Love Showed Up: Hugging Strangers in Public Bathrooms

I hope you’ve been enjoying these Monday posts on Love Showing Up in life, at times when we need it desperately. 

I’ve been noticing this common thread in each post, in each moment we find to breathe thankful prayers for grace in the midst of pain, it’s this: when love shows up we feel less alone.

Our darkest burdens are easier to bear, our worst roads a bit shorter when love shows up. 

Today I want to tell you about one of the most unlikely moments in my life, a moment when love showed up to remind me that grief and pain are universal burdens, that even though grief is rightly referred to as the loneliest journey of life, it doesn’t have to be, not always. We can find each other and divide the pain with our presence.

steakBW

It was only two days after my Mother had taken her life, and I was 28 weeks pregnant with our son. We were back in Michigan after a miserable 22 hour road trip, to plan and attend her funeral alongside hundreds of other confused people she left behind.

My dear friend Lisa had called when we were making the drive up and didn’t ask so much as told me: “Hey, when you get here, I think you need steak.”

This is important when joining grieving friends on their journey, sometimes you tell them you’re helping rather than asking them, we are a stubborn people who prefer to deny our needs. 

I replied with a small laugh, because I wasn’t a steak lover per say, but I managed something like: “Sure, why not. Let’s go eat steak.

Turns out that part of the reason for the steak was Groupon related, but who says you can’t be a good friend while still being frugal? 

After I’d arrived home at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, managed a full but fitful night’s sleep, helped plan a funeral and gone to the mall for funeral appropriate maternity clothes, my friend Lisa picked me up for dinner.

We had a long drive to the steakhouse in Rockford and we picked up another friend, Becky on the way. Alyssa met us there and together we sat down in the golden light of the restaurant to order drinks and listen to the waitress explain the specials in mouth watering detail.

Nothing distracts my weary soul like great food, so as she went on about searing, herbed butter and the chef’s lifelong passion for steak I fell slightly in love with her. Having been a server for a number of years, I have a deep appreciation for menu knowledge and attentive interaction.

The meal progressed and Lisa and I order the London Broil with Bordelaise Sauce, Asparagus Spears and Yukon Mashed Potatoes. She talked me into adding caramelized onions, no regrets there.

It all melted in my mouth, danced on my pallet, sustained me, gave bits of joy.

I found myself gazing at my friend’s glasses of wine, thinking if ever there was an evening where I could use the comfort of wine, it was tonight. Why did I have to go through this pregnant?

At some point, or likely several points, in the evening I got up to use the bathroom. Too many delicious glasses of water I suppose. On one of these trips I ran into our waitress coming out of the restroom and I stopped her to thank her for her excellent service.

…Telling her that after moving to a small town in Oklahoma, I missed and deeply appreciated fancy food and vast menu knowledge.

She asked why we were back in town and I tried to vaguely reveal the details of our trip, of my mother’s funeral, without divulging too much.

Unexpected tears started to well up in the corners of her eyes, which was briefly awkward for me because I’m not always good at comforting other people to feel better about my grief.

Then she let it out: “My mom is in the end stages of cancer, in Hospice care and I’m living at her house. I’m the oldest and everyone looks to me to handle things, I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m terrified to lose her.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, it does suck, but you’ll get through it, I lost my Dad about five years ago and it’s not going to be okay any time soon but your life will keep going, you’ll find joy even. I promise. Just don’t carry everyone else’s burdens without taking care of your own, without processing your own grief, don’t be pushed around by everyone’s expectations of you.”

Then we hugged. Right there in front of the bathroom sink.

I peed and returned to our table, awkwardly trying to explain my interaction with the our server which probably sounded something like: “Our waitress’ mom is dying too! I’m not the only one. That feels better somehow, not that I’m happy about it. Anyway… how’s your food?”

Even though that interaction was three and a half years ago, I still think about it, still give heart space to that server, wondering how she weathered her storm.

Our embrace in the bathroom impacted me, I felt less alone in losing my mother young because of our three minute exchange.

It’s true that grief is one of the loneliest journeys we walk in life, that no two losses are alike, even when they center around the death of the same person.

Yes, grief is lonely, there are times when we will feel naked and alone in our pain. Yet sometimes, we are given companions on the journey, for a minute, for an hour, for longer.

My friends around that evening table divided my grief, not just during that dinner but throughout the journey with their presence at the funeral and their words over the phone.

My time with our server divided both our griefs for three minutes, perhaps even longer.

Yes grief is lonely, but we are not alone, millions have walked this path and millions are waking up to walk it today.

It’s normal to feel alone, but if you can look for it, to be open your pain, love will show up in a thousand surprising ways and each time, if only for a moment or two, your grief load will lighten.

May we be a people who divide the sting of death with authentic, loving presence and sometimes, with steak.

Has love showed up to divide your grief?
How have you divided the grief of a friend?

This post is part of a series called Love Showed Up, check out the other submissions and if you are interested in submitting please send me an email at leannerae (at) gmail (dot) com. We’d love to hear about how love showed up in your life. 

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