Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Shaken Up

I am alone in an office, sitting behind my desk and typing something up. An old woman comes to the doorway and just stands there, watching. I glance up at her every so often but she doesn't say anything. She doesn't ask to see anyone. She just stands there. It starts to make me a little uncomfortable.

"Er, can I help you?" I ask, slightly timid.

She gets very agitated.

"I think I'm dying."

Her voice quivers dangerously and then she starts to break down. I open my mouth to respond and then quickly close it again, at a loss.

"Do you...do you want to speak to someone?" I offer stupidly, indicating the HR office next to me. I don't know what else I'm supposed to do.

She nods. She looks so pathetic, like she'll just melt into a puddle of soggy tears. The HR woman is in a meeting, so I tell the old lady she can sit in my office and wait.

The woman continues to cry.

"I think I'm dying," she whimpers. "I'm scared."

I stare at her.

"Uh...well..."

I trail off, feeling like a complete idiot. But I don't know how to comfort her. She's a complete stranger to me.

"I'm sick," she goes on, sniffling. "Everything hurts. It's all bottled in my head. I need to speak to my family. They don't come visit me anymore. I'm all alone. The social worker won't speak to me."

"Er, do you have any friends here?" I venture to ask.

She cries some more.

"Not very many. It hurts me to talk."

"Oh."

Oh?! All you can say is oh?!

"Well."

Ugh! Think of something more helpful to say!

"I'm...I'm sorry."

Well, at least that's better than 'oh.'

3 comments:

the apple said...

...sometimes "oh" is actually the best response, especially when chances are, she just wanted someone to talk to who would listen.

Working in a nursing home can be really, really draining emotionally sometimes, and it really takes a lot of strength, which you seem to be finding within yourself. I thought you responded to this woman well, especially given the circumstances. Kol hakavod.

M said...

Wow. That's difficult. What happened?

Bas~Melech said...

Just listen. It's the best thing you can do.