Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Revisiting Serendipity

About this time last year, the girls and I went out shopping for school supplies. The following post from last August details a beautiful encounter we had that day.

This year, as we shop for school supplies and stop for ice cream, I'll remember this man and his family, and I'll once again thank God for His tender mercies.


School supplies, serendipity, ice cream and tears

Yesterday we went shopping for school supplies. After picking up a few essentials, and because we were celebrating the fact that none of us had any cavities (this was a known fact, not just a guess, as we'd been to the dentist in the morning) I decreed it to be an Ice Cream for Lunch Day.
We stopped for our treats, and settled down to enjoy them. As the girls were slurping their way through Oreo- and Reese's Peanut Butter Cup-laced concoctions, an elderly man approached our table.

"I just wanted to say," he said rather slowly, "that you just have some very nice girls there, and you all remind me of our family a number of years back. We had three girls, too."

I responded with something like, "Isn't that nice?" and said it was kind of him to compliment the girls. Then he went on to say, "I've got kind of a sad story, though ...."

Oh, no, I thought, who are you, and what's coming next?

"We, um," he said, looking troubled. "We lost our youngest daughter to cancer."

Oh, my. I was jolted, but managed to relay my shock and sympathy. I asked when it had happened, thinking it must've been years ago.

"Just last month," he said, tearing up. "She was 41. I was there when she died. And it just ...."

He trailed off, as tears filled his eyes. (And mine.)

"I'm so sorry," I said feebly. I looked at Anne, who was also tearing up.

He continued. "She had the Lord as her Savior, and she told me that. She said she wasn't afraid ... so, you know, that's my consolation. But," he choked, "it just tears you up inside."

"I can't even imagine," I whispered.

The surrealness of this scene didn't really occur to me. Somehow it seemed perfectly right that I was sitting here, listening to this stranger who stood next to my table as he shared his grief with a family who was willing to listen.

He shook his head, as if to recollect his thoughts, and said, "I just ... I really wanted to stop and say something to you, because I just saw that you look like such a nice, happy family. I saw your three girls talking and laughing, and I thought, 'Why there's Suzanne and Maureen and Ginger!' Just like my girls ...."

He shook his head again, and since I probably seemed unable to say anything at that point, he finished up by saying, "I just wanted to say that you all just reminded me of our family, and I could tell that you have somethin' special. You know, not everyone has that these days ... it's a rotten world, and not everyone has what you have ... and so, I just wanted to say that."

Through a few more tears, I thanked him. I told him again how sorry I was that he had lost his daughter, and that I appreciated his kindness at taking the time to stop and talk to us.

"God bless you," I said softly, feeling once again that my words were sorely inadequate.

When he left, Anne-with-an-e was crying. I comforted her, and said that although his story was a sad one, and that he missed his daughter very much, it was comforting that they had their faith (and that we have ours.) I told the girls I was glad we were there -- glad we could listen to a man who needed to talk about the daughters he loves so much. But, also, his little visit to our table was a blessing for me, I said. I was touched that he could see how much we love one another, and touched that he took the time to say it.

When we got home, I told Atticus about it -- about how it felt as if an angel had stopped to talk to us. This angel reminded me of our abundant blessings, our abundant love for one another ... of all that's really important.

Then, Atticus said, "Do you remember that last phone call we got for the Rosary Crusade? It was about a month ago. They asked us to pray for a couple who had just lost their 40-something daughter to cancer."

I had forgotten, but Atticus was right.

Though I can't know for certain, this stranger -- this "angel" -- who had felt compelled to approach an ice-cream-eating mother and her three daughters was quite possibly the man for whom I had prayed anonymously last month.

And once again, I feel awed by and unworthy of the love and mercy of such a God as we have. He intertwines our lives in ways we cannot predict, often do not see, and most certainly cannot fully comprehend on this side of heaven.

Serendipity? It's such a lovely and whimsical word for grace.


Jenny said...

Karen-I have chills right now and tears welling in my eyes. What a beautiful moment you captured there! I am lifting up a prayer for that man right now.

Bless you and your girls-

Matilda said...

Thank you for sharing this story especailly for those of us who are "newer" to the blog world and missed it last year. What a powerful. moving story!

Could you tell me more about the Rosary Crusade? I googled it but found too many entries. Not a bad problem I guess! Thanks!

Jennifer said...

I'm so glad you re-posted this. It certainly puts things in perspective as we all worry about the decisions we are making. Thanks Karen.

Margaret in Minnesota said...

I remember this post of a year ago! Of course I remember it; yours was one of the only blogs I was reading at the time and this post endeared you to me forever! :)

Your humor, your cute kids and your love of coffee were the icing on the cake.

And I do like cake.

Alice Gunther said...

Karen, the hair on the back of my neck is prickling over this post. It is beautiful and speaks so clearly of God's goodness to us. Yes, there is so much to be thankful for.

I missed this post last year because I was barely getting on the computer after Eileen was born. Thank you for giving me a second chance.

Love you, Karen.

Jill said...

I love it when you repost these beautiful stories since I am newer to this blogging world. Your family is such a light to the world in so many ways.

jugglingpaynes said...

What a beautiful story. I'm teary now. Thank you for sharing this special memory.

Peace and Laughter (through tears)

Candlestring said...

Whaaaaah! So wonderful, as in full of wonder.

Karen E. said...

Thanks, all.

Matilda, the Rosary Crusade (at least in our parish -- maybe it's different elsewhere) is what they call the Rosary prayer chain. Everyone on the chain has a decade/mystery assigned to him/her. When I get a phone call from one of the women in charge, she tells me who to pray for, and we offer our decade/mystery for that person. Sometimes, the one who has requested prayer is named, and sometimes remains anonymous.

Elizabeth said...

What a beautiful, amazing, sad story. Thanks so much for sharing.