Do you ever wonder if the little things in your life that seem to be so mundane, so insignificant, so repetitive matter much? Reflections make me slowly, thoughtfully nod yes to those questions. And that the answer occurred in such a simple, quiet, fleeting moment in my day – it sped past me at an alarming blip of time. Mere fractions of a second, really. In the amount of time it took me to pass him on the road as he walked to work.
Decades ago I made a new friend. She and I were not very much alike in most ways that new friends are. Most new friendships are built on our similarities – our interests, our talents, our families, our line of work and the like. And none of these things fit us at all. Our backgrounds were polar opposites. Our lives only intersected in one tiny place, yet that was enough to make a life-long friend and one that still breezes through my mind every now and again. You know – a sound, a scent, a flavor, a memory.
I’m a people watcher. Well, I like to be a tad more gracious about myself and use the label observer instead. People are so intriguing when they do not know that you are watching. Sometimes we may cringe at what we put out there. Sometimes we have absolutely no idea what we said or did or shared made the slightest difference to anybody. But I loved watching her. I learned so much about where she came from, how far that truly was, what she had endured, what made her laugh with her whole body. What made her frustrated, what made her cry in that silent, no one knows I am crying kind of way.
I loved watching her with her children. She was single mother who had her work cut out for her. Any single parent does, but when that package comes with special needs that require a mother’s love and nurturing, more especially so. She was an incredibly hard worker, driven to optimism by necessity rather than by choice. As the years ticked by, we bumped lives here and there. Can I just say that I think I loved her with such a deep affection, but I do not even know if I ever told her that. I would have if I could have.
In a quick instant she was gone. Swept away from this life on to the next. I was stunned. I grieved, I worked hard to grasp the why and why now that unsuspecting death often leaves in its wake. And what of her adolescent children? But mostly, how would he manage without his guiding light, his sweet mother, the one who cheered him on, the one who talked him down, the one who talked him through. The voice that said you are enough, you’ve got this?
He is an adult nowadays. I have seen him here and there. Sometimes I say hello and stop to chat, other times I don’t. He doesn’t know me, really. To him I am just a nice stranger. Does everybody treat him with that tenderness that I do when I say hello and ask how he is? Probably not. I wish that they would.
The other day I passed him when I was out scurrying from errand to errand in my overly busy day. He was walking alongside a very busy road. The day was a sunny bright one. He was walking to where he works – a distance of over 5 miles one way, I might add. In that split second of passing him, I saw the contented smile, the cheerful demeanor, an echo of that small troublesome boy that his mother worried so over – how would he manage when he grew up? How would he be safe?
And then it hit me. It hit me hard. All that she had hoped for, had prayed over, had worried so about – it all was right there in beautiful living color walking along with a determination in his step, a swing in his gait, the cheer in his eyes – all when he did not know that someone was watching. Maybe no one really was.
But I was.
And I am certain that she still is.