I was expecting just another run of the mill night at the gym last night. The kind where the 'meat heads' stay at their end of the gym grunting and groaning to sound strong and I would claim a little corner in the room where the Yogi's hang out and Plank, and there I would Spin on a bike for a few miles, do some rowing, a little TRX and finish up with some free weights.
Last night though, I actually decided to do an easier workout and took an inclined walk on the treadmill. There were no meat heads in far end of the gym. No one really at the gym at all. For the longest time, I kept pace with an old guy on a bike behind me.
But then, a man and his son came in. I knew them. I knew them well but they don't know just how well I know them. They have a son who passed away from Cystic Fibrosis a little while ago, he would have been Spencer's age now. They have a younger son who also has CF. I knew his wife and mother in law back when my kids were being diagnosed. Their story was so moving to me, mostly because my best friend in the world died from CF. I have always had a special place in my heart for the CF'ers. This family has no idea, but one year, we sent our Santa to their house with sacks and sacks of toys. On this rare occasion, the front blinds were open and we got to see this little family of trials fill their hearts with hope and love. It is probably one of my fondest memories. But this man, knows nothing of me. It's a strange thing to know so much about a total stranger and in a quiet sort of way, witness their journey. That young man whose lungs are filled with disease was a champ as he worked those lungs to their fullest capacity. I stood in awe at how he defied the odds.
As I was winding down and ready to leave, an older couple walked in. I thought nothing of it until I realized I knew them. They use to be in our Ward a few months ago until our boundaries were rearranged. Her husband use to be a normal 77 year old man full of personality and cheer. One day, he passed out at the gym and that was the end of that man as we all knew him. Now, his head is bent down, he has no verbal capacity and walks like he's 100 years old. It was strikingly sad to see but there was his wife, my friend, was dutifully, determined to give him some exercise. A hope that if he could regain some strength, his situation would improve.
I helped her get him into one of the machines and while she helped him lift the weighted bar, we talked. I asked her how she was managing and with a positive tone mentioned all the numerous family members close by, neighbors who visited often and helped when she needed to run errands. From her own account, she was lacking nothing and seemed to be adjusting and managing.
I said, "Well, I admire you because I know that even with all the help and support in the world, it's still hard to be a caregiver and watch the person you love deteriorate."
Her eyes filled with tears and a wave of sadness settled on her face that was all too familiar to me. I gave her a hug and let her gather her emotions while I cheered Brother K. on. He looked up at me with the biggest and brightest smile, the one he use to give me every Sunday when he shook my hand and said how great it was to see me. It was a tender moment to connect with him on a level I have never done before and to know without anymore words, what she was feeling in that moment too.
There is a great reverence, I think, in being a witness for someone. To share in their story and feel after their deep emotions and sit with that. No words. Just sit in the overwhelming moment with them. It's an amazing experience. I count these experiences as tender mercies because it reminds me that the world is not all bad. There are still deep wells of love.
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