The "Wu Word" Blog
It was a bitterly, cold day.
It was the kind of cold where the wicked wind and fierce frostiness cut
right into you and was felt in the deepest of your core. I was teetering on anxiety that my car would
just stop dead on the road because my gas tank was running so low and inching
past the “E” for empty.
The timing of the gas station coming into my view was
As soon as I killed the
engine of my car and got out to fill my car with gas, a woman in a feather-down
brown jacket that reached her ankles suddenly appeared before me. Her long, dark hair hung limply down to her
waist. Her eyes were wide with
desperation and anguish. In a heavy
accent that I could not make out in the slightest, she said to me softly and
with deep urgency, “Please, help me. I’m
sure that you are my angel. My mother
and I need money to get back home. She
is suffering from kidney failure. Can
you give us any money at all? Any at
all? Please? God will bless you.”
At first, I was convinced that this had to be some kind of
sick or weird joke. How crazy and
unfathomably coincidental that this woman was talking about her mother having
kidney failure when pretty much my whole life had revolved around my chronic
kidney failure? Every feeling and
thought in me was suspicion rather than sympathy. Was it the New Yorker in me that was so
suspicious? Was it how I was raised to
‘Never Talk to Strangers’ and that my safety came first to not give out the
money that I worked so hard for to those that could hurt or harm me? Was it the assumption that perhaps people who begged and
pleaded for money were just ‘lazy’?
I had never been in this kind of situation before. It was as though my life was staring at me and challenging me with my response. I always thought death was the worst fear, but I realized that the look of life and how was I was living it was, by far, the absolute worst. My teeth were now chattering from nerves
rather than the icy cold wind clawing at me.
I stuttered and muttered incomprehensibly,
“Did you try to go into the store in there for some money?”
The woman was probably a couple years younger than me. She wrapped her jacket tighter
around her, shifting her dark hair to slightly cover her face. There were half moon crescent shadows under
her eyes. She looked physically
exhausted from the day, but mentally exhausted from life.
She said, “I tried. They wouldn’t help me.”
My stomach tied up in knots.
I felt terribly bad for this woman, but I didn’t know if she was telling
the truth. I caught a glimpse of her
beat up car and a woman who seemed to be on the passenger side of the car,
hugging herself for a morsel of warmth.
One of my gloved hands was on the gas pump. My other gloved hand was in my pocket for
warmth and where my money was supposedly safe and sound.
I kept my hand in my pocket.
Suspicion won out over sympathy.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the woman, “I don’t know what to
say. Maybe someone else can help you.”
I turned away from her to fill gas into my car. I had never turned my back from someone so
drastically and sharply. The knots in my
stomach tightened, and I winced in pain.
I’m not sure if the pain was because I still had abdominal pangs from my
hysterectomy surgery or because it was the situation at hand. Probably a combination of both. Either way, the sixth sense of sympathy was
creeping in and starting to make a home in my gut. Either way, the Jiminy Cricket conscience came
into my head and began to speak rapidly, “What are you doing? What if her mother really does have kidney
failure and they are stranded without a way to get home? Your whole life has been revolved around your
chronic kidney failure and promoting the ‘giving of life’ and ‘donating
life.’ How can you turn your back from
them and not show and give some compassion and kindness that our world is
significantly lacking and in need of?
Even if the woman is lying so severely about kidney failure of her
mother, she will be the one to live with that on her conscience and the
The voice seemed to tug incessantly at me to visually see the
situation unfolding before me. I turned
around. The woman knocked on the windows
of two other cars. Windows were quickly
rolled up. Another person slammed the
car door in her face. Kindness was
disintegrating in front of me. A
cocktail concoction of guilt and sympathy were now invading my entire body,
making my insides feel hot heat surpass the outside frigid surroundings.
I decided that I would go to the woman and give her money after
I finished pumping my gas, but she beat me to the punch when she shuffled her
way towards me again.
She was nearly in
tears and choked out again, “Please. Any
money at all. I’ll take anything. We just need to get back home. Please, help.
God will bless you. God will
I looked into her despondent and lightless eyes. She met my gaze with defiant
desperation. That is when it dawned on
me: On the surface, she was asking me to give her paper money, but, in
actuality, she was asking me to give her compassion, time, and love for her and
her mother. My money that I worked hard
for would be quickly spent and used once I gave to her, but for I suddenly had to believe to be a great good for mother and daughter.
