Nashville, TN: Two weeks ago, one of the Thistle Farms executives emailed the community and asked us to "please think about taking an hour in the next week to go visit Deirdra.” Deirdra had entered the Magdalene program in 2012 and was working hard to get her life back on track. Her life story, like so many of the stories from the women in the program, had been a mix of abuse and trafficking, which lead to prostitution and addiction. Two years ago, Deirdra had begun a new journey of hope, surrounded by a community who would support her as she worked on her recovery.
Unfortunately, because of her history with drugs and alcohol, she suffered from liver disease. And to survive, she needed a liver transplant, which was nearly impossible to get because of a lack of insurance and her high risk status. Still, in the last two years, Deirdra was cared for and loved, as her health declined.
Deirdra was placed in the Belcourt Nursing Home in a palliative care program. While it was not her Magdalene home, I was told she was comfortable and very much at peace.
Like most of the things in my life, I put "visit Deirdra" on my to do list, thinking I would figure out a time to drop by in between coffees and meetings.
Tonight on Facebook, I saw a beautiful post from a Magdalene graduate, with information that Deirdra had passed away. I looked at my to do list again. At the very bottom, the words "visit Deirdra" sat on the drafted email; lifeless.
As I deleted this task (task!?), I couldn't help but wonder how hard it would have been to taken an hour out of my day to stop by and see Deirdra The nursing home was in Hillsboro Village -- near the coffee shop and the bars I have no problem spending hours at.
It wasn't that Deirdra and I were close. In fact, I'm not even sure if she would have remembered my name if I were to have visited her. But it's the principle that's making me cry tonight. John Lennon said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans." In this case, death is what happened to me while I was busy making other plans.
Shortly after Deirdra began the Magdalene program, I was taking portraits of some of the women and Deirdra joined in, on a warm spring day, and let me photograph her. I remember she smiled with her mouth closed because she had lost some of her teeth from drug abuse. She also had a scar on her face from only God knows who or what. But most importantly, I remember her wise eyes, filled with a lifetime of pain but a future of full of hope.
I will do my best to honor Deirdra's memory by actually doing life with others, rather than adding it to my to do list.