A perfect stranger came over today with her two year old for a play date.
She had found my blog through the NY Times article published back in August. At some point much later, she wrote me an email and shared her own stories of grief. A few years ago, she lost two infants in a row at around six weeks. The second was on life support for another six weeks. She also lost her own father at eighteen.
She came over with two beautiful books for Audrey, scones, the best cookies I've ever had from a bakery in her neighborhood, and a journal and bag for me. We walked to Whole Foods with our girls and ate lunch together. She insisted on treating. On the walk there we saw four goslings sitting on the side of the path, guarded by their parents.
I felt truly humbled that someone I don't even know would treat me in this manner. I was partly afraid the whole time that I would disappoint her- that the me in person would not match the quality of the writing that had drawn her, but it was as if we had been friends for quite a while rather than meeting for the first time.
On the walk back, I saw my first butterfly of the season- a small one that seemed to dance around the four of us for some time. I've long since given up on "signs" and symbols in that way- it reminds me of 1 cor 13 "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."
Because these kinds of things are hard to substantiate as spiritual "signs", I'm pretty much done with these. But at the same time, there is something beautiful and symbolic - if not supernatural- about the butterfly.
And then just as we got back to the parking lot and she was to head home for her daughter's nap, it began to drizzle. And as I walked inside, the drops got larger.
I thought about my question of whether or not we are just physical beings- or whether there is some part of us- a soul- that lasts. Of course, I'd thought about this for many years before you died, but it is quite a different question now even though the phrasing appears the same. It seems that the kind of sharing in grief and the human experience I was able to have with this woman simply doesn't make sense if we are just physical beings.
So, for the afternoon at least- I felt hopeful. I shared one of the cookies she brought with Audrey and we sat outside while she painted designs on the balcony floor with water and a fat paintbrush. Our guest and I exchanged emails later with thank you's and decided that you just might be teaching her two children how to play the cello where you are.