I reached into my pocket and gave money. Our hands briefly touched.
The woman's eyes filled with joy and
thankfulness. She clamored over and
over, “Thank you, thank you, thank you….God will bless you…”
I wanted to say to the woman, “God has already blessed me with
But, I didn’t have the chance.
Just as quickly as the woman appeared, she had suddenly
Many may think that I was naïve in believing the best in this
woman and somehow seeing a greater good.
Many may say that I placed myself in an ‘unsafe’ situation. However, I was humbled that this situation
had happened to remind me that the greatest gifts we can give are not bought,
but are given from our soul in forms of time, love, compassion, and presence.
I am thankful for each and every single waking day. However, this Thanksgiving, I am even more
thankful in ways that can never be fully expressed for the seen reason that I
have come out and above yet another health bump as well as the unseen reasons
that are personal and profound to only me.
When you are that blessed in life with the greatest riches of health,
love, and time, there is a realization that you only want to bless and give to
others—even unfamiliar strangers who may become your most familiar friends. Everyone who comes into our path has a divine
My hands were still in my pockets. Although it was still freezing outside, my
hands suddenly felt warmer. That is when
one of my hands wrapped around the few extra paper dollars in my pocket. Yes, I had a few extra dollras. How lucky I was!
I wrapped my hand around the crinkled dollar
bills, stuffing my hands deeper and cozier into my pockets. I still had and have so much more to give
forward and further.
Happy Thanksgiving to all! ;-)
With love, hugs, & gratitude,
Five years ago when I moved into my apartment, one of the
first people I met was the woman with the black, silken hair and piercing blue
eyes. Her features and her presence were
striking and teetered on a famous actress roaming around Hollywood. But, rather than any diva attitude, she was
the warm and cozy mother who loved to garden, walk her dog, and talk about her
endearing husband and strapping sons who were each close to my age and already
married. And, yes, she got along just
fine with her daughter-in-laws. She had
the simple and perfect life on the surface.
She was perfect—like a woman that you would maybe see from the 1950’s TV
shows who stayed at home to build the perfect family for her perfect life. I already was blessed with an incomparably
extraordinary Stepmother, but maybe, just maybe, this woman could be like a
mother in my new apartment surroundings.
In many ways, when I first moved into my apartment, she began
to fit a slight motherly role to me as I embarked on my new “flying solo”
lifestyle in my brand new apartment. We
would have talks while she walked her dog.
She brought me to “Home Depot” to buy potted plants and flowers to
bloom and grow on my brand new patio and surrounding gardens and areas. She gave me a lemon balm plant and handed me
a leaf of it in her perfectly manicured hand, saying to me: “Try it. It is delicious!” Of course, she was right! She even suggested red gardening clogs and
tools to get my knees and hands in the earth.
She helped me file a police report when I naively gave my money to a
strange man in the middle of the night—long story! Five years ago and as each year passed by,
she always said to me: “Mary, if you need anything, just let me know.”
Well, I needed her and any other neighbors who could help me
as I returned back and all alone to my apartment. Although I was in the ‘now’, I felt like I was
in the ‘then’ when I has first moved in to my apartment and was at one of my
low points of not knowing what I was doing or what was going on because I was so wrapped up in this fear of living and being all alone.
Recently, she knew that something was wrong when she glimpsed my Dad bringing
out my garbage and when I gave a weak wave upon her calling out my name to greet me. Again, she said to me while I was forcing
myself to walk around my apartment complex, “Mary, if you need anything, please
do let me know. I’m here. I’m available. I’ll help.”
So, I took her up on her offer. My dad always said to me that if someone offers
their help to take it. One of my closest
friends said to me that people want to help, but they just do not know how to—so
you tell them, let them help you, and you help others again when that time
On an unusually warm weekday for the often blustery autumn
season, the woman with the black hair and blue eyes showed up at my doorstep in
sweats and a Lucille Ball travel mug in her hand. She immediately got to work without me asking
or explaining too much with cleaning my bathroom and doing my laundry. Then, she zonked out on my plush, red couch and kept eagle eyes on me while I tried to vacuum at a very slow and steady
pace. Believe it or not, vacuuming is
one of my favorite household chores.
Especially since I purchased a new “Shark” vacuum that was one
lightweight and feisty sucker that nearly took up and in my carpet along with
any tiny dust particle. I love the
whirring sound of the vacuum; It could probably lull me into a sweet baby
When I flicked off the vacuum, the sun streamed through and a
serene silence permeated throughout the room.
