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Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.

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The Masks We Wear


Every day we pass by friends, acquaintances, classmates and strangers, and all of us are wearing smiles on our faces. For some, that reflects feelings of bliss, joy or contentment. For others, though, it can be a mask.

I often think about my pain and the smile I wear to mask it. Most days, I am have the ability to express my troubles and fight the uphill battle against chronic depression. I tell myself, “You can do it! Just go and talk it out with your therapist.”

At least I had the ability to express myself and fight the battle; Helen did not.

Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) is a program offered at my university where students, such as myself, have the opportunity to engage with elders with dementia while doing abstract art. For the past year, I have painted with a beautiful woman named Helen. She accomplished many things in her lifetime, and she has been an inspiration to me.

Just recently, I found out that Helen had passed away. This came as a complete shock; she looked so lively and healthy on the outside. 

The death of Helen taught me that you really don’t know what another person is going through. They can look so happy on the outside, yet feel pain on the inside. I now wonder how many of the people I know are wearing masks? I have decided that life is too short to hide behind a mask.

Helen was an inspiration to me, and in more ways than one.

Anonymous