A simple standard “Hey, how are you doing?” I asked, when I saw her at the grocery store. I hadn’t seen her in months, maybe over a year?
A perfunctory greeting, a standard blah blah blah. We’re good at those, here in Canada. We ask, but do we really need or want to know the answer? The honest real answer?
She smiled but it just didn’t reach her eyes. Her body and face looked so lost and sad. I stopped myself from pushing my cart onwards and stretched out my arms to her and her eyes filled with tears.
We hugged, there near the dairy aisle, we hugged each other so hard. I felt her break, her shoulders collapse and the tears fall. She cried on my shoulder, there among moms pulling wayward toddlers and employees stocking the butter and cheese.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I’m just so tired of telling people that I’m okay when I’m not.”
That hug felt cathartic, it felt like a gift, it felt sweet and loving and so so right.
I kissed her cheek as we drew away from one another, and gently wiped the tear from her cheek. “Never say sorry, don’t be sorry,” I said, “thank you for the privilege of letting me be here for you.”
I can never say I took her pain away that moment, her grief from her loss is too huge and deep. But the sweetness of caring and honest empathy is such a dear heartfelt thing to carry. It’s far too easy to brush away the needs of another in our busy lives. That moment, though, I will treasure forever, because her and I both paused, if only for two to three minutes. We paused, to give and to receive kindness and love and support. In her sadness of her loss she is carrying forever and me, with my coincidence (or fate?) of being there, how we came to share this one quiet moment.
This is what it is to be human.
So thank you for allowing me the privilege of being there for you, if only for a brief moment in time.