In addition to my normal to dos of cleaning, laundry, cooking and responding to letters I've received, this week's list has a somewhat unusual item on it.
The holidays, especially Christmas, are difficult for a lot of people, including a young woman I work with whom I'll call Anne. Anne is 22 and lost her father to cancer about a year ago. His battle with the disease was a short but vicious one and she witnessed his suffering and agonizing death. Today, as I walked into the store from my break, I saw her sitting on a low ledge sobbing. She was talking to someone on her cell phone and I slowed a bit as I approached her. I said, "Anne" and she put her phone down. I knelt on the ground in front of her and put my arms around her. She sobbed on my shoulder. I didn't say anything. I just held her while she cried, shaking and clutching me. She managed to get out a few words, "All these families, they're all so happy! I want to be happy again." I thought of a lot of things I could have said and a few I really wanted to say but I stayed silent while she poured out her grief.
Finally, she pulled away and wiped her tears from her face. I reached out and smoothed her hair. "This is a very tough time for you, I know. My dad died several years ago and I still miss him." She nodded and choked back a few more tears and said, "I haven't cried this hard since he died! Why now?" and we talked for a bit about how hard the holidays can be and how they bring up memories, both good and bad, of our departed loved ones. I told her that my grief over losing my father and daughters sometimes sneaks up on me and other times slaps me in the face and either way is horrible but the slapping times are the worst because I don't expect them. They strike me out of nowhere and cause me to practically crumble in grief. She nodded again and looked a little embarrassed. "Will it get better?" she asked and I had to think on that one for a few seconds. "It should." I said. "But we're all different and there's no way to know just how good it will get for you or how long it will take." She looked away for a few seconds then looked back at me and flashed her beautiful smile. "Thanks." I stood up, took my notepad from my pocket, wrote my phone number on the top page, tore it out, and handed it to her. "You're welcome. Call me if you ever want to talk. Or cry." She nodded and I went back into the building and back to work.
I don't know if I handled that situation as well as I could have. A hundred platitudes rattled around in my head and almost came out of my mouth and it took strength not to say them. I wanted to but there's no way for me to know what the future holds for Anne. My crystal ball is broken so I chose to be honest without being harsh and to just be available right then when she needed me.
In a couple of days, I'll surprise Anne with a notecard and letter in her locker. I might even put a goodie or two in the envelope, something that will bring a smile to her face.
This week I'll make myself available to someone who needs a friend. It might be that Anne is the only opportunity for that I'll have this week but knowing what I do about human nature, I think there will be more.
And I'll be waiting.
I haven't been able to check my mail in several days because my box keys are with my other keys at the shop that has my vehicle! Oy, the agony of being unable to open my mail boxes and see what surprises are in them is just too much. I should get the keys (and the vehicle) back tonight and will head to the post office to drop off letters and check my box then head home to check that box. The anticipation of what lies ahead is simply delicious!