Who gets to decide if her life matters?
For the woman in Target with her bald head wrapped in a colorful scarf, barely able to push her cart down the aisle because she’s weak, she’s coming to the end, she might not make it: Did her life matter?
She smiled at me like a mom, so I bet she was a calm and soothing mom who opened a lot of curtains to let the light shine and made a lot of beds. Did all those cheerios she swept off the floor ever add up to something that mattered? Did all those toilets she scrubbed, or all those vacuums she pushed, or all those book reports she edited for her kids, did those matter?
Maybe she never finished her college degree, she never wrote a book, she never started something noble like a charter school for Autistic children or a shelter for battered women. Maybe she didn’t have time, with all those cheerios and toilets and vacuums and book reports.
Maybe she ran out of time.
Too shy to ask for help to climb the tree as a little girl, too stage-freight to join the choir in high school; then, grown-up, but too confused to wrestle with the Classics, too busy to learn to paint, too tired to find a hobby, too distracted to figure out what kind of music she likes.
Does it matter, the tally marks of loads of laundry folded or rooms dusted? Does it matter, all those nights she took a bubble bath instead of serving at the soup kitchen?
At her funeral, family and friends and neighbors will come up to the microphone and say, again and again, in the same but different words, “She was kind…she was sweet…she always had a smile on her face.”
If enough tears are shed during the eulogy given by her son, then does that mean her life mattered? If she loved and was loved, does that mean she had a life that mattered?
During her days here, she didn’t cause a scene, she didn’t fuel the family drama. She didn’t complain. She kissed her husband like real people do. She would sneak an episode of her favorite soap opera, or grab another piece of chocolate from her hidden stash. But she still kept a full house cleaned, showered, fed, and loved. Does that matter?
She looked pretty, but not like a supermodel. She had stubby fingernails and wasn’t anything you’d see in a fashion magazine. She never wrestled with the meaning of life–she just lived it. She was never hungry. She was never forced to give up her seat on the bus. She enjoyed a glass of wine, but never needed more and more. She never made it out of the country, but she liked home just fine.
Who gets to decide if her life mattered?
I saw how hard she worked to push that cart down the aisle at Target. I saw how pale her skin was. I saw her barely smile at me, as I got caught staring at her colorful scarf on her bald head. I saw her pain. I saw her suffering.
I saw her. And I think her life matters, or mattered, wherever she is now.