Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Compassion from a stranger

Recently, I was sitting in church and the pastor was talking about the impact of the loss of a loved one. Instantly, the tears began to fall as I was taken back to the previous spring of 2014 when my infant son, Dylan, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. The pain of that day cannot be measured or expressed adequately. His death left an enormous hole behind in my family’s life. What started out as silent, small tears turned into gut-wrenching sobs. I tried to control them since I was in a public place but the pain was too overwhelming and even though I muffled them as best I could, I was embarrassed others around me had seen and heard my sobs.
When I went to pick up my two older daughters from Sunday school, a woman was standing behind me who gently tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Are you alright?” I turned around and was shocked to recognize a woman who had been sitting in the row in front of me. Had she heard me crying? Did she think I was crazy? I was mortified and wished I could melt away right on the spot. Before I could say anything, she confirmed my suspicions by saying, “I noticed you were crying in service earlier. I just want to make sure you’re ok.” The tears started to pool at the corners of my eyes as I thought about covering up the honest answer with the convenient, “I’m fine.” But something happened in that moment when I looked into that woman’s eyes. I didn't see admonishment or judgment or even pity but rather concern and kindness. Her gentle probing broke down my walls and I blurted out, “My son passed away a few months ago and I am still dealing with his loss.”  The woman reached out and pulled me into an embrace and said, “I am so sorry.” I rested in her comforting arms for several moments, completely amazed by the kindness and compassion that this stranger demonstrated in the most unexpected way. In that moment, she was my hero because I had been overwhelmed by how isolated I felt from my son’s death and her ability to see a stranger in need and care was a powerful act of love and kindness.
This incident set in motion the beginning of our friendship. She has now become a close friend and has been there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on and none of that would be possible if she had not reached out to me, a stranger in pain.