Kathy arrived at the New York City women’s shelter dressed in dirty rags and holding a small paint can. Wherever this young girl went the can came with her. Meal time, shower time, counseling time, bed time – it didn’t matter, the can was always with her. When asked about what was in it, or why it was so important to her, she declined to explain.
When she was upset, hurt or angry she would find a quiet place, hold the can close and rock back and forth seemingly gaining some comfort from it. Sitting with her for breakfast one morning one of the counsellor’s won her confidence and Kathy shared her story. She had been left in a dumpster two days after she was born. The New York newspapers had reported the discovery by the police. Kathy grew up being shifted from one foster home to another, angry about her situation and resenting what her mother had done. Eventually she decided to try finding her mother. She managed to gain some information from a person who knew where she was living. But her mother wasn’t there, she was in the hospital dying of AIDS.
Kathy was able to get to the hospital and talk to her mother. During that painful but fruitful interaction her mother told Kathy she loved her. That changed the picture completely. No one had ever said that to her. That one statement was like pure gold to her. The next day her mother died. The can contained her ashes. It was the only connection she had left.