This past week I was standing on the soccer sideline during my son’s practice, talking with another parent and trying to keep warm, when a third woman joined our conversation. My friend’s other child plays on the same team with her daughter but I had never met her. She looked totally normal, nice coat, cute boots, nose running from the chilly temps and colored bright red just like mine. But with sudden trepidation I realized who it was that I was so casually chatting about laundry and new-model minivans and smelly goalkeeper gloves with and I went cold with fear. I all at once felt uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say; what words to choose. I found myself rolling every comment around in my mind before it was said to make sure there was absolutely no possible association with death, son, car….You see, this woman witnessed the loss of her 12-year old son in a tragic accident last year. The feeling reminded me of when I was young and my brother and I would go out shopping with my mom and act up. My mom would say “remind me to spank you when we get home.” I would spend the rest of the day avoiding the ideas of spank, hit, strike, punish, trouble…..in fear that she would remember to follow through.
From the outside you could never tell this mother was shattered and how she still walks around daily is beyond me. Her grief must be unbearable. I know her more intimately through her Facebook remembrance page for her son and the charity events our soccer club has put together for her. I have read her grief in the posts she writes once a month to him. Her post from last month on his birthday was particularly heart-wrenching. I wish I had chosen to say what was in my heart then. Things like “I admire you for not losing your faith in God” or “your strength is amazing” or “if you ever need anything here’s my phone number” but I didn’t, I froze. I was afraid to speak because I was worried I would trigger the memory of her worst nightmare, as if she ever forgets it for a moment.
This encounter got me thinking about how important it is to just say the words that you want to say and to speak from your heart, or you may lose the chance. Nothing should hold us back from giving a part of ourselves to others, of letting them know we care, of spreading love. If you think someone looks beautiful in blue, or you appreciate their sense of fairness or compassion, or their haircut rocks, let them know. If someone looks like they are having a rough day, just hearing you tell them it is going to be alright or asking if they need anything will help. Make sure your loved ones know you are behind them 110% in everything they do if it makes them happy, that you have their back, and they have your support. And most importantly of all, make sure that every day, everyone you love, knows you care because there may be no tomorrow.