Lee Ann Christ
It was in February, two months after Brian died. I was alone and decided to head out on a Saturday afternoon down Route 7W, and attempt to work my way through the outlets out that way. A diversion on a cold and dreary day in what could sometimes feel like a cold and dreary life, I had found out in the worst way. I got a half mile or so past Tysons Corner and spied a big snowy field where my daughter had played soccer in the fall. Without hesitation or thought, I turned right, down the road to the field that was adjacent to a school, gladly abandoning the outlet idea.
The parking lot was deserted and it was cold and windy, but welcoming the solitude, I parked, got out and began to walk. I walked quickly, hoping each step would take me somewhere I needed to go. I couldn’t divert my grief with ordinary things that day, I couldn’t release it out of my body with the fast pace I walked. Truth is, I wanted to run in that field and never stop running. The tears welled up in my eyes and soon flowed in warm paths down the cold skin on my cheeks. I let them flow.
As I circled the lot a third or fourth time, to my right and down in the far parking lot, I suddenly noticed an older man walking too. I wasn’t alarmed, just surprised to see someone else out in the snow and slush. I pulled myself up emotionally and became more alert and aware of my surroundings.
Our paths finally crossed and we slowed to greet each other. He had a friendly face and was in his 70’s. We spoke of the snow on the ground being pretty and he said he liked it but wasn’t used to it in Pakistan where he lived. He was visiting his son, for whom he planned to help find a wife while he was here.
I spoke of my son’s best friend whose family was from Pakistan and all the fun times we had with them. He invited me to come and visit him there anytime with my family. He was a magistrate and would love to show us around. We were warming up to be fast friends on that cold winter day.
“Do you have a piece of paper?” he said and he would write down his name, address and phone. I felt at ease and strangely curious about this encounter, so going to my car and opening it for pen and paper did not seem out of the question to me. As he was writing and standing within arms reach he asked, “How is your son?”
That led from casual conversation into familiarity. Trusting that transition, I pulled down the sun visor in the car and reached for an envelope that secured pictures of Brian. With a shaky voice I replied, “He died two months ago, of a drug overdose.” I began explaining some of the situation. He listened with such care and then reached with both hands toward me, cupping my face in them and wiping away the tears with his thumbs. He said quietly, “A son is a very special and important thing. I will pray for you and for his soul. Don’t worry, he’ll be okay.”
He hugged me like a grandfather would and I felt such a sense of belonging and comfort from a total stranger. I watched him as he turned to wave and walked toward some nearby houses, and wondered if he would not just disappear as he went up that road. I really thought I had met up with an angel that day.
I’m appreciative to have been touched by people like this and hope I can help others in turn. If we see someone down and out or needy in someway, who is to help them? You are. I am. When? When we have more resources, or more people with us? No, right then and there. The here and now.
Brian and I had a lot of discussions when I drove him around to school and work, during that nine months he was with us in recovery. We both agreed –that smile you give someone– just might save their life. Nothing is too small a gesture, especially in the eyes of God.