I wondered when it would happen, when I would see a certain sweet silver-haired woman that would tug at my heart strings, especially here at Christmastime when I am missing Mom so much. I have had flashes of those meetings before – in the grocery store, at a restaurant, the pull of recognition. I call these moments heart catchers, as they bring so many memories, both sweet and painful, immediately to the surface.
Yesterday I was in the waiting room at UAB SpineNet, and looked up as the door opened and a gust of chilly air swept through the room. A valet wheeled a petite elderly woman in the door, soon to be followed by her daughter. The woman was dressed immaculately in Mom’s favorite colors, her beautiful silver hair styled with great care, her jewelry just so. Seeing her in a doctor’s office flooded my mind with so many trips to see Mom’s doctor, our silliness as we waited for her appointments, the smiles of the people watching our antics. Before the daughter came in, I spoke to the woman, telling her how pretty she was. She lit up like a Christmas tree, telling me how much she liked my shoes, and assuring me that she knew me from somewhere- I looked so familiar.
When her daughter came in and sat next to her, they didn’t talk at all, the old woman staring sadly at the floor as her daughter watched television. I caught the old woman’s eye and smiled at her, wanting so much to sit by the daughter and remind her how precious these times are, that these were moments to cherish, but of course it was not my place. When my prescription was ready, I told the woman to have a nice day and wished her a happy holiday. The woman smiled sweetly, her lively eyes crinkling, and the daughter looked at me oddly, obviously wondering why I was paying attention to her mother. I smiled at her, too, telling her that she had a beautiful mother, willing her to realize her treasure before it was too late.
I left the office and climbed into the Mini Cooper with Dan. I immediately began to tear up, and the only explanation that Dan needed was my sniffly, “I saw an old woman in a wheelchair.” As he always does, he gently said, “I know, Honey…I know.” While this sounds like a sad tale, it truly wasn’t. It brought me the gift of sweet memories of laughter and whispered conversations in the waiting room at Senior Care as we held hands. It reminded me of sitting at the drive-in of Sonic while Mom drank her shake as we acted silly and took selfies, and of sweet hugs when I deposited her back to The Home for Wayward Seniors afterwards, as she waved to her friends like a queen while I wheeled her to her apartment. I feel nothing but gratitude for those times and for our special closeness, and I will welcome these heart catchers whenever they come…even when they bring a few healing tears.