I came home yesterday after giving a two-day retreat out of town for my former Presbytery. One of those events which goes so well and is followed by so many lovely comments that you know you've found your niche. One of them anyway. And so I came home, and riffled through the mail, and was startled to see a hand-written envelope among the bills, the return address identifying a family much on my thoughts the past few weeks.
Are we somehow forever connected in ways we can't quite grasp to those we meet in the most desperate of circumstances?
The card was from the father of my son Josh's former girlfriend, letting us know that his wife died a month ago. I knew that she had been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer long before that, but my correspondence with her daughter had come to an end, and so I was no longer privy to her unfolding story. How odd, I emailed him back, that I should have been thinking of them all so frequently in the month since her death.
When Josh died, this father braved the trip here across several states to be with his daughter among a crowd of mourning strangers. Three years later, he sent me one of those letters of such eloquence that you treasure it always, so grateful for someone who has reached out to you to acknowledge a shared sorrow.
Only a few months earlier, standing in the Chicago sunshine and then lingering over a breakfast of several hours with the young lady in question and my own daughter, newly returned from Prague, I had imagined that someday this woman and I would be mothers-in-law together. I imagined the wedding we would plan and the reception we would host. I imagined our families' continued connections through our children and theirs to come.
And then our children broke up, and then my son ended his life, and now the mother-in-law to be has died. We never even met.
I am so sorry for their family, for a husband who has lost a life partner of many decades, and for two daughters who have lost their mother, one of them only five years after losing the man she planned to marry.
But I ache for myself as well. I had said a few weeks ago that I just didn't care about Mother's Day angst anymore. I love a little extra time with my surviving children, but with mother and one child missing in action, it's yet one more of the year's sequence of holidays I'd be content to skip. Still, if other people want to make a big deal of it ~ whatever. I endure a lot of days that other people find enjoyable.
But that was before I was handed yet another twist on this one.
I am so very, very sad today, for all that never will be.
And for all of us, who committed so much and worked so hard and loved so very deeply, only to see the future slip from our grasp.