Jul 17, 2012 in Love
This is my story about a friend of mine that I only knew for about 15 minutes before she died.
There have been many, many days that have passed since she left this world. I think of her at times and wonder, “Why did she pick me?” Why that particular day, and, why didn’t I listen on any other day? I passed her several times on my walks to the gym and back to work during my lunch breaks. Several times I’ve often wondered who she was; where she came from; why she was there; and why she carried so many things. I also thought, maybe it was not my business, or maybe I would offend her if I were to ask or offer help.
There were several other people that walked by her, as they walked up and down the streets every day. Didn’t they wonder the same thing as I? Why didn’t they help her? I couldn’t have been the only one that thought these things? Someone else could help her, I thought. Someone else could have spoken to her and ask her the things that I was wondering. …but ‘someone else’ never did.
June 28, 2010, is a day that most people will not remember, but I will forever remember the events of that day in detail. I am still not sure of its meaning then or now. I am also not sure that I will ever know what it truly meant to the other two individuals.
Someone lost their life that day. It was a stranger that I had just met ten minutes prior and she died in MY arms. I did not even know her name. I never knew her before that day, I only saw her sitting at an inactive bus stop every day with bags. All I know now is that I love her. To this day, I miss her as if she had been in my life all of my life.
The Baltimore metro area is notorious for its hot, humid summer days. This particular summer of 2010, had record setting temperatures. I usually walk to the gym a few blocks from where I work. Several senior citizen homes are located on this street block and I see seniors all the time during my walks – sitting on benches, conversing amongst themselves, walking and enjoying the day. However, there was one lady that always drew my attention. She sat in the same place, at the same time every day. She sat at an inactive bus stop. She sat on the bench that remained but the bus would never again stop there. I had often wondered if she knew this, or if she was actually waiting for a bus with all those things. She just sat there day in and day out, all by herself, never engaged with anyone else.
I wanted to ask her why she was there, or to tell her that this bus stop was no longer an active bus stop. She had several bags with her as well as several bottles of water that must have been warm from the exposure to the heat. At the end of my work day, as I drove by, she was gone. So I figured that she had a place to go to at night.
There were several events that guided me to be by her side on that particular day, the day she passed. I was meant to be there that day. I was scared to approach her before because I thought that her life was none of my business. I thought that she might be offended if I took pity on her, or maybe she was just plain okay and didn’t want to be bothered. However, I know now that these messages were from God.
I heard a sermon by a preacher on a Christian station a few nights before. The preacher stated that sometimes God speaks to us through a nagging desire to do something. It may be to help someone, approach someone, or just talk to somebody about their problems in their life, and we may feel scared. During his sermon, I thought of ‘her’. I really did want to approach her. I had that awful nagging feeling about her situation as well, just like the preacher was speaking about. The preacher went on. . . He said, “God’s work has to be hard; God’s work is NOT easy. God pushes us to do things that WE are not comfortable with.” I thought to myself, “I have to do this, and I have to do this the very next time I see her!”
As I walked to the gym that next day after I heard that sermon, she was there. So, I resolved to buy an ice cold fresh bottle of water as I left the gym to give to her on my walk back to work. I thought that the offer of water would be a conversation starter and maybe if she spoke to me, I could help. On my walk to the gym, she looked as if she was very tired, leaning on her many bags. She looked different …something was different. As I walked back to work with a fresh, cold bottle of water in my hand, I approached her. She was now lying down on the bench. I stooped down and said, “Ma’am, excuse me, would you like a cold bottle of water?” She looked disoriented but managed to extend the arm that was beneath her head to reach out for the bottle. Something was wrong.
