“Helen” — A Woman I didn’t know, but I Wrote A Blog About You.

An eighty-five year-old woman has died. Maybe those words don’t scream tragedy because she was eighty-five. The assumption may be that she had lived a long life, and age finally got the better of her. But this old woman didn’t die in a lonely nursing home. Nor did she lay sickly in a hospital bed until family decided it was time to end her suffering.


This eighty-five year-old woman died while trying to beat a train. Killed, as she scurried across train tracks…with a train fast approaching. Surveillance video captured the incident, and I can’t fathom watching what occurs on that tape. I’d wish for supernatural powers that could teleport me to that moment so I could whisk the old woman away, seconds before her imminent death.

But I can’t. Nobody can.

I think about her life, her eighty-five years, and all the historical events she lived through. The paper identified her real name, but I’ll call her “Helen”.

Helen would have been born in 1930, the year after the stock-market crash that devastated the country and sent it into a deep recession, occurred. With little or no protection from the federal government, the 1930’s became known for the Great Depression. *Over fifteen million Americans (one-quarter of workers) were unemployed. *Nine thousand uninsured banks closed, and took over 2.5 billion dollars in deposits with them.

For many, standing in breadlines was the only way they would eat.

Helen survived the Great Depression.

In the 1940’s, Europe was invaded by Nazi Germany. A war was started, and over *60 million people were killed worldwide.

Helen survived World War II.

In the next decade, she witnessed the fear of communism spread across the country. She lived through Sputnik. The Korean War. The beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Segregation. Martin Luther King. She saw Elvis Presley shake his hips.

She lived through the riots and the turmoil of the Sixties.  A President, a Civil Rights leader, and a Senator assassinated in the same decade. The Beatles. The Rolling Stones. Vietnam. Woodstock. She saw the first man walk on the moon.

She lived a long life, but it could have been longer. I didn’t know “Helen”, but when I read the part of the newspaper about her death, I was stopped. I thought, “What was it that an eighty-five year old woman was in such a hurry to get to that she tried to beat a train?” At 85!

At that moment, I tried to picture her life, and how she could ever have imagined it would end this way. There’s no way she could have. I have no idea what, if any, hardships Helen struggled to overcome in her life, but dying that way, at that age, feels like a long way to come to go down like that.

I pray that she has found peace.


*credit to History.com for the stats.

photo courtesy by freedigitalphotos.net