I am working on a project with a few people at the adult day center at the Georgia Infirmary where I work. It's called the life story project, where I put together a ton of questions - 140 or so - to ask people and take notes on what they say. The result, with ample room to explore tangents and longer stories, is a record of their life written down for them to reflect on and pass down to family members. Today, I was looking for someone who might be interested in doing such a project. Some of the staff recommended a man, so I went to find him. He sat and listened to me as I explained the project and I asked him if he was interested in it. He looked up at me and said quietly, "No, my life was too much to handle." That's it, he didn't want to remember or reflect. I could see pain in his eyes. I uncomfortably tried to change the subject and talked to him for a little while. I didn't want to leave him on that note, to stir up memories he would rather forget and walk away. He did tell me that he really liked coming to the day center, that he liked the people here.
When I did leave I went up to my desk and sat there, while what I just experienced sank in. It hit me incredibly hard, for some reason, to have this man tell me he didn't even want to think about his past, any of it, because it was too painful. It was looking into his eyes, which have experienced so much and spoke volumes with one look. I had given some thought about the past being a sensitive issue for some people, and tried to categorize subjects I should ease into or avoid altogether. I didn't think of the possibility that a man would want to recall nothing of his life. Never before did I realize how blessed I am to simply have fond memories and look back on events, people and places with a smile. It has really caused me to reflect on my life, and appreciate what I have. With one sentence, this man put so much into perspective for me.
To all those who have been a part of my life, thank you for making me feel so blessed.