My heart is aching this week and no matter how much I change activities, I feel dispirited.
I'm hurting for one of my favorite friends. To protect her privacy, I'll call her Fern.
At 71, Fern is losing her house, joining the multitudes of homeowners who can no longer pay their mortgage. Living on social security and savings that have just about disappeared, her money won't stretch enough to pay her ongoing expenses.
In Fern's case, it's a worse case scenario. She made repeated trips to the bank that holds her mortgage, asking if they could lower the mortgage payments. She pointed out the value of her home fell so much that she now owes the bank more than double the home's assessed value.
Sorry, they can't help her, they said. After her third visit to the bank, they did say they would write off what she owes if she agreed to give the home to the bank for a short sale. That means she loses her big down payment and all the money she paid during the years she made mortgage payments.
But she will walk away debt free.
Always one who looks for a silver lining, Fern said she was fine with the foreclosure because she was told the process usually takes two years, from start to finish.
"At least I can enjoy my home in the meantime," she said.
A few weeks later, the bank had a cash buyer for the home but he needed to be in it by the end of the month.
That meant Fern had two weeks to find a small apartment she can afford and pack up all her furniture and belongings.
When I was moving from my home in Pennsylvania, it took me months to go through a lifetime of accumulation. Doing it in two weeks would have been impossible.
To me, losing a home shouldn't happen to someone her age. Most of all, it shouldn't happen to someone as nice as she is.
A retired nurse, Fern spends her time helping others. I think she does more good in one month than most of us do in a lifetime. I can't believe all that bad fortune can happen to someone that special.
But let me tell you, she's taking it better than I am. I hurt for her when I think she has to leave the warm pool in which she swims each morning to ease her severe arthritis. She also has to leave behind the big vegetable garden on which she relies so heavily.
She tells me to stop worrying. She's fine, she insists.
"Happiness is a choice," she said. "I could sit down and cry, wasting some of the days God gave me. Or, I can choose to be happy. I choose happiness."
As one who is steeped in a deep and abiding faith, she also sees the blessing in everything that is happening to her.
"I just see God taking care of me in every detail," she says. She found a second floor apartment she can afford and says it's a blessing that it's in her old neighborhood.
"I'm close to church, close to all my friends and activities. Things are working out great," she says.
After trying unsuccessfully to get another part-time nursing position, she went looking for any job she could find. A friend hired her to work each morning in his gift shop.
"I'll make exactly enough per month to pay my rent," she enthuses, saying it's a big blessing not to have all those financial worries that come with maintaining a house.
"No taxes, no property insurance, no lawn and pool maintenance," she says, counting more "blessings" on her fingers.
I thought she was just putting a good spin on something that was out of her control. But the more time I spend with her, the more I see her positive attitude is genuine.
"Life is all about attitude," she says. "My attitude is that life is wonderful and I am ever so grateful for all the blessings that continue to come my way."
You know what strikes me about all that? What some call blessings others would call burdens. And many would buckle under the pressure of handling those burdens.
Fern is handling it just as she has everything else in life – with courage, pluck and a positive attitude.
Did you ever notice how some people whine all the time, telling everyone how rough they have it? Some recite a litany of woes every time we ask the simple question, "How are you?" yet, their problems often pale in comparison to someone with real problems.
And then there are special people like Fern who serve as a beacon of light to the rest of us.
When I count my own blessings, having friends like that ranks near the top.