As we stepped on to the elevator, I saw her. Pushing her child in a wheelchair. I held my arm out to keep the door open and smiled at them as they entered.
My daughter, being three years old, looked at the boy in the wheelchair and immediately asked, “Why is he in that chair?”
“Wheelchairs help people who are unable to walk on their own,” I told her.
“What is wrong with him?”
“I don’t know, sweetie, and it is not our business to know. There are many reasons why people need to be in a wheelchair.”
At that point, the mom chimed in. I could tell she was comfortable with my daughter’s questioning, and understood it came from the innocence and inexperience of being a young child.
“He was able to walk and talk until he was eight years old. Then he stopped suddenly, and we discovered he has a brain tumor.”
I looked her in the eye, and tried to give her a look that conveyed caring and empathy.
Words seem woefully inadequate in moments like these. I wanted to hug her but felt it would be inappropriate.
The mother and her son arrived at their floor and exited the elevator. We continued on. And my daughter’s questions continued.
“What is a tumor?”
“A tumor is something that grows inside your body but doesn’t belong there. It can hurt your body and make you sick. Many times doctors can treat it and help you get better. Sometimes they can’t.”
“Do I have a tumor in my brain? Is that why I have seizures?”
“No, sweetie. Doctors have taken pictures of your brain, and it is perfect.”
That particular day went on to be one of the worst of my life, for reasons I cannot write about here at this time. But the encounter with that mom in the elevator helped me keep perspective as I dealt with the crisis I faced.
Because the worst day I have had is nothing compared to the every day existence of others. I am blessed. And I should never forget it.