Recently, I needed to return something at Wal-Mart. I was second in line. The lady in front of me was an older and the Customer Service Employee was in her early twenties. When it was my turn, I noticed that the Employee looked like she was almost ready to cry. It didn’t seem to me that the lady in line before me was mean to her.
I asked the Employee if she was alright. At this, her eyes filled with tears. She then told me that she was fine. She said that she was feeling sad for the lady who had been in line in front of me.
The Employee told me that the lady was returning her husband’s pajamas. She was returning them because he died. I agreed with the employee that it was very sad. There were at least 3 pairs of men’s pajamas that she had returned. They were all very “proper” pajamas (button down, long-sleeved top and matching pants).
I finished my return and went on my way. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the lady (and her husband).
How awful that she had to return them. Wasn’t there someone in her life that could have saved her that pain? And did her husband die unexpectedly? Otherwise, why would she have bought so many pajamas?
When I was walking the store, I saw the lady. I smiled at her. She smiled back. She didn’t look particularly sad. I thought about how each of us deals with death and dying in our own way. When my Nana (my mother’s grandmother), I was in college and final exams were in less than a week. My Nana lived in New York and my parents and I agreed that it would have been disruptive to my academics for me to attend the funeral. So, I didn’t. Nana was about 98 when she died.
Nana raised my mom. My grandma (my mom’s mom) was a working woman by necessity not choice. So my mom and grandma had moved back in with Nana and Papa. Papa died when my mom was around 16. While my mom doesn’t talk much about her childhood, I imagine that she and Nana were quite close.
When Nana died, my parents flew out to New York for the funeral. My mom had no recollection of the clothes she wore at the funeral. When she found them in the ironing basket (while I was home on break), she couldn’t think of where they had been worn (eventually we figured it out). My mom is a very private person and I can see how that impacted how she dealt with her Nana’s death.
A teacher that I worked with, lost her brother to cancer, while we were working together. It was not long after Chris was diagnosed. She had been an amazing source of strength for me immediately following Chris’ diagnosis. Then her brother died. Neither one of us could handle spending much time together. One or both of us would tear up. It was emotionally agonizing. We were honest about it and I think that she knew that I was there for her if she was to need me and I knew that she was there for me. We just couldn’t manage our relationship. When I was with her, I thought about how I would be in her shoes and she thought about how I was walking the path that she had been on.
Recently, I saw her. I hadn’t seen her in almost a year and a half. In that time she had her first baby and I kept up in her life by Facebook. I missed her whole pregnancy. So much can change in a year and a half.
We had a few minutes to talk and we talked about her little one and my boys (she had met them several times). We talked about how Chris was doing (she kept up with things on FB as well) and before we knew it, we had to end our conversation before both of us got too emotional (she was tearing up and I was close).
Under other circumstances, I believe that we could have been very good friends. She is an amazing person and has a passion for life that I love. But because of all of the events going on in our lives when we were getting to know each other, it is too emotional. It is raw and I find, as much as I adore her, I cannot manage it. So, she is someone who touched my life for a short period of time, but I think about regularly and mourn what could have been.
Death and dying (and cancer) shaped our relationship and we can’t get past it. And it is an example of how each of us has to deal with life and death in our own way. There is no right or wrong. It can only be minute by minute.
KU if you are reading this, know that I understand and will always be here for you. And to the lady at Wal-Mart, I am sorry for the loss of your husband.