July 12, 2017. I walked into Mystic Market on the verge of a pity party. I was headed to Ender’s Island in an effort to get centered and pray for inner peace. In the meantime, I needed a sandwich. You can’t feel sorry for yourself properly on an empty stomach.
The woman at the register ahead of me was taking a long time to pay and I felt justifiably irritated. Other than that, I barely noticed her. I needed to hurry up and get on with my self-induced despair.
I overheard the cashier say: “You can talk to me anytime. I’m a good listener.” I almost harrumphed. Several thoughts crossed my mind as to what this woman’s issue could be. Marital? Work? Whatever…. She moved on. Good. Now it was my turn.
I paid for my food and as the cashier handed me the change she said: “That woman lost her two sons to overdoses”.
This was not one of the scenarios I envisioned. Not by a long shot.
The trigger had been a young man eating lunch at a nearby table. Frozen, the woman stared. It was a visual punch to the gut; the resemblance to the son who died in 2008 was remarkable. The woman’s sense of loss profound and it happened in an instant.
Hers was not self-induced despair. It was real and deep and endless. Why she shared her story with the cashier I can only guess. Mostly, I think, it is because she had to. So stunned, she couldn’t keep it in. The cashier had the sense and compassion to listen.
The story brought tears to my eyes for the woman I had hardly noticed not five minutes earlier. I was ashamed.
I left the market and drove slowly to the sacred space I thought I had so desperately needed. While I sat at the edge of Long Island Sound, instead of prayers for myself, I held this stranger, this grieving mother of two lost souls, in my prayers. I dedicated those quiet moments to this woman who was leading an ordinary life when the extraordinary happened — when drugs began to take the light and peace from her life one son at a time.
And I knew my prayers would never be enough.