand children and the love of family. I showed her pictures of places in America where I had lived and told her about the beauty that the desert of Arizona has to offer, the wide spans of the beaches in California, and the beautiful coastline of Maine. The distraction was well needed for both of us.

She was from a small town outside of Warsaw and had three adult children and a beautiful grand daughter. She told me of her life, in not so many words. I learned she contracted Lung Disease thirty-five years prior, from being a smoker. She had a lung removed yet did not stop the smoking. What makes people play with fire like that?

As her body struggled back to health, Diabetes overtook her body eventually leading to her right leg being amputated. When I met the woman who lay beside me, her body was bruised and she was suffering from asthma…yet the smoking continued. Her family would come to visit and wheel her outside to fulfill her addiction. It was a strange thing to witness.

Even though we could not communicate in words we could in actions. As I practiced my morning and evening yoga and meditation each morning she watched and lay silent. As her life choices have taken her down a different path and the face of regret seemed to seep from her body she had the opportunity to look at the rest of her life maybe in a different way.

We are each on our own path. We each have choices to make.

I lay beside her and watch as she is places the inhaler over her nose and mouth to ease the asthma. Watching her take these deep breaths I wonder when will be her last one.

The doctor arrives to share some new test results. For me, today is the day I get my release papers. Although my findings are inconclusive I am well enough to go home. “The woman that lay beside me” had different results. Her tests show the onset of osteoporosis and she shakes her head. There are not enough hours in the day to layer in another medication. She is told she would be moved to hospice…my heart sinks.

As I gather my possessions I can’t help but think about how our lives can take us down such different paths. But for now as I gaze into her eyes the tears stream down our cheeks and give each other hug as I turn to walk out the door.

With blessings and hugs,


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