I am that woman in the grocery store who is blocking the aisle, crying as I reach for ridiculous items on the shelf and then lose my breath completely as I spot something that used to be a necessity, a treat, a special bottle of hot sauce or a dessert mix, when I realize I will never buy it again. Going to the grocery store delivers reality when I am trying to take care of my family, taking one step toward life and seeking a respite from the grief that is seeping from the walls of my house, swirling with every dust particle. Surely the very act of driving to the store, leaving the anonymity of my car, entering a building that by its very nature means we are choosing to live, only to be reminded that I don’t care about fresh apples, that I am angered by beignet mixes, that people who are smiling are an affront, is just too much right now. I am that woman who annoys you in your rush through the store, the one who is crying over cornflakes and makes you uncomfortable with such uncontrolled emotion.
As you travel with purpose to the next meeting, to work, to shuttle children from one activity to the next, I am the woman in a car driving too slowly, picking up speed just a you pass. What you don’t know is that I can barely muster the effort to push on the gas pedal, that I have lost the focus necessary to remember where I am even going, that my hands are gripping the steering wheel so tightly in an effort to not turn around and go back to my home where I don’t have to keep a mask in place. I know I frustrate you when I sped up as you pass, you don’t know that you have shaken me out of my memories and spurred me to drive again, that you have shown me I am not driving safely so I follow your example, I push a bit harder on the pedal but am unable to maintain the desire or the effort, I slow down again and anger all those coming from behind.
Three weeks ago I too could shop and drive and care about mundane things. Then Friday happened, then the phone call came that would forever divide my life into before and after. Tomorrow brings the knowledge that I have survived 3 weeks without my son here in this world. How did time keep moving so steadily when I am screaming for a chance to go back? I am consumed with rage, with an anger that scares me. I am not an angry person by nature, I forgive quickly and easily because I know the destruction that judgement offers, yet I have lost those parts of myself as I refuse to speak to the God who broke our agreement, who refused to honor the contract I fully believed we had made. I was told to trust Him with my child, I handed him over for safe keeping, filled with assurance that one day he would return to sobriety, become the man I as his mother knows resided in his heart. Scripture feels empty, a hollow scrambling of letters and words that promise what clearly was not to be delivered. My feelings are too ugly to share with most, I lost my son that horrific morning and I lost my faith. Should I really be concerned with continuing to play by the rules our society expects, to stay on the right side of the aisle and drive the speed limit?
Yet I am finding that there are those who are not put off by my lost eyes, by my inability to chat or smile or behave appropriately. My church is my safe place these days, even as I reject the reasons for our gathering, because it is filled with folks steeped in grace. I explained to my pastor yesterday that I am rejecting God but not His followers. One day they will lead my back to a right relationship with the “Savior” who chose not to save my son, for now I can only believe in their belief, in their kindness as they stop to give me a hug and even listen as I say things to them I have probably already said, they don’t show the impatience of the strangers who drive by and honk. No, these people are heroes, bridge builders. I trust in them, the closest I am willing to get to God. I am grateful for their gentleness, the tenderness with which they are seeking out my heart. Somehow these are still my people.
Please be kind to strangers who are annoying and disconcerting in their odd behavior. I am that woman who is desperately hanging by a thread. You can choose to twist and snap it or join your own bit of rope to strengthen mine. The world is full of hurting people, life is just too hard for some of us to smile. You may never know my struggle, my story or that of the one ahead of you in line who forgets to keep moving forward, but trust that they are broken hearted and doing the best that can.