“Ohhhh, please, please don’t do that to me, “ I cried, as I curled up on the bed. “I just want to relax and do my own thing today, maybe she does too, and besides, why can’t she reach out to me?
“She socially awkward I think,” he said with a smirk. “She’s a very private person, but she’s really nice. You guys should really hang out today. I think it would mean a lot to Mike too.”
My man never asks anything of me. I think this may have been the first time he specifically asked me to do something for him like this, and, in the end, I knew that I would. She is nice enough, and we’re about the same age, but she’s a New Yorker, with kind of a hardened exterior. Maybe I was intimidated by her, I don’t know, she seemed so strong and self-assured. As it turned out, before I had a chance to reach out to her, she actually reached out to me: “Want to meet for breakfast in 45 minutes?”
I texted back, “Sure.” Dang.
So there we were, sitting across from each other, eating breakfast. It felt a little awkward at first, but I have to admit it was better than eating alone; in fact, I probably would have just eaten Hershey’s Kisses in my room, or raided the mini bar. Anyway, just because of the type of person I am (innately curious about people), I began interviewing her. It’s funny, when you begin to ask people about their lives and you are genuinely interested, they open up. As she let down her guard and let herself be a little vulnerable, a different Jane emerged, and that strong exterior began to melt away.
I sat quietly as she told me how she lost her oldest son in a car accident six years ago. He was killed in a drunk driving accident, along with his good friend. He left behind a wife and a two-year-old daughter. It was heart wrenching to see her relive that day and how raw the grief is, still to this day, but it gets worse. Since the accident, Jane has only been able to see her granddaughter a handful of times and the last time was two years ago. Her daughter-in-law doesn’t want anything to do with them and refuses to let them into her daughter’s life. This is their only grandchild too.
As she began to talk about it, it was like floodgates had been opened and all her anger, her heartache and her regret flowed out. My heart went out to her, I can’t even imagine what it must be like to suffer such loss, but I’m glad I could be a sounding board for her. I’m glad I seemed safe enough for her to share with. After breakfast, as we headed outdoors to explore, she seemed more relaxed–lighter somehow. My conversation with Jane was just another reminder of the similarities we humans share.
As we walked through the French Quarter later, I looked at all the people that passed us by—all shapes, sizes, colors, and demeanors as well. We all have two selves, don’t we? The one that we let the world see, and the one that we hide in fear of what others will think or how they will judge us—even in the secular world. As I studied the people around me I thought, “Wow, we are all in this together, aren’t we?” None of us is immune, but we try to pretend that we are. Every single one of us–along with the good stuff–carries heartache, grief, fear, shame, regret, and sadness, and every single one of us needs someone to sit with us and just be with us in it sometimes. I know Jane did and for just a little while she was able to take her mask off and breath. I feel honored to have been a small part of helping her do that.