Tuesday, January 17, 2012

This is real life. (Alternate title: Oh, my God! My God!)

The day before Thanksgiving, a mother and daughter came through my line. I would guess they are around fifty and seventy in age, and it is clear that they are very close and enjoy each other. We got to chatting while I rang up their order and learned a little about each other: we knew some mutual people through our churches and we are all Christians. We had some giggles and sincerely wished each other well.
They came through my line again on Christmas Eve. Same thing--exchanging more pleasantries and learning a little more about each other.
One more time, a few days later, they came through my line again, getting ready for a New Year's Eve party.
And I didn't see them again until tonight.

I was ringing up her groceries, trying to remember how I knew her, when a thought came to my mind: "She comes through with her mother." The thought was barely half-formed when the words came out of my mouth, quiet, but like a trumpet to my own ears, "HOW'S YOUR MOTHER?"
She paused, looked me square in the eye and said, "She died. I knew you were going to ask me about her and I've been dreading it, but I wanted you to know."
I literally did not know what to say. In the interest of the privacy of her pain, I won't go into the details of our conversation, but suffice it to say that there is NOTHING to say when someone is crushed by heartbreak. I hugged her, and sincerely offered anything I could give. We both cried and I didn't want to embarrass her, so I didn't prolong the conversation.
It's been almost twelve hours now, and I still keep trying to think of what I should have said to her. Trying to find the right thing to say...and the only things I can come up with are this:
1. You have been a wonderful daughter. You were a blessing to your mother until the end, and I know she loved you very much.
2. It doesn't help with the pain, but what a sweet promise we have in Jesus. Without his blood, there would be no hope. And even though the hope doesn't take away what you're feeling right now, it offers us comfort that many people don't have. Salvation is the only deliverance.

I don't even know her name.


kristi said...

So sad. I know she probably lost her best friend. Loss is so hard. I think you did great, you hugged her and told her how sorry you were.

kathaleend said...

You did fine. We always think of the perfect thing to say after the fact. Please remember that God gives you the words if you are open to his leading. It speaks highly of you that she wanted to come through your line and share the news with you. God has blessed me with a wonderful daughter who touches so many lives for him. Thank you Lord. lovemom

kristi noser said...

The hug and empathy was enough. You did very well to love her up.

carrie said...

Your mom said it best.

Joey said...

I agree with what others have said already. What you did (hug, "I'm sorry," and even a few tears) was exactly what you should have done. Anything more may have (and often does) come across as trying too hard and, especially with someone you don't know well, the "right" words are often impossible to find. It's okay not to fill the silence in situations like that.

My general rule for trying to empathize with those in grief: say something, say little. You did both. Well done.

Jamie said...

I agree with the other comments. Also, it was really nice to read that you acknowledge our hope and comfort in Christ doesn't necessarily change the pain. Too often when people don't know what to say they just use the "at least he/she's in a better place now" type of comments that don't acknowledge the pain. Thanks for not forgetting that. :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds like great customer service to me!


And yeah, there is nothing you can really say. it just hurts and each person has to find a way to deal with it. I am always dismayed when I read a "what not to say" to someone in a devastating situation. If you read enough of them, it eventually covers just abut everything. Grief, like everything else, is personal and one man's comfort is another man's pain.