Ch.122 A Sad Day at The Refuge

Ch.122 A Sad Day at The Refuge

          January 2022

          The Refuge is not large; about 20 persons reside there at any time. Only one individual had passed away in the five months Pat has lived there, and that was a woman who died just a couple days after we arrived. I had begun to think of this group as a long-term community, although it was evident that a few persons were becoming weaker over time.

          And then, within one hour on the first Sunday in January, two residents died.

          Pat became quiet when I told her who had died. She didn’t know one of them at all, Thomas, as he was a new arrival who had never been integrated into the group. But she liked and appreciated the other resident, whom I’ll call Harold. This tall man was a gentle soul as he shuffled through the halls, politely murmuring to himself; He always thanked the attendants who guided him to his chair at the dining table. I imagined him as the maître d of a fine restaurant, graciously welcoming every diner. Pat said she felt sad that Harold had died.

          One other resident, Sarah, told me she missed Harold. Nobody else said much, including the staff. I didn’t sense a “no talk” rule, though. People were free to say something or express feelings. They did not do so, however. Nor did I witness any grief. Just quiet.

          I don’t have any good understanding of this lack of visible emotion. As a former mental health counselor used to encouraging people to fully express their grief, I was surprised by this low-key response. Perhaps several of the residents can no longer understand what is happening to others and therefore don’t react. Perhaps others understand the eventuality and inevitability of death and so don’t need to address the topic.

          The Refuge is a place where twenty residents meet at dinner tables and seldom speak; it is a place where people never say things like “please tell me about your life.” And now I realize that The Refuge is also a place where peoples’ lives end quietly, certainly noticed but not openly grieved.

Pat’s comments on “A Sad Day at The Refuge:

          I feel awful about Harold’s death. I wish he would come back.