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Thursday, May 16, 2019

I never want to forget this.





I was talking to the beautiful and kind-hearted Sophia.

We were halfway through our four-hour visit, sipping our purified water in wine glasses with lemon and strawberries, and I was talking about those early months when I would be walking through the grocery store pushing a cart and crying softly throughout the aisles.

I never want to forget that feeling, I told Sophia, of feeling so alone with my grief and later even confused that no matter how many times I cried under the bright florescent lights inside a bustling store, not once did anyone seem to see me. To look twice at my crying. To ask me if I was ok.

Of-course to me this was perfectly fine. 
When you lose your child your once-powerful ego instantly dissolves into harmless dust and you suddenly experience a strange liberation from the regular world, and all your previous wonderings about who is watching and what other people might be thinking about you.

What did Eckhart Tolle say in his recent talk in Pasadena? It’s all such useless thinking.

But I tell sweet Sophia about my grocery store experiences and that I want to remember how it felt to be so unseen during those moments of my despair. I guess it’s because it was so stunning to me. And so shocking that not once did anyone ever come up to me and inquire about my obvious pain. Or even acknowledge my red eyes in the grocery line.

Apparently tears in a grocery aisle do not register a single blip on the public radar.

Sophia says that she was sobbing in a crowded public place in Newport Beach when she found out about Patrick-and she had the same experience. People just keep walking past you. She says most people don’t want to feel things, and I guess that kind of intense emotion would be uncomfortable for your average rushing-to-somewhere person.

 And I totally understand.

The reason I want to remember how raw I felt is so that I can forever keep my eyes open for that one woman or man that I see standing in the ketchup aisle. 
And maybe like me, they’re suddenly hearing their son who is no longer alive ask, “Hey Mama is there any ketchup for my eggs?” Because of course you’re remembering that he always had ketchup with his eggs. And as his mother you’re also seeing all his favorite foods on every aisle and having flashbacks of your joy as you watched him devour your food because he loved every-single thing-you-ever-cooked-for-him—which opens the door to so many other tender moments.

And soon your heart is breaking so loudly in your ears that you can no longer hear that irritating soundtrack playing overhead. All you feel is that horrific realization that he’s gone. And then the thud in your chest of missing him so much you could literally collapse from pain if you weren’t clinging to your cart.

I wonder if other mothers who have lost their hunky, big, healthy sons have these foodie flashbacks inside grocery stores.

Because I’m ready if I see them.

I already know. If I see someone crying in the grocery store, wandering through aisles looking broken and sad, I dream about going up to them and asking them if there is anything I can do to help.

Can I reach this box of cereal for you?

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just nod and whisper how sorry I am about their sadness.

 Lord knows there are no magic answers in odd, public moments like that but my own grief journey is making me so excruciatingly sensitive to people who are hurting. I personally know how we notice each tiny speck of kindness that floats into our throbbing universe.

And I’m learning that there is always space for compassion, even if it’s a quick meeting of the eyes. A silent flash of human contact when you look at someone and let them know, I see your pain.  

I dream of meeting that person in the grocery store someday.

Now that I know that this alternative universe exists where there are people crying in public because it hurts so much and they can’t help it, I want to stay aware.

Even if the relief only lasts a few seconds, I want them to know  they’re not alone in their darkness.



Yesterday was the dreaded 15th of the month and for the first time it was different.

I noticed that I felt lighter and I’m sure it was because of my visit with Sophia, a close friend of Patrick’s who reached out to me recently with a beautiful letter and followed it up with a visit from LA.

Sophia teaches meditation classes. And we had so much to talk about. She walked inside with a bouquet of yellow sunflowers and instantly noticed the Cleo Wade’s poetry book on my table and said, “I know her!” Turns out we were both at her book signing in Los Angeles, sitting upstairs in the children’s section of Barnes and Noble, listening to Cleo and Nicole Ritchie chat, and only several feet away from each other.

Who would have guessed that the Universe would bring us together this way?

Also, I finally solved the mystery of the tender note I had found tucked in the flowers and random candles that marked Patrick's fallen spot. 
Now I know it was Sophia, and that she was also back at the site on the six-month anniversary because she saw the IPA bottle that we left after we had toasted to Patrick and talked to him.

Sophia is an incredibly talented songwriter and singer and she sent me a song she wrote that was inspired in part—by Patrick. Her voice is stunning. But the best part of her story were the incredible signs she felt from Patrick, as she was talking with her producer “about Pat.”

I love hearing about these inexplicable signs because I’ve had some stunning ones too.

We spent hours together and afterwards I felt myself enveloped in a bubble of pure love and healing that seemed to carry me through the entire dreaded day of the 15th of the month.

This is how we do it, dear person who-might-be-reading-this-and-feeling-down.

We have an option.

We can be a Light for others, that’s a wonderful distraction.