I tried to ask her more questions and I tried to get her to sit up. She was breathing really heavily and I kept asking her if she was okay. She only looked straight ahead with eyes glazed over while still attempting to drink some water from the bottle. I held it up to her lips while attempting to hold her frail body upright so she could drink. At this time, I heard a voice from the other side of the bus stop asking if we needed assistance. It was a gentleman that I had never seen before either. I informed him of this lady’s situation and he helped me to sit her up. As he held her, I called for help. We waited for the ambulance together with her. While we waited, I sat next to her and put one of her arms around my neck, while the gentleman held her other arm to hold her upright. I kept trying to get her to drink more water, but it seemed as if she could not drink.
All of a sudden I felt helpless, why did I stop if I could not help her? I felt useless. Then, as if I was supposed to do this, I had an overwhelming feeling of love for her. I took my other arm and I hugged her around her shoulders and just hugged her and held her as tight as I could and kissed her on her cheek. I just felt that she needed love. Unlike the other seniors in the community, she was always alone. Those other seniors traveled in pairs or sat in groups, but not her. She was alone every day at that same old bus stop. What happened then changed my life.
All this time, she did not move except for an attempt at that water bottle. However, her last attempt to communicate in this life was to show ME love. After I hugged her tightly and then once again tried to get her to drink, her left hand which lay on my thigh, moved up and down my leg. Then she squeezed my leg as if to say “Thank you for caring and I love you too”. The ambulance pulled around the corner. They attempted to take her from my arms, but at that very moment, she took a deep breath with her chest extended up then her body fell weak. They took her inside the ambulance but could not revive her.
I was devastated. I thought I was led there by God to help her, to save her life, but she died. Why did she die? I could have saved her before. Why did I wait so long to stop? Why did God let her die? As Christians, we are told that everything has a meaning and a purpose. I was only with her for a few minutes before she died. I was confused as to what purpose in my life, or hers, this had served. Her life was over.
After that day, I wanted to at least attend her viewing or funeral. I needed to find out who she was and I wanted to meet her family. I spoke with the police officer that was there a few days later. He informed me that her name was Charlotte and apparently she was homeless. However, the police officer said that she did stay in a shelter often but not every night. He said that her case supervisor said that she had no next of kin listed on her information. Her belongings and body would be taken care of by the state. After hearing this, I thought how sad. She lived alone and now she died alone. Then it hit me.
She didn’t die alone! I was with her during her very last moment on this earth! She was loved. And I still love her. I am putting this experience to paper, because I want to memorialize her. I didn’t know her before that day, but I do love her.
I also realized later that she probably did know that she was at a bus stop. She knew she had somewhere to go and I suppose that she knew where she was going. She went home that day, June 28, 2010, but not the home that any Metro Bus could take her. She was called home that day by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
There was also another miracle that day. Remember the gentleman that was also at the bus stop who helped me hold Ms. Charlotte upright? I only know him by his first name, John. That is how he introduced himself after the ambulance drove away. But on that day, he professed that he was on a difficult journey. He was waiting at the bus stop for a ride. He was not from this area and did not know that the bus stop was no longer active. After Ms. Charlotte passed and the ambulance drove away, John confessed that his faith in God was in doubt by the events of the past few years of his life. He noticed the cross hanging around my neck and thanked me for the sacrifice of my time that day. He said that his faith in the human race had now been restored because a stranger was willing to help another in their time of need.
There were three people at the bus stop that day that needed saving. A man named John whose faith was restored, Ms. Charlotte, who received a stranger’s love in her very last moment on this earth, and me. I thought that the world never recognized any good I ever did; I always felt that all of my efforts were fruitless, despite any of my efforts. However, somehow these few minutes restored my soul and gave me the courage to go on.
I know that my life has a purpose. My life’s purpose on June 28, 2010, was to be at THAT bus stop to help two people go Home. Three strangers met that day, three strangers came together for a purpose that day, and three strangers went Home that day at The Bus Stop in one way or another. John and I live with our faith restored only to be called Home another day. However, Ms. Charlotte went Home that day. She actually held on long enough to restore my life, John’s faith and to know and to feel love from a complete stranger.
“For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me. Then the righteous will answer Him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And the King will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for Me.” Matthew 25