Less than a week before my emergency surgery, I wrote a letter to someone who needed a living eulogy and to hear that he was appreciated. The timing of me writing and giving him the letter seems prophetic to me now. I wonder what my words might have meant had things gone differently with my emergency surgery. The lovely thing is that I overcame my awkwardness by sharing my intimate thoughts with another adult, something we don’t do enough. I don’t have to wonder about the alternate future because I chose to silence the voice in my head that said, “Don’t give him the note.” I hate that my first reaction is sometimes to pull back. Over the last year, the barrier I have to do so continues to disintegrate – and I’m as proud of that as I am of my weight loss.
Yesterday, the person who received the letter proved himself worthy of my praise. He went beyond the scope of work and reached out to help another human being, one who was experiencing a difficult day. It’s the only thing that matters. We’re not going to remember bad decisions and particular moments if someone proves that they will walk that extra mile and outside of all their comfort zones. “Trust your instincts,” I told him. They’ve worked out well for him so far. And if they push him to risk reaching out to help someone else, they are the best possible instincts.
Life will continue to beat us all up in unexpected moments; it’s a certainty. Each of us needs to be the giver and the receiver of compassion and understanding when we can. It will be our turn on both ends of this spectrum when we least expect it.
Yesterday, at work, something else happened that I can’t specify due to privacy. All of us mobilized without a second thought, seeing someone suffering and needing both immediately physical help and presence. It lingered with me. The person I wrote the letter to was also one of those who went above and beyond again to jump into spontaneous action. Life and work would be so much lesser without him; that was one of the points I tried to communicate to him.
As I exited the convenience store this morning after buying multidraw lottery tickets, a young woman with bright xanthous hair (I love that word!) sat in her vehicle. She animatedly shook her phone. She was obviously upset. I crossed in front of her to go to my car. As I unlocked my door, I looked over toward her and saw that she was looking over at me. I smiled and made the universal motion for her to roll her window down. Had she not, I would have understood. Strangers are always a risk. Her passenger window went down. “Do you need anything?” The words popped out of my mouth as they often do. Being awkward didn’t occur to me. “I need a miracle,” she said, her voice uneven. “Do you like your mom?” I asked her. She nodded and said, “Yes, she is pretty cool for a mom.” I smiled again and then said seriously, “Well, call her and talk to her about it. Call her right now. That’s what good moms are for.” The girl with the xanthous hair seemed a bit bewildered. “Okay, I think I will. You’re right. This is ridiculous.” I told her to have a good talk with her mom and waved goodbye. I drove away and saw that she was looking at her phone, probably to make a call. I wondered if she’d tell her mom about the odd man in the vest and suit jacket at the convenience store, telling her to call.
I gave her the words.