A woman told me I was beautiful today. When the words crossed her lips, her voice was eager and sure. I smiled and hesitantly thanked her for her kindness.
We were strangers, having talked on the phone only briefly before this meeting, and we fumbled our way through a little bit of small talk until her excitement at having a guest in her home gave way to the formalities of a new reality I was there to discuss. I had come to her on a business matter a few hours after her husband died. His nurse said she was not able to leave their home, so I packed an office to-go and met her in her living room. A few moments into my explanations regarding the paperwork she needed to sign, I realized my new friend was almost totally blind.
She asked me to help her sign some of the forms so I moved to sit next to her on her green couch. I was close enough to see her eyes dance behind her thick glasses. The words she had spoken just seconds before suddenly seemed like a joke to me in the way that generalized compliments sometimes do. I was tempted to discount her sincerity and to brush off the possibility of truth breaching the boundaries of what her eyes could see.
The light in the room was dim compared to the bright sun shining into the windows, but it did not matter much to her. I held my ink pen to the right spot on each page for her as she slowly but deliberately signed her name.
What trust she placed in me to welcome me in as a stranger and to take me at my word for what she was signing. I had met one of her neighbors on my way inside, but there was not another soul to be found. As we sat, she talked of her children who had died long before their time a few years ago. She gave me instructions to place her husband’s cremated remains next to theirs at a family plot in the churchyard. I watched her as she talked, opening up stories of her broken heart and handing them to me as if for safe-keeping. I took notes on what she said, knowing it was up to me to make sure her wishes were followed.
As we wrapped up the paperwork, she offered me a glass of tea. I politely declined citing my need to get going to continue my work for the day. I asked if there was anything I could do for her before I left. After copying a few phone numbers into much bigger writing for her, she nodded with approval and said she could now get to work making some calls.
She walked me to the door and gently kissed my cheek as I said goodbye.
Again she said, “You are beautiful, my dear,” and I looked at her in wonder.
I walked away with a sense of gratitude for her vulnerability and a matching sense of pride in the patience and honesty which passed between us during the time we had together. For today at least, we forged a bond which carried each of us into the next moment; her towards the first night without her husband, and me on to yet another task. We stood as women on opposite ends of our lives; hers beginning to slow down, and mine continuing to quicken in pace. Our paths crossing was something to behold. It was nothing short of beautiful, and I am glad she helped me to see.