It’s been fifteen years since that dreary winter afternoon when a simple trip to the grocery store changed my life. The impact of that day is with me still…
The pressure of running a home with four teenagers was pressing hard on my last nerve. Truth told, something was always pressing on my last nerve. The day was almost over and I still needed to grocery shop, do a mountain of laundry, monitor homework and carpool.
I decided to grocery shop before anything else because I could have a few minutes alone. Pushing the cart up and down the sterile aisles I felt more frantic by the second as my mind jumped from one unsolved problem to another. Not looking where I was going, my buggy nearly hit the back of his heel.
I gasped as the gray haired man turned around.
“Hello, neighbor” he grinned.
Standing there, in a dark blue suit, crisp white shirt and a shiny red tie my neighbor Robert, looked completely put together.
“And how are you this fine day Robin?” He sounded surprisingly chipper for a man who’d just six months before lost his wife of thirty years.
“I’m okay Robert, how are you doing?” I hadn’t seen Robert since his wife Sheila passed away, and I couldn’t help it, my voice dripped with pity. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you” he said looking down and stuffing his hands deep into his pants pockets. “It was hard at the end but she put up quite a fight.”
Suddenly, he looked right into my eyes. “It’ll probably sound terrible to you, but I’m kind of excited about starting over.”
Pregnant pause. What in all the world do I say to that?
“Well, that’s good.” I stumbled. “So is there anyone in particular?”
“No, no, no. Not at all! I just know what I’m looking for this time. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but it would be someone exactly opposite of Sheila.”
Dear Father in heaven, could this GET any more awkward?
“I mean, I loved her” he added quickly, “but she and I had a rocky thirty years. She was, I guess you’d say, a little difficult.”
He forced a grin. “She’d say the same about me. Anyway, next time, I want less drama. More peace. And more laughing.
In the tiny space where I stood, time stopped. I felt my shoulders move toward my ears and my brow wrinkle as a heaviness pressed hard on my chest. I really don’t remember saying goodbye to Robert. I could hardly breathe.
I’m suffocating in sadness Lord? Why? Am I that upset about Sheila and Robert?
A thought pushed past the sadness demanding attention… That’s exactly how Mike would feel if I died tomorrow…
It was true. I was the definition of uptight. Life in general overwhelmed me. Most days I went from drama to drama.
Finally getting to my car, I turned the key but I couldn’t put the car in drive. Shivering, I lay my head in my hands and wept. Wept for the years of missed laughter, for the days full of anxiety. Wept because I was so sorry. Slowly the heater started to warm the cold air around me and peace filled the sad places.
On the way home, I prayed out loud, “Father, if I die before Mike, I don’t want him to look for someone opposite of me. I need, less drama. More laughter. More peace. Help me…”
Before bed that night I pulled out my journal and wrote down a list of things I would want Mike to say about me if I leave this world before he does…
*She loved God
*She loved me and the kids
*We always knew she was praying for us
*She made our house a home. Peaceful and safe.
*She supported me and encouraged me constantly.
*She was my best friend.
Since that dreary winter afternoon, the list has become my standard…have you ever considered how you’d like to be remembered?
This post was first written in 2009 and updated for Ann Voskamp’s She Speaks Scholarship…
Although I didn’t win a scholarship….Ann was kind enough to leave a lovely comment…