I sat in Chick-Fil-a five days after my father unexpectedly died, trying to hold back unbidden tears while waiting on friends to arrive. I was early. They were late.
I had commandeered a table next to the play area so we could watch the children playing, but instead of being uplifted by the shouts and laughter of happy children, I was slammed with poignant memories of my own childhood with my beloved daddy. Long past days now blown to the winds.
What was it all for anyway?
The depressing sentiments of King Solomon (Ecc 1:14, NASB) played through my head, “Vanity, vanity … All is vanity and striving after wind.” The Hebrew word “Hebel” (vanity) is used no less than 38 times in the book of Ecclesiastes and can be translated in modern-day vernacular, “Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!”
In other words, during the throes of major loss, the past events of my life feel like they’re all for naught. Like nothing I’ve done ever really counted. Is it just me or do you ever feel that way too, my friend?
Could death really be the end?
My head knows it’s not, but at this moment in time, my grieving heart feels like it is.
Right there under the poster of a cow proclaiming, “Eat Mor Chickin,” I had a meltdown. It was one of those moments when sorrow sneaks up and slugs you in the most inconvenient and public of places. Breaking down in the privacy of home is one thing, but who wants to sob into their frosted lemonade in front of a roomful of people?
I sat there alone for about ten minutes, desperately blinking back tears and trying to swallow around a huge lump of searing lava in my throat. Rotating through confusion, distress and even despair. I want my Daddy.
Then a noise at my elbow made me look up into the friendly brown eyes of an employee, a young man of maybe 17 or 18, holding a tray of warm food, gently smiling. “Would you like some hash browns or a breakfast sandwich?” he asked.
Startled, I just stared back at him through swollen red eyes.
He assumed, I suppose, that my hesitation was because I was cheap (which isn’t far off the truth) but in fact, it was because my mind was many miles – and years – away reliving memories of my childhood in the most wonderful neighborhood ever (Green Acres) in the most awesome small town (Starke, FL) with the best parents a girl could ask for.
“No charge,” he said. “It’s time for breakfast to end so we’re offering these for free to make way for lunch. You look upset; I thought you might like something to make you feel better.”
“Well, thank you, but I’m not really hungry right now,” I managed to croak out. He didn’t leave so I figured he was waiting on some sort of explanation. “It was a hard Christmas this year; I lost my father on Christmas Day.”
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” he replied, clearly meaning it. The fact that this strapping young fella 40 years my junior even noticed my grief touched my heart immensely.
The young man’s kindness elicited a fresh gush of tears over which I had no control. He slipped me a handful of napkins and moved closer as if to console me. “I’m Kevin,” he said in a soft voice, setting his tray on my table. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through but I do understand sadness and loss.”
Kevin paused and swallowed hard before continuing. He seemed to be struggling with his next words. “This is my family’s last Christmas together; my mom and dad are separating the first of the new year and everything will change after that.” His eyes began to glisten behind his black-rimmed glasses.
It was my turn to comfort my dear new friend. “I’m Debbie,” I said as I reached out and took both his hands in mine, this sensitive boy/man who was likely facing the hardest thing so far in his young life. “And I’m so sorry for your loss too, Kevin. I truly am.”
There was nothing more to say. No words were necessary as we quietly connected hearts in this most unlikely of places. There we sat with tears in our eyes surrounded by frivolity and laughter, feeling one another’s pain; hands clasped, a teenage boy and a grandma, strangers to each other yet sharing the deepest of feelings regarding changes in our lives over which we have no control.
It was sweet, sweet fellowship. Immeasurably cathartic as a healing balm for my raw, wounded heart. And I hope, in some small way, it was for Kevin also.
Grief is no respecter of gender, age or surroundings. Loss happens to everyone. Even that stranger sitting beside you at the terminal, or standing in line behind you at the grocery store, or serving you in a restaurant.
Dearest BBFF (Blessed Blog Friend Forever), won’t you join me in asking Papa God to open our spiritual eyes to those who are in silent mourning? Those all around us who could use a bit of encouragement and tenderness today?
Say, when was the last time a stranger ministered to you in your time of need?
P.S. For the kind souls who’ve asked about my New Year’s Eve knee surgery, I’m doing very well with recovery! Hope to hit the tennis courts again by March. Thanks so much for your concern.
P.S.S. Stay tuned for a brand new giveaway coming soon! Be sure you’ve signed up for my FREE e-newsletter so you’ll hear all my Too Blessed to be Stressed news and contests hot off the press.