In the stillness, she suddenly began to share her stories with me. A bitter divorce. A physical assault at work that led to nearly
irreversible damages to her back that then led to multiple surgeries. Everything in her life boiling down to her three
sons and the new husband that she had devoted the rest of her life to. It is always a startling blessing to me that
it is when we are doing the simple and routine tasks that complications are
Our conversations of life carried over to when we were working
on the bedsheets. Our time was going to
come to an end. I was almost sad about
it. When she was about to leave, she
said to me, “Did you know that my father is still alive? 92-years-old.
He has some wise things to say every now and then. Have you heard about the ‘Keeping Your Keys’
I shook my head.
“He said that if we in a room all together and placed our keys
at the very center of a coffee table to let our guards down and fully share our
lives that he could bet you would want to leave the room with your own set of
keys. You would never want anyone else’s
set of keys. You would only want yours.”
With that, she gave me a warm, tight, and long hug. She was
I thought about what she said.
If someone (most likely God or the ‘higher being’ that I always believe
and speak about) descended down to me with an open palm said asked, “Would you
like to give me your keys? I could give
them to someone else so you can live their life, and they could live your
life. They would and could know about
the surgeries you have had to have, the absence of your mother, the health
struggles you have had to overcome…your life all the way. Perhaps you would want the keys of a woman who
had found her true love and he returned her love and they were married and had
children? You know, the seemingly simple life that you always wanted? Perhaps you give me your keys
and you will be free of the fear of the future of anymore health problems, or
memories of what you have had to endure physically with your health and
emotionally and mentally with everything revolved around them?”
I probably would have happily and without any reservations at
all handed my keys then, but not now.
Throughout my life and especially in my teens when I was
dealing with the return of kidney failure and the absence of my mother at the
same time, I wanted to trade off and give up my life to someone (really anyone) else. I do not think that I have
ever been alone in the wishes and images of leaving my life even just temporarily
for someone else’s life. Haven’t you
wanted to trade your life for someone else who appeared so perfect and free
from any problems? Hasn’t life been more
than you could bear at times, so you wanted another person’s life? Do you think you would actually live another
person’s life and not your own?
My dad and many people have said to me that it is wrong and
unfair that someone my age has had to go through what I have had to go
through. I used to feel this way. I used to be encased in bitterness and anger
that made me ask time and time again: “Why Me?
This shouldn’t be happening to me, because I’m a good person. Life is
wrong and unfair. God is to blame for
letting all of this happen to such a good person as me.”
But, now, I no longer feel like my life has been any less fair
than others. I feel like everyone’s life
somehow balances out in the end. If it
is not physical ailments, it is emotional and mental anguish—and vice
versa. We all have our problems, issues,
and struggles to encounter and endure.
We all have imperfect lives and are imperfect beings because we are
human and just trying to go through our each and every day and overcome
obstacles to be all the better. These problems, pain, and suffering (whether
they be concrete like the physical aspect or illusive like emotional and
mental), make us all the more rather than less.
For everything that I had to deal with, I took away greater life lessons
revolved around the people I love, strength, courage, gratitude, love, soul,
and so much more that could never be fully captured in words. For everything
that has been bitter, unfair, or ignited anger, I find the peace, happiness,
and sweetness in the love and goodness surrounding me. For everything that I have lost, I have
gained all the more.
Yes, I’ll be ‘Keeping my Keys.’ I’ll continue living my very own life, in
spite of everything that has happened and will happen. I continue to live my life with purpose and
passion that I’m not sure others could live this way if they had my life. I only want my own life.
Will you keep your own set of keys? Perhaps you will not know the value of your keys until you no longer have them.
Until we meet again.
Miss Mary ;-)
From the distance of me walking into the tiny town’s post
office, there was this familiar postal woman clerk who I remembered and chit
chatted with from ten years ago. She is standing in her familiar behind-the-counter
Time is a funny and fascinating thing. The minutes only keep ticking forward, but it
is as though some things and people never change. Like this woman. She looked exactly the same. Not a change since ten years ago. Same long blonde hair. Same gold glasses perched on the end
of her nose. Same hands that were hidden
in blue latex gloves to handle the mail with care.
Time must have been so kind to her in these
last ten years for her to look the same and have the same routine and steady job.
Or, so I thought.
