several weeks ago i stopped at a local grocery store to pick up essentials and was slowly meandering my way to the vanilla ice cream. a loaf of bread fell off the end of the aisle. i picked it up and put it back on the shelf and seriously, another loaf fell off the shelf. standing there, staring at the bread on the floor i noticed a woman at the meat counter watching me. we shared a laugh and she said the bread kept falling down. so, of course, i immediately thought about candid camera and at the same time i zeroed in on the woman with a quizzical look. we both paused in recognition and disbelief.
“diane?” “anne?” we melded into each other.
maybe… 10 years ago…. i saw her very briefly. before that it was the early 1980’s. yet, we recognized one another. we knew each other. for some reason, we were connected.
i rarely visit this particular grocery store and stopped on a whim. she was there saying goodbye to the butcher on his last day before retirement.
as we caught up on the years, she shared that her mother was on hospice care. she was getting her brother at the airport to go to the care facility to say their goodbyes. we shared memories of her mom, of her brothers, of our childhood, of the poignancy of our parents aging and dying and our own awareness of how fragile life and relationships and death can be.
we talked about the sacredness of the dying process and that she wanted to be there with her mother. we talked about the importance of saying those things that have been unsaid over the years. we talked about her mom’s little dog who would not leave her bedside, licking her face and hair and eyes before circling onto her chest. we talked about what it will be like to be an orphan, the secret of becoming the next generation, the pain of loss, the imprint of a mother’s love, and the value of calling the rabbi because that would be meaningful for her mom. we talked about the mystery of the spirit leaving the body, that moment when someone is both here and there, the knowing and the unknowing.
we exchanged numbers and spent the rest of the day and evening texting one another. i woke early the next morning pondering the timing, the purpose, the sacredness of our encounter.
her text that morning:
“boy, do i love having you back in my life! who knew that a fallen loaf of bread would lead us back together at this time. seeing you felt like salve to my wounds. my mom passed away peacefully at 6am. my brothers and i missed her last breath by minutes. we are doing fine, laughing and crying and are grateful to be together. the journey towards healing is underway. let’s stay in touch.”
yes, today i am pondering friendship. and being willing to open up to mystery and sacredness and timing.