Yesterday, I had the most lovely encounter with a French woman. I speak very little French (even after years of trying and countless French classes) and she spoke very little English.
She passed by me in the area that is separated from the 3rd Floor, yet still part of it. There are lots of tables and chairs and phones in this area, and it is separated by glass from the transplant patients. Shades are on the windows to these rooms, until the patients want to connect with someone by looking at them and talking with them on the phones connected to these rooms. I was eating my lunch and reading the news on my iPhone. We cannot eat in the room with Tim because that would mean we wouldn’t be wearing our masks…which is crucial for his health.
She looked at me as she walked by and smiled and sighed…a weary sigh. I know that sound.
“Bon Courage,” I said in empathy.
She stopped, smiled, and sighed again.
We started talking. She understood just a tiny bit. I understood just a tiny bit.
Yet we understood it all.
I asked her questions.
Her husband has Leukemia. He is 65. He is sick and undergoing treatment. She is bone weary. She can’t sleep very well because her mind starts churning. What she is doing now is is routine – she comes to the hospital, go home, take care of things, tries to sleep, comes back to the hospital. And again.
I know, I say. Me too. But it is so great to be here. But terrible, scary, exhausting.
She knows my husband is 52, that I am from California, that our son is here with us, that we have a language barrier, that I don’t always sleep well, that I am tired.
We gave each other a little piece of our hearts, all by stumbling over words, asking questions, pantomiming, smiling, nodding, shaking our heads.
Love and empathy need no translation.