One in a million

January 27, 2008
By
One in a million

I trail slowly into the room after Jen. Veronika is facing the wall, her eyes staring listlessly, seeing nothing but the blackness which shrouds her constantly. I notice the wheelchair in the corner. Jen tells me Veronika has lost her sense of balance and is unable to walk anymore. I pull up a chair and sit down beside Veronika's bed. I give her my hand. She grasps it tightly, holding it as proof to herself that she is not alone in her world of darkness. I sit uneasily in the chair for a few seconds. What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to say?
Suddenly, Veronika starts talking. She tells me how she wants to help people; there are so many people who need helping and she wants to help them all. She says that if needed, she would even die to help someone.

I am in shock. Was it something I did? Was it something I did or didn’t say? Despite my feeble protests, Veronika continues. She is saying that she wants to feel useful again. She wants to feel needed. What am I supposed to say to this? I'm sorry, but your time has past? You've done your part now let us do ours? I can't say that to her, so I stay silent. She continues, saying that she has no friends anymore, no one cares anymore. At this, however, I protest. I squeeze her hand, which holds mine, and say; 'I am here. I am your friend.' I do not know whether she heard me or not, but she squeezed my hand back, so I know that she was happy that I was there

This being a trail run, Jen, the volunteer head, is getting nervous. She picks up Veronika's information sheet and asks Veronika loudly about her favourite colours. White and black. The irony.

Veronika was born in the late 1920's in Hungary. She had 2 sisters, and 3 brothers. Jen is asking loudly about Veronika's family. I almost wish she hadn't. Veronika instantly begins telling us of her 8 yr old brother's reaction to her mother passing away when she was only 41. Her eyes begin to swell with tears as she tells of how hard it was for her to watch her little brother, who was only a boy cry himself to sleep every night. Her voice cracks as she tells of how her mother would often catch her crying silently into her pillow at night, not wanting to wake anyone. Her mother would then reach out and touch her, to let her know that she was loved.

I ask her if she has any children. She says no. Then she starts telling us that she had had a son once, but one day when he was only 4 years old, on the way home from school he was shot. When I hear this, I feel so bad. Veronika grips my hand tighter, and I am sorry for bringing up the topic. But to my surprise she does not grow sad. Instead she tells of how one day when she was planting onions, her son wanted to help. Not knowing, he planted his upside down and later, when Veronika's onions started to grow and his didn't, Veronika discovered that he had planted them so that the roots were pointing up. We laugh. She is smiling now, remembering her son.
While we sit at home bickering aimlessly over pointless things, Veronika is there, lying in bed in her own world of darkness. She lies there thinking about life. She is saying how everything has only one life. She says that plants grow, and for months, you wait for them to sprout, and when they finally do, you watch them grow, but you know that they will eventually die. People die too, and we have only one life; one chance to get it right. As I sit here staring at this amazing lady grasping my hand tight to her chest, I decide that she has accomplished all that is humanly possible, and more in one lifetime.
Throughout her whole life she has helped people; she worked as a nurse for the Red Cross during the war and still, she wants to help people. I sit in the chair, gaping at this woman, who is talking now about her experiences as a nurse during the war. She has been through so much, has experienced so much pain and yet still, she is willing to die for you or me.


Where do people like this come from? Only one in a million are that compassionate and nice, and Veronika is one of them.

To me though, that old age home seemed more like a waiting place more than anything else. People would go live their lives, and when they decide they've had enough, or their time is over, they would go to this home and wait their turn for death to take them.

Veronika says she is there, just waiting to die. But I say no! Not yet! She has a lifetime of experience and wisdom stored up inside of her, and I want to learn. She says she wants to help people and share her experiences with them. Why not start with me?
I walked into this room as any normal, selfish teenager. I walked out as someone entirely different. I may look the same on the outside, but on the inside, I have changed. Veronika wanted to make a difference in someone's life and well, here I am. I was sent to make friends with her and to keep her company, but so far she's helped me more than I've helped her. Maybe it was meant to be. Who knows? All I know is that every Saturday afternoon I am going to be there, sitting beside Veronika's bed listening to her talk, and I will use her words to help make a difference.





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