We were shopping as we normally do
following our list and planning the menu items needed for the week
when I saw her.
She used to come into the pharmacy where I worked and we had spoken to each other on many occasions.
Leaning against her shopping cart while holding onto a cane she saw me as I saw her and we both said ‘hello’.
An elderly lady in her 80’s with white grey hair folded and rolled into a bun on the top of her head.
Her aged face showing deep wrinkles and life experiences.
So often when she would come into the pharmacy I would imagine her sitting on a bench in front of a vanity mirror brushing her long white locks carefully counting 100 times before bed.
She was always very sweet and kind and I imagined she was somewhat independent in her younger years.
This day she looked a bit different as fatigue seemed to weigh heavy on her shoulders like an uninvited guest.
I asked her how she was doing and she began to unravel a story that touched me deeply.
A close friend of hers recently passed away and it broke her heart to say good bye to her.
Every Sunday they would share the day and enjoy each others friendship and now it would be different.
She said ‘Sundays won’t be the same anymore without her’
with tears in her eyes she shared how precious this friend was.
How they would lay on the hospice bed and talk and cry and pray and support each other as the call of death came closer each day.
She looked at me and said,
“I was with her when she took her last breath”.
As soon as I heard those words I knew the moment called for gentle understanding as I put my hand on her arm and said in an almost whispered voice,
“You gave her a gift, your friendship blessed her and she did not pass away alone.”
She took a deep breath and I could see the grief paint its way across her face as the memory of her dear friend came near.
Silence and sorrow stood beside her and held her up as she leaned against the shopping cart.
We talked about her two story house feeling even more big these days. We talked about her moving into a retirement community… someday.
I told her the good points and how the atmosphere of safety was a glamorous thought.
She asked questions and I answered them sounding like I knew what I was talking about.
She appreciated my encouragement.
I even offered to go with her to visit the retirement community so she wouldn’t have to go alone.
We continued to talk and share for over 20 minutes in the middle of the jello pudding and pie filling aisle.
Between cans and boxes and people walking by
her hurting heart and my willingness to help.
It didn’t matter that we were in a big store in the middle of a shopping aisle.
For a few moments it was just the two of us sharing matters of the heart together.
She thanked me for taking the time to listen to her and
she even asked if she could hug me.
Taking the time to listen that afternoon made me wonder
if this was the only conversation she had shared with anyone
since her friend passed away. Her need to talk and share was so evident I couldn’t have walked away.
Our shopping list was finished by a husband who knows his wife.
Matters of the heart are not often convenient or scheduled
they are opportunities to take hold of and observe.
When we begin to say our first ‘hello’ to someone
we need to look into their eyes and really see what they are not telling and then be willing to listen when we ask them “how are you doing?”
Matters of the heart are all around us
we just need to pay attention and be open to the process of caring.