A lost opportunity, a huge regret, a haunting feeling

During one of my healing retail therapy sessions in the shoe aisle at Nordstrom, an older (and by older, I mean WAY older than me, like late sixties) well groomed beautifully dressed lady was sitting nearby trying on a pair of boots. She had a scarf around her neck that you could tell simply by looking that it was woven of the highest quality cashmere. She had a lovely air of grace and elegance. I think it was that regal essence that reminded me of my mom. She owned that quality too, always dressed head to toe with class.  The woman looked so together that I couldn’t keep from sneaking glances at her while I too tried on boots. I’d been looking for a pair of flat riding boots that fit snugly but weren’t too high, which is a tall order. (ha ha). I’ve never been accused of dressing elegantly. Sexy, flamboyant, stylish, wild even–but never Lilly Van der Woodsen Upper East Side elegant. Lilly van der woodsenHere’s an example of me getting dressed… If one pearl necklace is good, a dozen is better! A ring for every finger, well, why not? We have ten of them, isn’t that what they’re for? And aren’t our arms just begging to be filled with every bangle and charm bracelet in the jewelry box?

My mom would shake her head and say, “Princess Rosebud, haven’t you heard the old saying, less is more?” My response to her was, “Haven’t YOU heard of my saying, more is better?”

So I’m sitting there and this lovely woman is sitting there and she turns to me and says softly, matter-of-factly,

“My husband died last week.”

What do you do when a stranger opens up that way? What do you do? I said,

“I am so very sorry for your loss.”

She continued,

“We had been married for fifty years. I don’t know what to do with myself so I shop all day. I can’t bear to be home alone without him.”

If anyone could empathize with that philosophy, it would be me. Not that I’ve lost my life partner, but when my darling thirteen-year-old kitty died, I felt the same way. I left the house early in the morning and stayed away ’til dark, wandering around the shopping centers like a lost soul. I couldn’t bear to open the front door and know that I’d never again see her face at the top of the stairs greeting me. I couldn’t bear to sleep in our bed and never again feel her jump up and scratch at the covers to join me, nestled against my body, so I slept on the sofa until the captain came back. What made it even more difficult to bear was that it happened while he was out to sea, and I was the one who was unanchored, aimlessly drifting. I totes understood the poor lady’s pain.

“He made every day worth living.”

I asked her if she had family in the area to help her with her sadness, and she shook her head. It was on the tip of my tongue to invite her to join me for a cup of coffee when when my cell rang. It was my son. He needed me to run to the post office before it closed and send him a book he had accidentally left behind the previous week.

As I walked away, I touched her gently on the shoulder and told her once again how sorry I was for her loss and I hoped she’d be all right.

I really, really regret not getting her name and telephone number so that we could meet at a coffee shop or simply make sure she’s OK. I have a feeling she might not be. I do have that feeling. I’ve never seen her again.

For the most part, women are a truly and deeply caring and nurturing community. I dropped the ball that day and it haunts me.  It haunts me.

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39 thoughts on “A lost opportunity, a huge regret, a haunting feeling

  1. Goosebumps on my arms. We definitely do not know what others are going through. Please don’t let this haunt you.

    I bet if you go back there another day; she will be there. You will have your chance for that cup of coffee.

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    • I really hope so. I was torn between wanting to help and needing to always be the mom that jumps to help out her child, no matter how old he is. The maternal pull was stronger, I guess, but I should have gotten her number before I left.

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  2. I know this feeling you ….it’s in your gut and mind and heart. I had a similar situation a few weeks ago and have been kicking myself since. The good thing? We have a heart….and I’m betting we will both nail it the next time it happens! :) (and it will) paula ♥

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      • It was about a dog. I know it sounds silly….but I was out (we are in the country) saw an older dog that was loose. He had on a collar and I knew he was someone’s baby. He got out of the ditch and headed back towards a neighborhood. I was in a hurry(headed somewhere) and told myself he was going home. The next morning I saw huge signs posted all over town and country, and on local social sites, looking for him. It seems someone stopped and picked him up and kept him. (this was witnessed with a description of the vehicle and person) But the lady never returned him to the rightful owner. Had I simply stopped the car and called the owner…..anyways….I have felt like a horrible person since. We are animal lovers. I should have just been late that day! :) Okay…there….my confession! :(

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  3. Every heart gets broken at some time or another. All we can do is our best to help carry the load. Let’s believe that someone else came to her rescue when you couldn’t and maybe say a little prayer for her.

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  4. This reminds me of when my father passed a few years ago. Married for 52 years my Mom was lost. While I stayed with Mom for a few weeks, I had to return home to work. She would tell me of going to the mall a few times a week just to be among people for the loneliness was unbearable. She eventually moved to be near me until her passing last year.. just your speaking to her helped..

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  5. I almost started crying. :( Little old people without their little old partners make me sad. My grandfather lived for 59 years after his wife passed…when he finally passed, we knew that he was reunited with the love of his life.

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  6. I know exactly what you mean…especially when i look back and think maybe I should have said more or taken more time to spend with them..The good thing is you can say a prayer for the lady and hope she finds some comfort in the memories she has of her husband.

    I really enjoyed reading this.

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  7. I hate that feeling; I have dropped that ball more than once.You never know, though; you may have said the right thing that made her open up to someone else.Others giving a little helped me at hard times.
    Mother Teresa said that it was more charitable to listen to a lonely neighbor than to go to Calcutta to tend to the lepers; your heart is in the right place.

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  8. You were there when it counted. Our hearts recognize the agony of loss and are powerless against it. Yet, with a word and a touch, you shared her grief at that moment in time. I am reminded by a quote by George Eliot: “What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?”

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    • Thank you, I hope so. It’s a dilemma, well, not really. I always have and always will and always do jump to fulfill my son’s wishes, needs, desires–whether it’s change a diaper, feed him, watch him skateboard, proof his dissertation, whatever. That it would have been OK to wait a few minutes to help someone out didn’t even occur to me. That umbilical cord has a strong pull. (another post!)

      On Sat, Dec 8, 2012 at 10:30 PM, Enchanted Seashells…Confessions of a Tugbo

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