I was on my way home from Dover, just making my way down Shawnee Road, almost home when something caught my eye. It was a person, lying in the grass maybe 15 feet off the side of the road, a short distance from our chicken house lane. It appeared to be a woman, and she was in an almost fetal position, just lying in the soft grass. I had someone directly behind me, and I was preparing to turn into our lane, so I slowed down, and called Middle Daughter who was at home.
“Deborah, do you know anything about someone lying in the grass up beyond our chicken house lane?”
“Uh, no! There’s someone there?”
“Yes, there is. Would you please go with me up to check things out?” (I have a great deal of respect for Middle Daughter’s nursing abilities, and I was pretty sure that whoever was there wasn’t well.)
By now I had pulled up in front of our garage, and in a very short minute, Middle Daughter and I were on our way back up the road. The gal hadn’t moved. We pulled up alongside the road, and Deborah got out, while I waited in the van. When she got over to the gal, she roused up, sleepy and confused. I could not hear what was being said, but shortly Deborah and the stranger walked towards our car.
“She has been walking,” Deborah explained to me in low undertones, “and it got too hot. So She stopped to rest. She needs some fresh water and she needs to cool off.”
Certain Man had taken someone home a few weeks back that was walking home from work and was overcome by the heat, and I expected that this was somewhat the same case. We brought her home and Middle Daughter got fresh water, ice for the water bottles, and the gal was on a fast speed ahead chatty mode. Somewhere in the rapid fire conversation we pieced together her story and who she was. She was the granddaughter of old friends. When I asked which of their daughters was her mother, there was a bit of hesitation, and then she told me.
“Was she always a mess?” she asked with a crooked smile on her face.
I thought about the lives of the four children who were born to this couple and the irregular home life they had as children. “Those four children had a tough time,” I told her gently. “Life wasn’t easy for them.”
She didn’t look convinced, but chanted on about her life. I looked at her, skinny as all get out, tattoos covering much of the exposed skin. 28 years old. No lower teeth. And my heart ached.
“My boyfriend and I tried all day to get a ride from the hospital home, but couldn’t find anyone who could drive us. My boyfriend just got out of the hospital. He thought he had MRSA, but the doctor said that it was just infected hair follicles. We walked and walked, and finally I just couldn’t go on. I laid down beside the road on the grass, and he went on.”
“Where do you live?” We asked.
“Out on (a country) Road,” she said, mentioning an address over ten miles from the hospital.
There were plenty of other things shared, but a lot was neither cognitive nor an adequate explanation of why she was where she was on this hot afternoon.
“I just got out of the hospital myself,” she suddenly announced. “Just three days ago. Complete system shutdown and organ failure.” She didn’t seem to have any reservations about telling us these details, but she did not elaborate. By now we had gotten her water bottle refilled with a fresh supply of water with ice, and two to spare in case her boyfriend needed some, too, and Deborah was preparing to take her home.
I looked at her carefully and on impulse I asked her, “Is there anything else we can do for you? Give to you? Something that you might need?”
She ducked her head and looked wistful. “Uh, well, maybe you shouldn’t ask that to someone who has hardly eaten in three days. Would you have any food? Like some non perishables? I don’t think there is anything in the house.” Her voice was apologetic, hopeful, but not demanding.
Food. That was something we could do. There was most of a loaf of homemade bread on the counter, bananas, canned soups in the pantry, a large bottle of apple juice, baked beans, Spaghettios, an unopened 12-package box of Ramen Noodles. We gathered up a few things and put them into grocery sacks for her. She stood by the kitchen table, her hands clutching the bags as if she could hardly believe it.. She looked so vulnerable and broken.
I spoke her name as I walked close to her, and she looked up half expectantly, half fearfully. “–May I please pray for you?”
“Oh, yeah, sure, sure,” she said. “That would be okay. I mean, we all can use some prayers.”
I drew her into my chest like she was one of my own girlies and she came willingly enough. She was skin and bones in my arms, I could feel her ribs and backbone hard against her skin and I wanted to cry. I didn’t pray long, but i tried to pray as much Love and Grace and Divine Direction as I could into a short half minute or so. She wasn’t very comfortable in the situation. I was barely a couple of words into the prayer when I felt her right hand, under my arm, making a flicking motion, like she was brushing away the words as fast as they were spoken. I finished quickly, hugged her one more time, and she went off with her bags with Deborah, looking more like a gangly 14 year old girl as she walked away than the 45 year old woman she looked like when I could see her face.
She went home to a small, disheveled trailer on a back country road. Six adults lived there together, and no one had a vehicle. Although Middle Daughter’s work takes her into many difficult situations, this particular situation weighed heavy on her heart. When there was no sign of the “boyfriend” the whole nine miles between our house and the trailer, she took another way home, found him and took him home as well.
Like a puzzle of dark colors with almost no defined lines and certainly no straight edge pieces, this story haunts me. I feel like there are pieces lying on the table that are whole and good. And we all know that a puzzle with an irregular border can be/is beautiful, but I feel like there are lost pieces and damaged pieces, that are so far gone that any hope of this puzzle ever fitting together in a whole seems very, very remote. I do not know this girlie’s heart. I know that there has been exposure to Jesus and his claims upon her life. I also know that she has seen people not live out what they professed. It’s no excuse, but people have used it from the beginning of time, and it still gets used today. I heard enough in the few minutes that she was in my kitchen to know that under everything that would cause me to cringe, there is a heart that has been broken.