However, when I walk up to the counter to hand her the light
purple, I immediately noticed a great and grave difference. The brightness in her blue-gray eyes is
gone. Her smile that could warm up the
coldest of winters is replaced with a hard straight line. Time had not been kind to her. Life has hurt her. When she confessed to me that her son had
died early this year and was now resting in peace with her other son who died
years ago, I wanted to knock down the counter in between us and envelope her in
a big hug.
Then she said, “No more time left with them. I wish I could have the time back with them.”
I was quite stunned by her openness in revealing the death of
her sons and deep grief that had now seemed to made a home in her. I wondered what would make this woman feel so
comfortable to share with me. It was
probably because I shared with her that I was at my most vulnerable of
recovering from this hysterectomy procedure that had took me by surprise and
taken on a life of its own in these last couple of months of my own life. When we are at our most weakest, the greatest
strength of sharing comes into play.
Most people who are told of such a tragedy as death immediately say, “I’m so
sorry.” Then there is the silence that hangs awkwardly in the air and the
struggle to change the subject begins.
Rather, I asked the woman, “You do not have to tell me about
your son, but how did he die?”
The words came out of me. I wished I could take time back to take the words back. What if I had made the grief that was clearly
swimming in her ready to drown her?
She did not look shocked that I asked. In fact, there was a flicker of a light in
her eyes when I inquired. I call that light hope. She said that
it was a heart attack. He was in his
early 50’s. It was completely
I told her that I wanted to give her a hug. I wanted to tell her that, if I could, I
would give her the time back. Her firmly
lined lips went into a small smile.
One of my other neighbors had also recently shared with me the
value and preciousness of time. She is a
mother of two young children. She gave
up her high-powered and full-time nurse managerial position for part-time and
less pay just to be with her children.
She said to me while she was so generously vacuuming my floors that I could not do, “I can’t get
this time back with them, Mary.
less money and give me more and all the time in the world and with my children
and all the people I love.”
Many of my neighbors who were unfamiliar to me have suddenly
jumped in so graciously to help me out with light household chores, cleaning,
and grocery shopping that I’ve been struggling with.
They have been my saving graces as I try to
readjust to my living alone and independent status that I’ve always taken pride
But, one of the struggles that no
one is able to help me out with is my struggle with time.
I keep thinking of how I was physically
stronger before the surgery, and when fatigue, abdominal pangs, and weakness
were not even in my thought process. Sure, I
know and believe that all of this will go away and that the worst parts and
weeks are behind me and that I will be even stronger, because, as the saying
goes “Time Heals All Wounds.” But, time keeps on ticking by with me
contemplating to who I was, who I am becoming, and how all of these past days
will lead to who I will eventually be.
I am in the 7th week of my surgical recovery. The seven weeks have gone by in a blur. In my mind, I was in the operating room
yesterday, blinked my eyes, and here I am now over a month later.
How does time do that? Within these seven weeks, I’ve gone back in
time in the sanctuary of my parents’ home and reuniting with people I had not
seen in years. Yet, the minutes and moments
have also just marched forward into the future to new people that I have met,
new stories I have heard, and new people that I have forged a small friendship
To all my people from the past and all these unexpected people
that were in my future who have played their special roles, I am now seeing
that we are all just living on borrowed time. We wish to rewind and get back
time or to stop time. Our time revolves
around the people we love the most. Our
time is money. Our time is precious. We
only give our time forward with what we choose to do with our time and who we
choose to be with. We only give our time
forward with every intent and hope to make the moments with ourselves and those
we love magical and memorable. And, to me, the saddest thing is to keep
planning and trying to fast forward time and to keep thinking of the future
time that is only an unexplainable question mark. It is one thing to look forward to the future
time, but it is another thing to keep calculating, planning, and trying to
control the future. Borrowed time is
making the most of the time you have for the here and now.
How often have you felt when time stood still? How often have you wanted to stop time to savor
what or who changes or is there in our life? Or rewind time to make things
right when everything went wrong? What if we were all just to live by the borrowed time that we
have been given? Wouldn’t we simply treasure
this borrowed time all the more?
I’ve been counting the weeks since my surgery and discovery of
the mass. I’ve been projecting into what
will lie ahead after my surgery, such as returning to work and the logistics
involved with this. I’ve been
contemplating who I was. I’ve been
thinking of all the people who have come across my way during this time. But, I haven’t been fulfilling or living my
borrowed time. Perhaps the time to even
try to start that is now.
Until we meet again.
Miss Mary ;-)