In fact Anne Lamott says that when people come to her and tell her they’re depressed she tells them to go flirt with the old people in the health food store. Or take some waters to the nearest shelter. She’s using humor but her point is, sometimes we ‘need to get out of ourselves’, and service to others helps us do that.

But. 
When you can’t be a Light because you’re hurting too much, you must be willing to stay open to the delicate signs that the Universe will send your way. A chance meeting. A simple conversation.

Pay attention to synchronicities in your life because they are there, waiting to be seen. And waiting to point you gently toward your path.

I said “Yes” to a spontaneous meeting because whoever loved Patrick, I love.

And it was the best thing I could have done for my healing.

We have to be willing to be surprised if we’re going to get through our darkest days.



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18 comments:

Brenda said...

No words just prayer

Simply LKJ said...

Oh sweet friend how I love this! Just the other day we were at Trader Joes and noticed a young girl with her parents...her red eyes and teared stained face said it all, she was so sad. I had planned to say something to her when we were standing near them in line when one of the employees at the register next door walked over and gave her a huge hug, and whispered some encouraging words to her. It melted my heart to see that precious girl smile as someone acknowledged she was hurting.
I also have to share that after my husband had his reconstructive surgery last year, he worried about going out in public early on...people would stare, ask questions...they didn't....too self absorbed in their own busyness or they had their face in their phones. It really was eye opening.
I guess because of that I am now hyper aware of those around me.

Kim said...

I think of you often. It seems there are so many unkind people in the world today, and sometimes it starts to change my outlook. Then I remember what you are going through, your interaction with the blond lady wearing yoga pants with the beautiful home, and how you told yourself that you wouldn't let your grief change you. Then I choose kindness. Thank you. I will keep my eyes open for people crying in grocery stores. You are a light, and I'm so thankful that you continue to write.

michele said...

I'm basking in the glow of the beauty shared here, soaking in the rays of purity that can only emanate from someone truly awakened. You are bearing the unbearable, and that makes you...well that makes you sacred and holy. So I listen. I'll keep listening. Because holiness calls to me. I'll listen with an open heart that knows maybe a little of what you know. But couldn't possibly know it intimately as you do. I am one of those souls who sees tears in the grocery store and easily soaks up pain and distress. It is not easy to move through the world as I do. But for me, to encounter a hurting heart is to encounter Christ. I find Him everywhere. But mostly among the poor in spirit. The poor don't have power to wield or abuse. Their resources are limited. They're dependent upon mercy. We just can't see it easily if we're focused on those powerful, confident, bada$$es who are actually wonderful souls too - but are often asleep and buying into programs equating power with fulfillment and worth. The old me used to pray 'oh, Lord, make me fruitful.' Now I pray 'Lord, help me forget myself.' I hold you in my heart, Leslie. You are so brave and beautiful, casting blessing even across the interwebs. xox

Karen said...

I hope I would approach someone crying in the market, but I can't be sure I would. I would think that maybe they're sad but would like to grieve alone and not have a complete stranger intrude on their sadness. I know that when people fall I always stop to make sure they are alright. Crying is so personal and some might not want to share what is making them sad...that's just my thought process. Maybe I will rethink that thinking the next time I see someone crying. I appreciate the honesty, it helps me think about how to deal with a friend's loss.
xo,
Karen

NanaDiana said...

I walked up to a woman who was crying in the aisle of a Walgreens and asked her if she was alright. She was supposed to pick up medicine for her sick baby and she did not have enough to pay for the whole prescription and they wouldn't let her pay and take part of it. Now...I NEVER carry cash---NEVER! I asked her how much it was. She has $5 and the prescription was $23.something. I reached in my coat pocket and took out the $20 I had put in there earlier in the day and gave it to her. She cried even harder and God Blessed Me...etc. I told her that someday she would do the same for someone else.

I have often asked others if they are okay when I see someone crying---because I, too, have been there (sadly).

God bless your heart! xo Diana

Leslie Harris said...


Karen I think I was like that too. And I completely understand about the hesitancy to approach a stranger who looks tearful. I think we all walk around with normal boundaries with regard to emotionality. I know I did. But I also notice how this devastating loss has changed me from the inside out. It's noteworthy only because I was one of those people who always maintained a sense of privacy. I didn't open up to just anyone. And now I feel like my entire emotional self has been split wide open and this is the place I write from now. It's not that I don't feel exposed and maybe even a bit self conscious after I hit the publish button. (I do) It's just that I no longer care about being judged for it.
When you've lost something so profoundly crucial to your entire existence, what else could possibly be worse?
sending love to you.
xo
Leslie

Leslie Harris said...

Michele.
I'm always slightly swept away by the beauty of your writing. And most certainly by your message. Truthfully, I aspire to have the wisdom-filled heart that you have and maybe someday I will feel like I'm that person.

When you so kindly suggest that I'm awakened, my instant reaction is see myself as quite the opposite. Now more than ever, I know nothing. I am weak. I am struggling. I am even still angry. No matter how hard I search and blunder my way on this spiritual path it never feels easy. My son is gone. And all those years of tender prayers uttered over my grandfather's Rosary beads for my son, seemed not to have mattered.

