There has been good reason for my silence. Out of respect for all involved, I will not go into detail as you will find out most of what I have found is helpful "to know" in the following letter, which highlights the most important facts - that this is an elderly woman with Alzheimer's who cannot help herself get back into her home after it was flooded from the levee breaks, who is 'with it' and 'strong willed enough' to know she should be in her home, that she can't get into her half finished home, and that she has in essence, been abandoned by her family, friends, and her community.
What the letter does not speak to is the dysfunction relationally in her life which I have witnessed in my daily contact with her. It does not speak the reasoning behind the decisions of her family who have chosen to let her sit in the FEMA trailer without coming to help her, their probable feelings of powerlessness and/or denial when it comes to their family matriarch having Alzheimer's, and a family history that I am not aware of, which informs their choosing not to help her and sabotaging my efforts to help. Mrs. G sabotages my efforts also, in her case, I have found that it is related to her mental condition and how it affects her thoughts, her ability to function, and the stress of what she is going through. Everyone in this situation has been affected by Katrina and the subsequent failure of the levees. This situation is not for any of us to judge, and for myself, I can only be as compassionate as possible for all, whilst witnessing such a heartbreaking scenario play out.
No matter the state of relationships in her life, what remains is that there is an elderly woman, with Alzheimer's, which is made worse by stress, sitting in a formaldehyde poisoned trailer, trying to get her Road Home money, trying in her own confused at times way, to rebuild and spending the rest of the her 'time' either acting out in angry outbursts, sitting for hours commiserating on how she helped so many in the past as a community activist, or experiencing crying jags brought on by her hopelessness, helplessness, confusion, fear, and feelings of abandonment.
The following is an e-mail I was composing in response to someone who posted on Craig's List Katrina Forum seeking lodging in exchange for carpentry work. I thought that I could offer him a room to stay in my space, but as the e-mail composed itself, I realized two things; first that my two room shotgun is really 'one room' with half a wall, and not appropriate for me and a man I have never met to be staying in, if I had a larger space, I would have no trouble exchanging lodgings for carpentry, I think that bartering is an important facet of our culture and community - the second thing I found out as I was composing the e-mail?
The e-mail I was composing was in fact, my platform for sharing with you dear readers, a long delayed update concerning Mrs. G, that would in the end, also help me. It's compostion and this posting has helped me to process an ongoing and long term situation which has caused me in the end to become very ill; with grief enough to cause my heart to feel as if were breaking.
Once again in this hour of of another's need, I have no answers, I "do" what I can. I write letters, make calls - try to get Mrs. G help, for some reason there is no flow to her being able to get back into her home. Without any knowledge of why this situation is playing out as it is, I can only 'assume' something is happening to her at the soul level which is unraveling out in these circumstances at this point in her life, and I try support her in the best way I can, when I can.
Just one last thing. Often Mrs. G who is devoutly religious, will say to me, "What have I done to deserve this treatment? I am an elderly person who has helped so many in the community. I used to help so many people." And my reply to her is always the same, in respect of her religious beliefs, and in order to help her hold what is occurring to her in a faithful way. "Mrs. G," I will say, "what did Jesus ever do to deserve being whipped and then nailed to a cross to die?" I will watch her take my words and she will of often reply, "My Lord Jesus, who am I to think that I am greater than you, to deserve more than what you got."
Then I drive away and cry.
The e-mail that brought this posting about:
To whom it may concern:
There is an elderly woman with Alzheimer's who lost her home in the 9th Ward that I have been trying to help since I met her when she was robbed back in May. I write a blog and wrote about what is occurring in her life in one of the postings.
What Price ...Hero
I have been trying to help her get back into her home. She has so very little that needs to be done, but it is too much for either her or I to. I believe she has enough money to pay for supplies. If you choose to take on this job, I must warn you that this would be a difficult job. First because she has serious issues around trusting people as she has been ripped off so much since Katrina through the loss of her home to flooding. Secondly, she has the Alzheimer's, which exaggerates her sense of paranoia and distrust. Part of helping her to get back into her home would include having to listen to a seemingly endless repetition of how people have let her down (which they have). Nonetheless, it is really hard to listen to. She is also very lonely and loves to talk. Often you will find that she will be with you as you work room to room, repeating stories of her life sometimes making you laugh at her rowdy sense of humour and at other times breaking your heart when you realize how devastating the effects of Katrina and the levee failures continue to be on the minds, bodies, and hearts of the elderly especially.
At this point in my helping her, I'll admit it, has become "all about me". You see it is about 'me' wanting to help this old woman get back into her home. It is about 'me' wanting for her to have her last remaining thoughts be "I am safe", "I am in my home", before she is totally gone. It breaks my heart that she sits down in that trailer crying and slowly losing her mind and that I cannot help her.
In exchange for helping which is beyond carpentry work, all I have to offer is the front small room in a two room shotgun. It is a really small place...
It was at this point in the e-mail, that I realized that what I am asking is too much to ask of any stranger and even if I did ask, my place is so small, that it is impossible to have privacy, circumstances made even more difficult with a total stranger. It is a situation that would be challenging at best for the both of us. I realized once again that I cannot help Mrs. G in a way that would be meaningful to her and which would help ease my own heart and mind. In my pain and my powerlessness around these realizations and feelings that I have let her down, I have a moment of clarity and realize that at least this blog posting can be the starting point in my sharing about what is happening to Mrs. G, so that those of you who feel they would like to, would hold her in their meditations and prayers.
Perhaps you could pray that if it is the will of the Universe - of the Creator, or of God as you understand God - that her last planetary thoughts are in thanks and recognition that she is in her home again and that she is safe.
In some semblance of peace,
What Price... Hero?
The Elderly Have it Very Hard Down Here
What Price... Hero? UPDATE