I walked out of an OB/Gyn’s office today, thinking of lunch dates and meetings, deadlines and duties. I slid into a crammed elevator next to a woman clinging to a lab slip, trying so very hard to stifle her tears. I watched her struggle for breath. Struggle to keep angst trapped inside the thin walls of her own self. I wanted to reach out to her, past her messy ponytail and smudged mascara and trembling fingers. Yet I stood still as stone as the lit-up numbers ticked down. My heart was yearning to whisper in her ear that this shall pass. Pain doesn’t linger. After the band-aid is ripped, my sweet girl, numbness will settle. And yet the elevator door opened and we all filed out, us Busy People. The woman turned left and I turned right, my high heels clicking along the floor like a woodpecker.
As I passed hallways I’d trod before, on carpet I’d worn down, I headed to my car praying hard. My mind raced and my lip quivered as I saw those same lab slips before me, dripping with blood cell counts and cancer. And yet despite that fact my soul was ripped and my own blood shared, I bore children on this earth who will outlast me. Fruits of my womb and outpourings of my own tender heart. As I climbed into my car balancing papers and bags and keys and all the luxuries of modern civility, I wept. For the woman in the elevator. For my friend who lost her father. For a life that is so rich and bountiful and for a God that is the only water who will satisfy my unquenched lack of worth.
Before a meeting began I remembered the fire that raged in my abdomen after my daughter was lifted. I recalled the black nights of a marriage ending. I remembered being on an elevator, stifling back my own tears and wondering if morning would come. And yet like old photos in a box I saw my mother’s smile and the way she pulls at her shirt for no reason whatsoever. I smelled my dog’s rotten bad breath. I peered at onions shooting from the garden ground and the way oak limbs rub against my old metal roof. My home, my books, my lover’s eyes that are piercing blue. They all blended together, the ugly and the good, the lab slips and valentine’s days, to form a quilt that enveloped me. Busy People showed up for the meeting and we began to talk about surveys and statistics, contract terms and deadlines. But my mind was on the woman in the elevator.
Oh, my friends and enemies and dear sweet strangers – I beg you to be kind to one other. We are all part of this great journey, and this story, and this collection of people. Some days are glorious and you dance atop clouds and other days you are sitting slumped by a dumpster wiping sweat and drool from your lips. I regret not reaching for her. If I could take back time I’d lay my hand softly on her shoulder right there in front of everyone and say I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry. We are in this together.
Woven in this quilt of life is suffering and singing, weeping and guffawing, the death and the living and the love and the darkness all connected stitch by stitch. Let’s envelop each other in the dark times, so we can remember the good, even when our own fingers are trembling.