As a child of God and the Universe, I feel like the bad kid. The rebel. The one who doesn't understand and still wants those answers that I'll never have. And even though I long to be the trusting, peaceful follower...I am not there. Not yet. Maybe my saving grace is that I keep trying.
Sending Love and gratitude for your friendship,
xo

Leslie Harris said...

Kim.
Every time I see your name in my comment section I smile. It seems odd that you should be calling me a Light when I feel that way about you.
Thank you for reading my posts and connecting with me. I'm so grateful for your loving presence here.
xo

Leslie Harris said...

Lauren thank you for sharing that sweet story inside Trader Joes. It's so YOU to even notice those dynamics with the little girl and the grocery clerk, you have that amazing heart everywhere you go.
Also I'm glad you reminded me of your husband's surgery. I guess there is a positive side to being unseen in public and that's when you're feeling self-conscious about your appearance. I'm so glad those days are behind you guys.
love to you.
xo

Leslie Harris said...

Thank you Brenda.
Sending you a warm hug and so much gratitude for your visits here.
xo

Leslie Harris said...

Diana.
Wow.
That's my first reaction when I read your powerful story. What can I possibly say?

Thank you for being YOU. With your extraordinary compassion and loving heart.
I only wish I could give you a big hug.
xo

Blondie's Journal said...

You write so well, from your mind and heart straight to your keyboard. Also in a way that touches my soul in a profound way. Your grief and healing has helped pave a road, not only in my losing Milo, but in reflecting on the loss of my mother, father and sister within the last fifteen years.

On the flip side of the coin from which you posted, I was sitting in my car crying the other day at a Subway shop, after what I felt was a very insensitive phone conversation with my daughter. When I'm away at the lake, I truly feel, "away", and this call made me feel thrown to the lions again. And on top of losing my dog, I felt it was just too much. I was crying and talking into thin air as it would appear to others walking past my car. When I finally walked into the shop to order a sandwich, everyone stared and then turned away. I admit, I looked like hell; dirty hair, no makeup, red eyes and still sniffling. The girl took my order as if she was blind to me.

I later thought about it. I know I'll face many times like this in the future as I have in the past. But I am determined to show compassion to anyone: happy, sad, troubled, confused, handicapped, poor. That's me. Not getting that back is troubling, but perhaps we can be examples? But no matter, that's just the way I'm wired. I find joy these days just talking to the employees at Home Depot or the manager at the marina.

I'm so happy you had an uplifting time with Sophia. We need new and different perspectives that might help the healing and projection of the next day and the next...

Please know our writings and sharing helps so many of us dealing with loss, maybe not as devastating, but as you recently posted, but grief comes in many forms.

Sending love and hugs...maybe start that book?

Jane x

Sandra Sallin said...

Thank you. I will be on the look out for someone I can help in the grocery aisle. Or someone out here that just needs a smile and a pat. Thank you for your tenderness.

Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours said...

Leslie, I loved this post. Service to others, noticing their pain in the midst of your own, speaks volumes about the woman you are. And Sophia... she sounds like an amazing woman who knows how to "do the awkward" and love people in their pain. You're fortunate to have each other!

Lori said...

Once again Leslie, your writing is powerful and shows us that a simple trip to the grocery store for some can cause so much pain and cherished memories for others. I know that songs and smells to me are powerful reminders of those we have lost. I cannot and will not begin to compare anyone I have lost to yours ~ know that I am here as always if you need a boost. I also just read your makeover post and wow ~ you always hit it out of the park. Hugs xoxo

Melanie said...

Your writing is such a gift. It grab me by the heart and pulls me in.

"I wonder if other mothers who have lost their hunky, big, healthy sons have these foodie flashbacks inside grocery stores."

Oh yes, Leslie, I do. Maybe not so much anymore, but the first year or so was horrible. I couldn't even walk down the ice cream aisle. The day Phil died...that morning when he was still alive, I told him I was going grocery shopping later and asked if he wanted anything. He asked me to get him Edy's caramel ice cream. He never got to eat it. Now that it's been almost 10 years, I'm able to look at his favorite foods or make foods that he always loved. Sure, I feel the sadness, but I also feel immense love.

The one thing I still to this day have a hard time with is when people ask me how many children I have. My answer varies depending on the circumstances. Heck, sometimes I just blurt things out of my mouth because I'm never expecting the question and when it comes, my heart quickens and I get nervous. The latest person to ask me that dreaded question was my new physical therapist. The words just tumbled out of my mouth..."Two boys, ages 28 and 30." Which is true, really.

Anyway, I'm glad you had such a beautiful visit with Sophia. xoxo

Carla from The River said...

Leslie,
Thank you again, for the pure honesty.
I am so happy you had a lovely visit with Sophia.
Love, Carla

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