Today I walked to the post office to mail a copy of my book to my dear friend J who is currently living in China. I’ve meant to do it for ages, but I was too busy and then I was recovering from being too busy.
So this afternoon I printed out the address in English and in Chinese characters, and packed the book, tape, a glue stick, pen and the address in my bag. I’d already inscribed the book, but on the way I planned to stop in a shop and buy a pretty card. I forgot. I forget a lot of things these days. Memory returned when I got to the post office, which takes up one corner of Shopper’s Drugmart. There were get well cards, birthday cards, anniversary cards, even cards of military appreciation there, but not a single, pretty blank card.
I checked the time. There wasn’t enough to go back to the card shop and get home in time for my children. I considered leaving without posting the book–and thought about how long it might be until I got around to the post office again. So I sent it without the card, all the while thinking about J and what a good friend she is, and how she sent a package to me with all kinds of delightful things in it, all the way from China. She is one of those friends with whom you can share all of yourself–a rarity.
So for J, I post this picture (click to enlarge) and the story that follows it:
At Shopper’s I bought a get-well card for someone I know who has just had back surgery. And while I was waiting in line, L, the cashier, was talking to the woman ahead of me. I missed the beginning of the conversation, but heard her say that she’s grateful every day because her son survived the car accident.
I asked L how old her son was. Thirteen, she told me, the same age as my older daughter. But he had been just five when the accident happened. That must have been hard, I said. Yes, she told me, her husband and daughter had died in the car accident.
My eyes misted. My son survived for a reason, L told me. For one thing, he kept me sane. You’d need a reason like that, I said.
I couldn’t say much, I was too inchaote with emotion, and thinking that this was about her and not me and I was not going to burst into tears. I said, Whenever I need a reminder that the small things don’t matter, I’ll come here and have a chat with you.
She said, The small things are important. And I said, yes we need them to lift us up.
I was wondering if the extent of her tragedy separated her from other people, the way these things sometimes do. Life had scarred her. It had raked her heart. It had made her different. We looked into each other’s eyes. That was all I could give her right then. A customer was behind me.
I walked away appreciating the gorgeous day and the fact that both my children were on their way home from school, that I kissed my husband this morning, that I have a friend of rare beauty in China. And I thought this: sometime when I tell someone what I went through as a child, and I am feeling different and scarred, I’ll have to remember that there are a lot of us walking around with invisible scars, and we are teaching each other gratitude.