I cried today.
I cried in public.
That was my defining moment.
I’ve been pondering life all day as I bustle about, trying to stay busy with Thanksgiving prep. Today was my first day flying solo in the now quiet of my daily life since last Thursday. It’s so unnerving to think about daily life, what it is, and what it should be. I was hoping to come up with some lighthearted story or some witty anecdote to share, but I’ve got nada.
But, I cried. After two hours of running errands, I entered the grocery store and was crying not one minute later.
My sweet, unsuspecting neighbor (who brought us the best potato bread cinnamon rolls known to man after Caleb died) had the great misfortune of being in the same aisle as me at the grocery store. She’s a lovely, classy lady. One of those grandmotherly types we’d all like to think we’ll be like. Her hair and makeup are always done (seriously, I’ve seen her leaving her house at 6:00AM and she looks amazing). She’s fit and dresses nicely. She loves children, shares goods from her garden, and made us a homemade baby towel once. She’s wonderful.
As we met, I thanked her for lending me her garden spade and she asked how I’m doing, with a look that acknowledged the impending doom of December. She then mentioned she heard we were moving.
And I cried.
And she stood there and listened.
She didn’t run away. She didn’t look uncomfortable. I know I apologized a few times as I tried to catch the tears in the corners of my eyes before they rolled down my cheeks, but she’d have none of it. She simply said, “Sometimes, we just need to talk and someone just needs to listen”. She even said she was glad she ran into me.
Now here’s the big part.
Once I pulled it together and got my emotional vent under control, she stayed with me and had a simple chat. Nothing major, just a friendly conversation about other things. She was present in every way just when I needed it the most and I didn’t even realize it.
That’s the thing about grief and the grieving. Sometimes, we think we’re doing fine, but really, we’re on autopilot. We’re going numb and disappearing into a place where emotion, time, connections, and humanity don’t exist.
We are drowning.
We don’t realize it because we’ve become so indifferent. You have a hard time seeing it because life has moved on and we hide the pain well.
The drownings that happen on dry land, after the initial incident, are the hardest to spot. Then, out of nowhere, some unsuspecting human brings us back and they are there for the first gasp of air. It can be shocking and unsettling.
Today, my perfect neighbor handled my gasp with love, kindness, and sympathy. She even left me with the warmest of hugs. She didn’t just stand there. She didn’t run away. She became my life preserver. I hope I can be that person for another. I hope we all can.