Cancer is an indiscriminate bitch, and that’s all I want to say about that right now. I’d rather talk about Daisy, and how her passing has reminded me of a lesson.
On Saturday, October 29th, our church held a beautiful memorial service for this cool lady, a friend I got to know initially during a women’s retreat at the great Craigville Conference Center on Cape Cod. Facebook reminded me that this retreat was four years ago, almost to the date.
We met on Friday night at the church, and set up car pools for the trip. I was in the same car as Daisy, there and back. I don’t remember what we all spoke about on the trips, most likely family, work, faith, the weather, whatever.
On Saturday afternoon, Daisy was offering manicure sessions, and since my nails weren’t looking too great, I waited for my turn. Finally I had picked my color and was ready for Daisy to start working on my pathetic fingertips. She picked up a hand and started filing away. Soon though she exclaimed, “Geez, your nails are awful Mary.”
“What? They’re what?”
“You’ve got all these ridges, might be a nutritional deficiency or something…”
She kept filing and occasionally tsk-tsk to herself. But she couldn’t help it and again commented how crappy my nails were. Probably made a comment about my dry skin too, which I hear a lot from manicurists. (I blame my crappy thyroid.)
At first, I sort of didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t used to someone being so blunt about anything having to do with my appearance, except for when various doctors would say…”You know, the heartburn wouldn’t be so bad if you lost some weight.” With Daisy, I wasn’t upset, or mad, just a little surprised.
The pesky ridges in my nails were again a problem when she started applying the polish. “Oh, I don’t know Mary…the ridges…”
I decided right then that I really liked this lady.
Every time she commented somewhat disapprovingly about my nails, it made me smile. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t totally dissing my grooming, she was just noticing something problematic and giving her honest feedback. It was harmless. My nails ended up coming out OK, but I didn’t even care. I enjoyed our time together more.
Daisy and I never became best friends, I never met any of her family, I just knew her as a member of our church family. We’d run into each other before or after service, and hug and that was about it. When she was diagnosed with cancer I told her how sorry I was, and that I’d pray for her. At one point she said, “You know, I was angry with God. I hate to say it, but I was angry.”
I think that kind of honesty is the best thing, and as I heard her husband speak about her during her memorial
service, he noted that Daisy wasn’t one to mince words. So hearing her speak about her anger was refreshing. Painful yes, but real. I remember telling her that I was sure that God could handle her anger, he understood.
In the last month of her life, small groups of people from the church would visit her every Sunday after service. I never went. I thought about it, but just never made it happen. And then it was too late. But this post isn’t about regret. This is about holding onto the simple, little moments.
Years ago I wrote something called The Soul Puzzle. I don’t know where that essay went to, but the general theme was about being grateful for simple connections you make with others. As much as we love to celebrate long enduring friendships and of course the love of family, we often have very significant moments with others that have lasting impact. Sure, some of these interactions might be you and another angry driver flipping each other off, or recalling verbatim some crazy exchange you had with a rude bureaucrat.
But like me, I’m sure that you have all had moments with acquaintances, or even strangers that stick with you, because you shared something honest with them. Maybe you met in a hospital, you were both nervous about someone you loved undergoing surgery. Or maybe at a support group. You spoke together once, and you never saw them again, but the words you shared were wonderful. Maybe it was waiting for an oil change, or you were both on line at the bank.
When two people fall in love, they use the term “soul mate.” There’s even jewelry that comes in two sets , each with a broken heart, when the two pieces are combined, they form one whole heart.In my essay, I spoke about life as a giant puzzle. In a soul puzzle, I believe that there are people destined to click into place in your life. Not necessarily for romance, more for guidance. I’ve had lots of these conversations that I treasure, and it was because there was just something unique about those moments that stood out.
When we speak of someone having an “aura“, it connotes them carrying some interesting color cloud floating above them, or surrounding them, like a full-body halo. When I think of these special interactions with others in the Soul Puzzle, I imagine that they are set apart from other conversations by an aura, practically invisible but still felt. As a matter of fact, there is a study of something called “Empathetic Blending” that covers this in more detail. Granted, this falls into the metaphysical realm, and it might not be for everyone, but I do know that I hold onto certain interactions with others in a special place in my heart. These encounters have encouraged, empowered, or enlightened me in a way that I cannot explain. Maybe a form of divine intervention?
Years ago, when my father was close to dying, my brother had called me to tell me if I wanted to see him before he passed, I should come home. I didn’t go. It wasn’t due to a grudge or anything out of anger, this was more of a logistical issue. I think now it was actually a poor excuse on my part, but this was literally days before Christmas. I had it in my mind that I HAD to purchase a Sawszall for Dave from Costco THAT DAY. For whatever reason, there was no way around it, at least in my head at that moment. I had to go to Costco, and then I’d see about driving the grueling 30 minutes to my childhood home to see my dad. Yes, I’m being sarcastic, I’m a bit miffed with my younger self about all of that.
My point, which I fear is becoming more diluted as I digress, is that my stress on that day was due to a combination of some guilt, some sadness about my dad’s impending death, and overall holiday stuff. I was feeling low. Anyway, there I was at Costco, with Tom as a preschooler. We purchased the Sawzall among other things, and on our way out, stopped for a quick lunch at their snack area. We ended up sharing a small table with a stranger. I don’t remember a thing about this woman, her name, what we spoke about, or what she looked like. What I do remember there was something different about this conversation. I am pretty sure it was mundane topics we covered, but yet…something stood out for me.
The thing is, and I can’t shake this, every time I thought of this woman from then on, I kept thinking of the word “angel.”
She was my angel that day. I can’t explain it any better than that.
So was Daisy my angel back on Cape Cod? Have countless others in my own Soul Puzzle been God-sent angels? Oh I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that when I reflect on Daisy’s life, and that nail-polishing memory, it reminds me, not just to hold tight to loved ones, but to also be grateful for the moments we share with others, and what a simple conversation can mean years later.
Don’t overlook the simpler things, don’t always ignore the daisies in favor of the roses.