I'm not even sure where to begin with this, so I'll just jump right in. I've been living in the same house for 12 years. It's a small street, but busy with pedestrians, including those who travel from the bus and streetcar stops at the top of my street to the office building on the opposite side of the block.
Several years ago (as I just learned it was six years ago but I'm getting to that) I was in front of my house gardening and watching my (then) wee kids run up and down the sidewalk when a woman collapsed on the sidewalk across the street from my house. Yelling to my kids to stay where they were, I ran across the street to check on her. She was briefly unconscious and she was bleeding quite profusely from her leg and had a smallish cut on her head, so I called for an ambulance. A man who happened to be riding by on his bike stopped to help. I asked him to stay with her while I ran for a cold cloth to clean her injuries. We helped slow the bleeding and helped her sit up. After a few minutes she managed to stand.
Despite our entreaties for her to wait for the ambulance, the woman insisted on leaving once she was able to stand again. She claimed she was fine and just wanted to get home after a long shift. I watched her walk away, clutching the blood-soaked cloth in her hand as she went. The ambulance turned up less than a minute after she was out of sight.
That night she was all I could think about. I was so worried of what could have happened to her, because even though she was able to walk away, she did NOT look well. My only solace was knowing that if she passed out again while she was on public transit, that at least others would be around to help her.
For weeks afterwards, I looked for her often among the groups of workers who past my house, but never noticed her again.
Flash forward to today. I was once again in my front yard, pulling the weeds that invaded during my two weeks at the cottage when a woman greeted me and stopped to chat. She looked familiar, but I couldn't place her.
"Are you the one who helped me when I fell on the sidewalk?" she asked. It felt like a scene from a movie.
She came to thank me for helping her all those years ago, and to tell me the next part of that story. It seems that her appendix had been inflamed and that night she had gone into the hospital and spent a week being monitored. After surgery, she was off work for over six months while she recovered from the ordeal.
That day, six years ago, she says she had been feeling out of sorts and unable to see straight while she walked along the sidewalk – she remembers feeling a loss of balance and reaching for my neighbours fence to steady herself.
She looked shocked when I told her that she had passed out for a few moments when she fell.
At the time, all she could think about was wanting to get home to her husband, who was waiting for her so they could leave on a vacation. After arriving at the destination, her friends and husband insisted on bringing to her the hospital, which definitely saved her life.
What is the point of sharing this? I'm not sure, but once again I can't get this woman out of my head. Maybe my point is to say that we never know the impact we have on another person's life, and that we should pay close attention to what we do for – and to – others. My action of checking on this woman and giving her a wet face cloth meant enough to her that she stopped to thank me, all these years later.
All I know is that this woman – whose name I learned is Lily – has thought about me perhaps as often as I have thought about her over the past several years, and I am really happy to see that she had people in her life who looked after her and brought her to get the medical help she needed.
I'm happy that her story will have more to come.