The kindness of a stranger can be a small thing….it can be a big thing. The gift of a few words, a smile, or even friendship can go a long way for someone in pain. I am moved by the kindness Betta shows Bert, the homeless man. In all of her own pain, she offers him some dinner, some money, and even a warm place in her home to stay for the night. Bert knew John…and he gave Betta some words to remember…words that brought her to tears. She doesn’t seem to have many friends, her life was wrapped up in her husband and their marriage. She has no one to talk to and Bert seemed to be her only friend at the moment.
After John’s death, Betta finds little notes from John tucked into a drawer. Simple words like "green bowl", "carbon" and "gingerbread". She has no idea what they mean, and why he left them for her to find.
My question for you: Why do you think John left these words? Are they significant or are they nothing? Will these words help Betta move forward?
Ok….I fessed up to you….so I will fess up to the world as well! I read ahead….but look, I’m going to answer this as though I didn’t slip smoothly into Chapter three…and tell you what was on my mind at the time.
First of all, I can’t even imagine going through a similar circumstance to Betta’s in the hospital. Berg has written this well…as I imagine it. For those of you following this dialogue, this is the chapter that deals with John’s physical illness and death. If the process can be at all planned for and peaceful, this particular description would be the example. But what is a stark contrast, is the expression of violent pain and suffering that result. I was astonished that a writer could capture such an intimate and clearly self-researched emotion.
Now…the three wee papers that were found in the plastic denture box (John didn’t have dentures), found in the side table when Betta was sorting clothes and packing up bathroom gear….well, those were key to me sneaking a peak at the next chapter. You see…I AM an ephemera nut! I have nostalgia journals, ticket stubs and all forms of memorabilia filed away in a very systematic manner…and all for the purpose of letting my loved ones know that I am ALIVE. I suppose that even this blog is now another layer of that…a way of making records and keeping stories contained in a manner that isn’t chaos…but order….a manner that gives a shape to my life and experience.
I feel as though the three pieces of paper containing the words….green bowl….carbon….and gingerbread are devices that the author will use to disclose intimate stories that Betta and John have shared along the way. I feel that these are not meaningless, but meaning-full and I look forward to the continued unfolding. John has left Betta the gift of words.
Yes….the kindness of strangers is a big thing in my mind. The kindness of strangers addresses a universal truth. People can create magic.
I had such an emotional and personal connection with this chapter. Yes..John died of liver cancer. He smiled at Betta and then she watched him take is last breath. It was heartbreaking to read.
The little pieces of paper that Betta found from John I believe will guide her through her journey of life without him. They will have meaning as the story unfolds and no doubt Betta will find more. Johns last gift….words he knows she needs to hear.