She sat on the bench outside the library wearing her mask. I spoke to her, because, well, living in a small town, I basically speak to anyone who will make eye contact with me, but I didn’t realize who I was speaking to until I got inside the library.
I grabbed my reserved books off the shelf and thought through the situation as I waited six feet behind the patron in front of me. I hadn’t seen her since . . . I didn’t have any words, yet to not acknowledge it would be all wrong, too.
Not everyone’s pandemic experiences are equal. Some of us have been inconvenienced. Some could only wish that “inconvenience” was the biggest COVID-19 hurdle they’ve faced. She buried her grandson. I saw his photo when the obituary announcement popped up on my phone. Just a little tiny buddy. Sitting there smiling full of life and potential and joy. And she and her family face this all while not being able to have the proximal love, support, and comfort of those around them.
I exited the library and just dove in as I usually do with most things in life, “Hey, ummm . . . I don’t have any words.” She quietly spoke, “There are no words.” I continued, “But I just wanted to say something because to not bring it up, well, I know that feels terrible too. I love you.” She graciously responded, “I love you too, Amy.”
In a small town in northern Indiana, her family had become the next “tragedy family.” My family was the “tragedy family” five years before her. One doesn’t have to look too far around to realize, there will always be a new tragedy family coming down the pike. If you’ve ever heard me speak publicly, chances are, you’ve probably heard me speak of the struggle I went through with people and their words. What a paradox. After the wreck and my daughter’s paralysis, it was absolutely hurtful if people saw me for the first time and didn’t acknowledge the awful changes in my family’s lives. When people don’t acknowledge it, it feels as if they don’t even care. On the other hand, way too many people wanted to offer words and words and more words, few of which were helpful. It always reminded me of a song from the musical, My Fair Lady, where Eliza sings, “Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words! I get words all day through first from him now from you. Is that all your blighters can do?”
I have to chuckle. In the book of Job, Job has four different friends who come to speak to him. Three of them say nothing helpful. Only one, speaks words which offer truth and comfort. I would say, based on my experience, that’s about statistically correct. And so I try to limit my words to those who are hurting but still try to acknowledge they are hurting. I’m not some great person who figured that out on my own. I’m some rotten person who was forced to learn that through rotten circumstances.
I hope she knows I care. I hope she knows she and her family are prayed for and loved. I hope she knows that even though nothing about what I said was suave and put-together, perhaps she appreciates that I acknowledged the horribleness even though to have it brought up again is a reminder of something which she can’t ever not think about right now.
But maybe it helped. Yes, based on my personal experience, those brief acknowledgements that reminded me my family and I were loved, and well, they helped.
And maybe you too, feel the same way, Dear Reader. Here’s to minimal words and maximum love in horrible situations.
Until the next Wednesday the Lord allows.