Updated: Feb 8
“There’s nothing quite as traumatic as losing a loved one suddenly. I know, because my husband died in bed next to me. It was totally unexpected and pains me to this day,” She said her voice trailing off
There was a pregnant pause as my mind embarked on a verbal scavenger hunt seeking words to respond to this tender share.
Because I wasn’t talking to a friend.
I wasn’t even talking to an acquaintance.
I was talking to a stranger.
Sheila, with Bank of America, who was assisting with resolution of an account issue.
All I could muster was:
“Oh my God. I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
Sometimes people just need someone to listen. No advice. No words. Just an ear.
For the next 30 minutes my account issues receded, and an impromptu camaraderie surfaced.
Sheila shared that her husband passed 6 years ago, after 24 years of marriage. She arose one ill fated morning, dressed for work, and was unsuccessful in rousing him.
He’d gone to sleep the night prior in the land of the living , and awakened beyond the veil...Plucked like ripe fruit from mortality, harvested by a fatal heart attack.
She shared that Grief Counseling has been a healing balm, But hasn’t curtailed her recollections. Haunting thoughts of the love they shared flow daily through the river of her remembrance.
She told me it’s okay, not to know what to say when a friend faces catastrophic loss;
That when a heart is shattered by trauma of this magnitude, those left grieving don’t seek the “right words” NOR for others to “fix it”.
They mostly desire to be heard.
I learned something profound from that encounter.
“Everyone has a story that will break your heart. And if you’re paying attention, everyone has a story that will bring you to your knees.” (Dr. Brene Brown)
Sheila’s was just such a story.
I conversed with her, gazing out a window that overlooks my driveway, expecting my husband to pull up at any moment.
The prospect of him not returning home from work? UNIMAGINABLE.
The prospect of me waking the next morning, and him not? UNIMAGINABLE.
But here’s the thing.
Six years ago, it was unimaginable for Shelia too---until it wasn't!
Her heart rending story, was a key that opened the locked door of my awareness about MUCH more than the pain of unexpected grief.
It was a bright beacon burning through the fog of 2020 incivility, spotlighting the need for empathy and kindness; Traits in short supply as cumulative stress became an accelerant causing tempers to flare while patience waned.
It was a comma in the sentence of pandemic life prompting me to PAUSE and SEE the humanity in those who answer our calls,
ring up our groceries,
process our payments,
serve us at restaurants.
I’m married to an affable extrovert who often tries my introverted patience with his insistence on engaging strangers in small talk.
When I dine out, I want to just order my food.
My husband NEVER just orders his food.
He examines the name tag of each server.
Engages them in polite chatter.
Makes direct eye contact.
Uses their name in EVERY verbal exchange.
He SEES their humanity.
And connects with them by name.
I don’t know WHY my conversation with Sheila took the personal turn that it did.
I DO know that it was embedded with a powerful lesson that is directly applicable to the crosswinds of tension blowing through our nation in early 2021:
Kindness is never wasted. It makes a difference and blesses both the receiver and the giver. It’s a gift that everyone can give. It costs nothing. But it can mean everything.
Regardless where my path leads this year, I can set an intention to engage with kindness, courtesy, and civility---even in dealing with those whose views are unaligned with my own.
I don’t know to what extent it will matter.
Some of the incendiary views I hear espoused are incongruent with my beliefs..
But I ALSO know that the dueling escalation of fury in which we’ve been engaged of late will eventually transport us to a dire place from which it will be difficult to return.
I can’t guarantee success.
It’s an intention that has to be lived out day by day, encounter by encounter.
But I believe hope is passion for what’s possible---NOT what’s guaranteed.
I can live in awareness of the challenging reality of now, and STILL abide in the possibility of better things to come.
Hope is passion for what's POSSIBLE. Better is POSSIBLE!