Connie walked today, in the scheme of things, it might seem like a small thing, but it was actually a very big thing.
Maria and Red and I stormed the Mansion Assisted Care Facility this afternoon and made a beeline for Connie's room on the first floor. We had a plan, we were focused. Red was all business.
We walked in and I announced, "Connie, Maria and Red and I are her to take a walk with you. Let's go." I think it was Maria and Red that did the trick. I had spoken to her the day before about it, but I wasn't sure I was getting anywhere. I knew she wanted to walk, but I also saw how hard it was. It is easy to tell other people what they should do, it sometimes seems simple to us.
Connie gave me a withering look – she has many withering looks – and then started to get up.
And your many wonderful letters of encouragement, piled right by her chair, inspired her so much, she reads every single one.
We had been hearing for several days that it was crucial that Connie get up and walk several times a day, for as far as she could go. The Mansion staff has been working with her, so has a physical therapist, and she has been in great pain from torn muscles. She also needs oxygen to breathe and the walks are not only painful but exhausting.
"She's got to walk," a staffer told us, "she has to."
The walks Connie takes are short are essential if she is to recover her mobility and stay healthy. She knows that.
Connie looked at Red and glowered at me and nodded to Maria and up she got and she saw we weren't kidding, and so we went for a fairly long walk together. I could see it was painful, and Connie had to pause and catch her breath, but she did it, and we pledged to return every day to walk with her again.
Connie is strong and brave. She pulled every muscle in her back a couple of weeks ago and is working her way back.
Connie asked me to thank all of you for writing to her, today, she gave us a letter to read, it was beautiful, single-spaced two page letter from Margaret Hanes of Davisburg, Michigan. The stack of letters next to her is almost a foot high. She reads every word.
It was a lovely letter, Margaret talked about her life, he illnesses, her family.
"I have a long time group of girlfriends that i worked with for many years and we get together every month or so to chat and catch up," Margaret wrote. "One or two are married, one is single and never been married, two are "living in sin," some have kids, some have none. In spite of all of this we manage to stay bonded over pets, travel, what we are reading (all retired librarians,), what we are cooking and eating, classes we are taking, but the one thing we try not to dwell on is our aches and pains. Several have survived cancer, 2 diabetics, a couple of thyroid issues, osteoporosis, and a broken bone or two. Mainly because we figure if we are all there and not sick or in the hospital we are counting it as a good day. Sometimes we meet at a restaurant but our favorite place is each others home. We meet about 11:30 a.m., have lunch, sometimes made and other times catered in, and visit. We are lucky if everyone is heading home before its time for dinner."
I was deeply affected by the idea of this thoughtful and generous woman taking the time and trouble to write such a helpful and encouraging letter. In the age of Facebook messages and e-mail, this kind of letter is especially precious. You can't just say a few word and hit send.
Margaret wrote that she is reading a book about community – Tribe by Sebastian Junger, it talks about how much we all need a community around us.
"Of course, dogs don't speak English," she wrote, "but if you look hard enough you can hear them. I am far from a dog expert but I do know that having a dog changes your life. I can say my dog and I walked my way through grief and right back into the world again." She was glad, she said, that Red comes to visit Connie.
These letters played an enormous role in getting Connie to choose to get up and walk. The doctors say if she walks, she will heal and Maria and Red and I plan to be at the Mansion every afternoon to take a walk with Connie. Your messages and generosity of spirit walk along with us, and thanks. You can write to Connie c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Street, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.
The Mansion residents will tell you that they miss community as much or more than anything, and people like Margaret have given community back to them. As long as there are people like Margaret in the world, there is hope for all of us.
Your letters are remarkable, they are much more valuable than money, you cannot imagine how much they mean to Connie and the other people who receive them. Everyone inspires me.
Thank you. Connie walked today. It was a big deal.