Tuesday, June 22, 2010

There but for the Grace of God go I

Today was largely a travel day. Blech. On my second flight – the one that would actually get me home from almost a month of NONSTOP TRAVEL – something so powerful happened. It still has me thinking.

There was a large woman who was older and had her mobility impared: she was confined to a wheelchair. I am not stellar at guessing weights, but if I had to guess I would say 350-400 lbs.

I was basically oblivious to the whole situation, but the folks sitting next to me in the waiting area at the airport were giving a blow by blow of a scene that, prior to me their commentary, had not caught my attention.

Because she was in a wheelchair, a gate agent accompanied this overweight passenger to the plane prior to letting the rest of us board. The woman was not totally immobile, as she was able to climb the stairs. This is the part of my neighbors’ commentary where I was first alerted to the situation.

I watched this woman make her way up each of the four stairs to the plane with such effort and determination. She would put one foot on the next stair, grasp the railings with all her might, pull herself up to the next stair, and bring her trailing leg up behind her. The effort was tough, so she rested for about 45 seconds after each stair. I made myself turn away, and tried to process the scene that had unfolded before my eyes.

I was jarred from my mental processing when my neighbors loudly pronounced, “She fell!” Although she had made it up each of the four stairs, she was unable to pull herself into the cabin of the airplane (probably because there was no railing), and instead fell forward into it. I felt absolutely terrible for this lady, her body almost certainly hurt and her ego definitely bruised. Poor thing.

As someone who has been on the absolute cusp of 300 lbs, I could identify a lot with her struggle. Had I not taken control of my weight, I am virtually certain that I too would eventually be in a wheelchair and have extremely limited mobility. Seeing the reality of the situation really makes you pause, though. Wow. That absolutely would have been me in another 20 or so years (maybe even less).

I have written before about my complex emotions toward the morbidly obese. Sometimes I feel concern. Sometimes (I am ashamed to admit this), I feel judgement. Today I feel empathy and gratefulness for those who loved me even when I was fat, and support me in my quest to get healthy. What a hard situation to watch someone else who is in such bad shape.


  1. really powerful post and one which resonated with me on a few levels.

    this sentence:

    Today I feel empathy and gratefulness for those who loved me even when....

    can be ended so many ways and is SO SO UNIVERSALLY APPLICABLE.

    xo xo


  2. I get such mixed emotions when I see the extremely overweight. I really want to just go encourage them to do something. Of course, I don't. They may already be doing something or there situation may be much more complex than I am aware. It still makes me very sad.


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