I walked around the corner and the smile slipped off my face.
I looked at him, and her, and back to him. The red rimmed eyes betrayed all.
What is going on? I thought, my heart sinking like a thousand pound weight.
Are these tears of joy or sorrow? I can’t tell
A quick glance to the right and the sadness was palpable.
No. No freakin way.
I sat down quietly, looking in his brave eyes as he began. The words crashing down around us, shattering a Monday morning, sobering us from our unopened emails and encroaching deadlines. Magnifying how minimal these things are in the grand scheme of life. So very very small. We just listened. We breathed in shallow breaths and sniffed back tears. For a moment we were all bonded by our shared sorrow. After it was over and we were hugging to leave, I dashed off trying to keep the tidal wave at bay.
The grief all too familiar. Too raw. Too soon.
As sadness leaked from my eyes, I knew I was giving myself away. I didn’t really care.
I stopped in to get coffee with my shoulders slumped and a sigh escaping my lips.
“It’s been a hard day. I’ll take the biggest size you can get.”
The compassionate baristas asking what’s wrong, volunteering hugs, and a long-standing offer if I needed anything. I walked to my car moved by the empathy of these strangers I see once or twice a week. Before today they didn’t know my name, and yet they offered their shoulders for a moment to help bear the weight. Fellow man diving into murky waters of sadness. Because sorrow isn’t a solitary emotion. It’s something to be shared and can be carried by others in a time of need.
Sorrow is unlike any other emotion. Something that can sit under the surface and overwhelm you without warning. It distorts all the experiences we have – always settling in to make itself at home in the middle of joy and happiness. It lingers like an unwelcome houseguest. It can be sharp and all consuming or dull and throbbing. Yet sorrow touches everyone. It’s not an emotion shared between one or two, it’s a community feeling. The tentacles of sorrow reach out and bind hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people.
And then, that afternoon the fires started. It started out slowly but by the afternoon the blaze was out of control. I wasn’t here for last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire but I had a front row seat while helping friends evacuate. The flames and the plumes of smoke felt apocalyptic. I started to cry as I drove away. Horrified at what was happening. Within twenty-four hours the fire had shifted direction to the northwest. Ravaging a staggering 379 homes.
My sorrow magnified by this new tragedy. Death. Fire. Loss.
It’s like being in a nightmare except you’re awake and you can’t shake yourself from it. Because there is emptiness across from me and every time I go outside the smoke stings my nostrils. There is no where to hide – no place to find solace.
I hear the whisper
if you forget the way to go
and lose where you come from
if no one is standing beside you
be still and know I am
be still. be still. be still.
Please hold my heart and hand in yours. Carry the weight of the sorrow for just a little bit. So we can take a breath and rest. Because our shoulders cannot bear this alone.