The written word lately hides beneath my fingertips. Getting thoughts to paper, scrounging for the inner feeling to display in font size, and tapping into meaning, have escaped my keyboard. Like words on the tip of my tongue, trapped within, they want access to the world, exhibit sound, and sight, while they illuminate with meaning. Yesterday, my heart leaked emotion that needed an outlet that only the written word could catch. Although hidden words emerge, flowing from within me and begin to save my life, I observed another life deteriorating physically.

Though initially taken by surprise by bumping into her, she invites me into her home without reservation, acknowledges our absence from one another for nearly two decades. Surrounding the living room are a variety of medical machines as she answers my question of my surface level “how are you” that leads to the deep truth of her existence, defending her life by mentioning a break from 9-12 when a helper relieves her for a respite. She defines her current life in three words plus three letters: My husband has ALS.

Struck by her candor, her indelible honesty, and vulnerability surfacing, she seems to hide her slight discomfort to explain where her life has led. I suspect my own stunned gulp leaks as well. This new perspective beckons the present moment. No past or future to cling to, I connect to her reality. I had heard through the grapevine that her husband was ill, yet I had concluded cancer the cause. Stunned still by the letters, ALS, I feel her pain.

A labor of love displays itself instantly as I observe him in his wheelchair and words strain to exit his mouth. Her love for him apparent, yet not the life she signed up for, causes me to interpret exhaustive meaning within their connection. I recognize instantly that she would not have it any other way. He is breathing, thinking, and cognitively completely aware and able. Physically he is shrinking away, the trappings of his mind inside a failing body. I listen to his absolute charm and kindness similar to how I remembered him decades prior. He spoke with intention, articulately, and intelligently.

Although we speak of current events, the white elephant in the room is his ailment, my friend’s daily existence, and the not talking about the obvious challenge that sits before us, a life forever changed by illness, and the hardship it causes them. Thoroughly affected by the intensity for which this scene captures me, I want to break them free of their captivity. Although engaged in “other” discussion, I am unable to express my gratitude for that moment, reconnecting, though not connecting on what matters most. It reminds me that I have lost my ability to connect when needed, as if words lost cannot surface.

Hidden Words Emerge

If I had truly connected with her, my questions would have been, “how are you taking care of you as you care for him?” My inquiry while leaving might have been, “do you want to walk with me sometime to give yourself a break and breath of fresh air?” Though we were not close friends even in our last encounter years prior, I feel a peace wash over me as if we had been. Like an old friend, I feel my words resurfacing from the confines of their slumber even while driving away. Necessary healing, unformed words surface now in the quiet of this morning. My visit brought meaning to my life, freeing the words hidden from my heart and fingertips, landing on paper, and aching to escape a failing body.