It was only twelve hours after one of my Mom’s oldest and greatest friends got taken away by the dark, inexplicable act of suicide that I found myself driving to the grocery store with her next to me in the passenger seat. Staring straight ahead, trying to ignore the forced distraction of this mundane act and the “new music I just found” playing quietly in the background, I found myself unsure of what to say or do.
After shifting the car into park, surrounded by families bustling in and out of the automatic doors of the over lit crowded grocery store, we both took a deep breath and laughed. Who were we kidding?
No amount of forced routine trips to the grocery store was going to make this better. No amount of endless driving was going to take her mind off of this. I remember how badly I wanted to hug her across the center counsel. How badly I wanted to hold her hand while walking through the parking lot and tell her all the things I wished she would believe. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.
I would come to the realization minutes later, standing in the checkout line with about 20% of the things we actually needed (Dad can live without batteries today), that it’s not about what you do or don’t say. It’s not about the amount of hugs you give or how many times the phone rings with someone on the other end sending condolences.
I realized this as I focused my eyes on the gray tiled floor of the crowded store, trying my hardest to ignore the growing lump in my throat and the tears forming in my eyes. I realized this when I looked up and noticed my Mom silently wiping the tears from her cheeks. How crazy we must have looked–two women silently crying in the checkout line.
In times of unrelenting grief and sadness, it’s easy to be unsure of what to do next. To be unsure of what to say. Sometimes, it’s best to not say anything at all. Time will heal, grief will subside, and guilt will fade away.
But when it comes down to it, it’s all about presence. Who is there when there is nothing to say? Who is there to listen when we are trying to make sense of it all? Who is there to cry with you in line at the grocery store?
That’s what is important. That’s what matters most.