Yellow Polka Dot Kleenex

You know those days where things just happen? Well, today was one of those days for me. It is my day off so I spent the first part of the day relaxing at home playing ColorKu, listening to the birds, enjoying the sun and lounging. I love this day of the week because it is my secret restorative day. Everyone else is out and about and I get to just be; renew, relax and allow myself to do nothing—unless I want to.

I love going to the library and spending time in the quiet there. Lately I have been watching The Looming Tower so I am fascinated by Ali Soufan; so much so that I want to read his two books. The library had one of them so I went to pick it up. I chatted with some people there, did some research on suicide and realized that there is not much on the topic. I wish my book could find it’s way to a literary agent, to a publisher and onto the shelves of libraries, bookstores and into the hands of those who need to read the words of what this journey of recovery and healing is really like.

I had one more errand to run so I slowly drove to Gelson’s to pick up a few things. I say slowly because I truly believe in Divine timing and every step that I took prior to what happened next, I believe was orchestrated by something other than my personal choice; something greater. These days when I am in my resting mode, I move slower, I talk slower, I think slower, I live slower.

I took my time in the aisles at Gelson’s looking for the few things I needed. I ran into a dear friend and chatted for a bit with her and her daughter. Then moved on to the Kleenex aisle. I took my time deciding which pattern I wanted to look at as the Kleenex box sat by my bedside table. I chose one and walked away and then I went back and decided on the more cheery yellow polka dot one instead of the blue squares. Because these things matter to me now.

I continue down the aisle after choosing the perfect color and pattern of Kleenex to bring me the most joy when resting my eyes upon it. I then see a beloved friend, and student of mine, and spend some time talking with her. We spoke of life, illness, loss, family, impermanence and friendship. We hugged, simultaneously said ‘Be well’ and parted ways.

As I turned to browse the produce there was a bit of a traffic jam of grocery carts at this intersection of aisles. I glanced up to the woman to my left and she smiled and gave me a cute, little head nod to come on through, so I did and kindly smiled back.

Something happened in that moment. Her smile, her face, her beautiful white hair, her fragile yet strong little body, her eyes were so clear and so open—they penetrated my soul. I continued to shop and made my way to the cherries and found myself next to her again and I wanted to tell her how she impacted me but I hesitated because I didn’t want to disturb her, so I walked away. I went to pay and once I finished, without any thought, I turned right around and walked back into the store to find her.

I found her back in the produce section and I said, ‘Excuse me, I wanted to let you know that your beautiful smile and energy washed over me a few minutes ago and I had to stop and let you know, and say thank you. I lost my mother to suicide about seven years ago and one thing I think of often is how I won’t be able to watch her life carry on and witness her growing old; she passed at 60. Seeing you today was like seeing a beautiful angel showing me, just for a moment, what it might have felt like to have my mother smile at me as an older woman.’ At this point she is crying, I barely got the words out, I am crying and people around us aren’t sure if we are sad because they are out of strawberries or if something else is going on here.

She simply says to me, ‘Can I have a hug?’ and I, of course, say, ‘Yes, can I have one too?’ and we hug, for a while—while we cry, for a while. We then spend about twenty minutes sharing our journey of losses together. Let’s just say that my dairy-free ice cream had defrosted by the time I got to my car.

After we finally pull apart from our heart to heart, long hug, she says to me, ‘I have lost all my children.’ In that moment we both realized we are motherless and childless; in a way. Like two members of the same club with a hell of a membership fee.

I ask what happened and she says she can’t speak of it but they are all gone; it was an accident. I honor her and do not ask any questions but just listen to her continue to share. She tells me that she just lost her husband two years ago to Alzheimers and she is just now starting to come back to life. Today was a big day for her to go out and get groceries she said. She was married for 50 years. She then starts to speak of her children and says ‘I had four children and they all died.’ I said how sorry I was and kept my hand on her arm while she continued to talk. She had her other hand on top of mine as we spoke with tears in our eyes, next to the strawberries.

We continued to talk of love, loss, life and she spoke of God and her faith and how it has gotten her through. She told me I was beautiful. She said I was an angel. I told her she was beautiful and she was an angel. We agreed upon both of us being beautiful and both of us being angels; who were there for each other. I told her I wasn’t going to say anything to her but I decided to turn around and come find her. I thanked her for showing me how beautiful it is to age and how stunning life can be even through such loss and pain.

She asked for my phone number. I gave her my card and told her I will also give you my cell phone as you reach me directly that way. She was getting a pen from her purse and slowly wrote down my cell phone on my business card and at that moment I was taken aback yet again.

As I watched her beautiful, little hand write down my phone number I realized that she was writing it the exact same way my mother wrote my cell phone number on my business card. My mother wrote the word DAUGHTER on my card as well and it served as her In Case of Emergency card. I guess she thought someone would see it and call me; her daughter. I found it in her wallet after she died. I have kept it tucked away in my wallet all this time and it makes me very sad when I see it and some days it makes me smile; I like having it close.

