Thursday, October 31, 2013
Loss and Lifelock
It happens almost everyday. It's part of the job, I guess. As I am enrolling people in identity theft protection, I transfer them to an automated system to collect their social security number, they transfer back to me, and then I have to read this. It's a required part of the script. I read the excerpt that tells them that they can add identity protection for their spouse. Some people get angry because they think their enrollment should cover a spouse. Some laugh and tell me they are happily single. But there are others that get to me. Sometimes they get quiet. Sometimes they announce it in a matter-of-fact manner. And sometimes they say it with a freshness that makes their pain feel tangible, even through the phone. They tell me their spouse has died. Most of the time they tell me exactly how long it has been, as if they have been adding up each day in their head, waiting for the next month or year to pass. Many times they tell me how it happened. But almost every time I want to cry. Not just because I am pregnant and emotional, although that can't help. But because when I look at the ages of these people, I can't help but think about how many years they spent together. I think about what they have lost.
I make friends with these people. Not all of them, but the nice ones I do. (I just don't tell them to have a blessed day anymore, since it's strictly forbidden.) They tell me stories about their life and and their kids and their travels and for some of them, I may be the only conversation they have during the day. Those people are the ones that really like to talk. Yesterday I spoke to a sweet bubbly woman in Oklahoma. When I asked about her enrolling her spouse, she told me that he died eight years ago. She referred to him as her "honey", and she said she still couldn't believe that he had the nerve to leave her since they had so much more life to live together. I told her that I was sorry, but that she seemed happy. She laughed as she said that she knew that her husband would come back to haunt her if he ever caught wind that she wasn't living life to the fullest without him. But still, I could hear it. She still feels the loss of him.
Today it was a man in his 80's. His wife has been gone for four years. When I asked for his email address, he said he didn't even know how to turn on the computer he owned. He said that for the four years since his wife had passed, it had been sitting in the other room, and he hadn't ever attempted to use it. When I asked for his phone number, he laughed and said he couldn't remember it exactly. And so I laughed. And then he said it wasn't funny to be old and to not be able to remember things like that. And I had to agree. It is probably scary. And he could barely read his credit card number from his card. He repeated it three times before realizing that one of the 8's was really a 3. (I would like to recommend that credit card companies remedy this by creating optional large print easy-to-read cards for senior citizens.) He said that his home had been broken into in the last week, and the thieves took his 70-year-old rifle and his deceased wife's diamond jewelry out of her jewelry box. He lives on a farm, and he is afraid that one day while he is out, they will come back for more. (I kind of want to find those thieves and give them a spanking.) And at the end of the call, he apologized for telling me so many stories. He said I was "awful nice", and then he apologized twice for using the word "awful" to describe me. I laughed and told him that I understood exactly what he meant and that it was just fine.
Lately I have been missing children's ministry. I miss teaching school. I miss the regular contact with little people. I miss teaching them about who God is and how much He loves them. I miss making a difference, hopefully a positive one, in the day of a kid. And it's hard to feel like my work makes a difference, like it really means something. But some days, I get the right kind of call. I get the person who is at home all day alone by themselves. And they have a lifetime of wisdom and stories and they have no one to tell them to. And on those days, I listen. I laugh at their stories. I slow waaaaay down so that they can understand what I am saying. I yell a little louder when they can't hear me. I tell them that I am happy to wait as long as they need me to so that they can go find their social security number because they can't remember it on their own anymore. I wait as they look around the house for their phone number. I agree when they talk about how the world has become scary and that the government can't be trusted*. I express my condolences over the loss of the people they love, no matter how long it's been, because I would guess it would still hurt even after years have passed.
So when I think about it, this is important, too. This little bit of listening and showing patience and compassion. This little bit of being Jesus to people... even people I don't know and will never meet. And I have three more weeks of it before I go on maternity leave. So for three more weeks, I will listen to stories over the phone and show kindness whenever I can. I will give people peace of mind in the form of identity theft protection for a simple $9 a month, although I would give it for free if I could. I will say little prayers for them when I hang up the phone. And for now, that will be enough.
And because I can tell you with no penalty or repercussions, please have a blessed day.
*For the record, I don't think either political party can really be trusted. End of political commentary.