In Passing

I recognized you right away when we passed each other. And there’s your sister; I recognized her too. You glanced at me and away again, no sign of recognition in return.

As a novice chaplain, I held your hand and waited for news, and blessed your baby before they withdrew life support.  I witnessed you and your partner talking so gently and honestly with your other children about what was happening. I heard from the nurses that you chose organ donation and went back to the office to cry about the beauty and horror of that decision.

We passed near the coffee bar at Whole Foods, that mecca for us middle class moms who will buy our organic, free range, grass fed dinners for our families after drinking our fair trade almond milk lattes. S. was strapped to my chest, chubby legs sticking out of the ergo, neck wonky to one side as he slept.

The rules of the trade and general respect for your privacy require that if I was your chaplain, I can’t initiate further contact. If you recognize me and sought conversation, I can engage, but it is not mine to start.

But if I could speak to you, I would say, “I remember and grieve.”

“I think about you and pray for your heart and healing, for your marriage, for your children.”

I would gesture to the perfect little body I carry and say, “I don’t take it for granted. I know that there is no guarantee.”

And, “How are you? How are you really?”

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