She said, ‘I am 87 and I have adopted two children; my daughter is 60 and my son is 57. It’s really easy to do. I just pick them up on the side of the street.’ She says this with a chuckle and the most beautiful smile. She then says, ‘I can adopt you too, it’s as simple as saying it.’ I smile and say thank you to her.

I felt adopted in that moment. I felt adopted by her, by humanity, by community, by life. It was the kind of conversation you don’t want to end. She says she is going to finish her shopping so she can go home and cry. She said, ‘…a good cry though, this is all very good. I am so glad you stopped to tell me how you felt. You touched me so much. You know we don’t cry enough, we don’t talk enough and it is time we roar.’ Whenever I hear that phrase I of course think of the Los Angeles Women’s March I started, and I smile. I told her my involvement in that and she was so happy to hear I was part of blazing that trail. She said, ‘When I was raised we weren’t taught to speak or share.’ I told her I was raised to speak up, share and live outloud so not to worry, we are doing it now! That made her very happy.

We hugged some more, cried some more and then finally awkwardly parted because we both knew we could have stayed for hours but needed to go on about our day.

As I walked away I said to myself, ‘turn around and look at her once more Dove. Take it in, take in her face, her eyes, her smile, her essence.’ I thought, ‘No, don’t be silly, it’s not a first date when you glance back to see if he/she is glancing back at you as well.’ I smiled to myself as I thought that, remembering the moment I did glance back to see if Emmett was looking at me as we parted ways that special day in 2005 at Aroma when we ran into each other after 20 years of not seeing each other. He was looking back too. 🙂

I digress. Yes, I glanced back at her; at Sue, her name is Sue. She was standing there, still in the same spot I left her in, staring at me, smiling. She raised her hand when she saw me glance back and shouted ‘Dove!’ and I turned back and walked over to her where she was in the produce aisle still keeping the strawberries company.

She said, ‘Hasta Mañana’ in the softest, most sweetest of tones ever uttered. She almost didn’t get the phrase out as the tears came again. She said, ‘Those were the last words my daughter said to me before she died.’ I held her as she continued to cry and share with me that she lost her children in an accident; all of them at once. Wow. My heart sank as I listened to her. She had twins who were 18 and her daughter was 16 and another child she didn’t mention the age of. She said the others went quickly and it was painless. Her daughter hung on for a little while longer before she passed and she remembered that the last words her daughter said to her were ‘Hasta Mañana.’

She said, ‘I don’t know why I just remembered that and I haven’t been able to utter those words since she died but I wanted to say them just now, and I wanted to say them to you.’ She is sharing this as she is crying, as she is radiantly smiling; it was so beautiful to witness. It was such a radiant visual of embracing such pain and joy at the same time. She continues to share some more about those words and how good it felt to say them and I simply held space with her as I listened.

There was such a sense of playfulness and light-hearted joy as she spoke with me. The words, ‘hasta mañana’ felt like a mantra for all of the losses that we had experienced. Yes, all of this has happened to us, and yes, we will see each other tomorrow. Life goes on. We go on. The pain goes on. The joy comes in. The light shines. The dark comes. We will see each other tomorrow, or until tomorrow.

Moral of this story; of this share? Who knows. It was just awesome and I wanted to share it with you. The one note I am left with is one I speak of often, if something moves you and you feel that little voice inside telling you to do something—do it! I am led by that inner voice; I trust her implicitly.

I know it will impact each of you differently, and just as it should. For me, it filled me up with love, and hope, and light. I drove home imagining what it would be like to have my mother be like Sue; be 87, be little and white haired and beautiful. I would take her shopping at Gelson’s, sit with her and have tea, listen to her talk, she would listen to me, we would cry together, I am sure of that; and laugh a lot. I would cherish her. I would look in her eyes and notice the color of her eyes as the sun hit them. I would study the spots on her face as if they were wondrous constellations in the sky. I would hold her hand and run my fingers over the wrinkles of her skin. I would share space with her and I would soak her in whenever she was near.

I am a better daughter today than I ever was. Loss teaches you how to be better. I am grateful for this growth. No, I don’t judge myself for being who I was, when I was. But I do wish I would have had the chance to go shopping at Gelson’s with my 87 year-old mother. Today I got to with Sue. And for now, that is enough.

Sometimes it is a good thing to be indecisive about which Kleenex box to buy. The moments all align so that you are exactly where you are supposed to be in life. If I stayed with my first choice I might have missed the crossing of Sue on my path, and me on hers. She might have made a left and the moment would have never been.

Thank you Kleenex, thank you for offering so many different varieties that it makes shopping an experience to be very present in so you pick just the right one for your mood.

Thanks for listening everyone.

Watch out for miracles, they are everywhere.