A few weeks ago I wrote an essay called, A Noble Soul, about a man I’d see at the library who wasn’t well.
Found out, sadly, that he had died, probably around the same time I wrote about him. I had noticed his absence, but didn’t ask his one friend, exercising the art of not foraging for bad news. However, yesterday, in the peace of the reading room, our eyes locked, so I asked, and that’s when he told me.
My sadness over this man’s passing is profoundly deep never even knowing his name, at best, just his smile that always made me feel better about my own challenges, seeing how he suffered, yet still getting up every day, doing his best…
his dignity humbling me.
I will remember him.
You never know who or what will inspire you as you tool through life. Could be anything…a kid, an average individual, or simply nature showing off, your heart lifting on its own steam.
There’s a man in his 70s, white-haired, distinguished, who belongs to my library. Like me, he goes early in the morning, curled in a corner immersed in a book. We nod, being the only ones gracing the room, before going back to our respective reads.
Then I saw him en route, seeing he had a cane, and walked rather slowly. I stopped to say, “Hi…guess you’re going to the lib.”
He broke into smiles and said, “I’ve just joined and I’m so happy. What a lovely place to go to, especially when you’re not all that well…stopping there.
I waited for him to continue, but he didn’t, and couldn’t help noticing a sadness had replaced his original glee.
“Are you okay?” I finally made myself ask, intrusion something I’m almost too aware of.
He looked at me with blue eyes singed at their corners and said, “I’m not in the best of health, and feel sometimes, I’m too old to be there…reading is for the young, not those on their way to another place.”
My heart felt as if it was a walnut about to be cracked. How hard we are on ourselves. It’s bad enough he has health issues, but to shoot himself because of them as if it were a crime, is just plain wrong.
Who does he remind you of? Me…who thinks she deserves the chair because of her hearing loss.
I didn’t reply at first, but then said, “I think it’s wonderful you’re a member. I noticed you right way…you are so imposing the way you sit, like Jefferson, pouring over your books.”
“JEFFERSON?” he found this remark astonishing as he hobbled along.
“Yes…he was about your age when he sold his collection to, what is now, the Library of Congress. There’s a famous quote by him…I Cannot Live Without Books.”
This man whose name I still don’t know, lit up as if he’d swallowed a candle. He merely needed someone to point out a strength to take on that sadness.
Two months down the road, when I see him in the reading room, that nod has turned into a glorious grin. He’s there every morning, his white hair picking up the sun streaming through the long, French windows.
Strength comes over me in his presence, knowing we all eventually suffer from something that comes with some strain of grace, if we take the time to seize it.