Monday

Paying it Forward....

Today I think I paid it forward. Or at least I hope so.

I was at work for approximately two minutes when the phone rang. Normally I am headed out to the floor and I don't answer. But today I did.

After my usual intro spiel, I heard a man's voice say "Hi, I need some help." So I mentally prepared my automated response in my head while my mouth uttered the words "Sure!! What can I help you with?"

His response?

"My wife died , and I need the slide show she made of her life off of her computer for her funeral and I don't know how to do it. Can you help me??"

Well shit.

It would have to be ME that answered that call. God has a wicked sense of humor.

Once my brain re-engaged I gave him my condolences (which I KNOW meant nothing to him at that second) , and told him in not exactly these words to get his ass to our store and I would move heaven and earth to help him. I told him my name and told him when he got there to ask for me.

Then I hung up the phone, took a deep breath and started asking my co-workers who could help me if I couldn't do what he needed because frankly, I may have bitten off more than I could chew cause I had no idea what program the slide show was on, what format, what he really needed, nothing ! Oops.

Some people were like "wow his wife's dead and he's coming here?" and "geez, why is he thinking about that?"

I'll tell you why. The man was in shock. Even though I found out later that she was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in May and died early this morning, he will expect her to be home when he gets there tonight.

The nights in the hospital?? Noooo that's not us! It was a nightmare!

He will still pick up the phone months later and call her to tell her something he wants to tell no one else.


He will still roll over at night to hold her and only touch an empty space.


He will hear the air conditioning kick on and think it's the garage door opening and her coming home.

He will call her to ask if we still have an onion or a lemon or if we need anything from the store.

And he will still not believe it when she doesn't answer the phone, when she doesn't come home,
and when he can't hold her when he wants to.

And that is why he was here. Because a part of the person he loved is still alive on the pictures on that computer he has no idea how to work, because that's what she wanted and he bought it for her and it made her happy.

Because he is operating on auto-pilot and someone told him they needed pictures for her wake and that is what he has. And he came here for help getting it.

I knew who he was before he walked through the doors. I saw him standing on the fringe looking for someone in an orange shirt like I told him to and before that other orange shirt got to him he looked up and locked eyes with me and I just knew. He had the look. He was among us. We were among you.

Unless you have been there you don't know the look. And I just don't mean people who have lost their wives or husbands, I also mean those that have lost their children or someone they love so quickly and unexpectedly that you feel like you may not breathe again. It's a hollow look. Like nothing will ever be right again. And it won't.

I met him halfway and told him my name and asked him a few questions about what he needed and told him to have a seat and I would help him.

Then I told him that I didn't know exactly how he felt, but I had an idea. I didn't ask him if he was ok, that I understood, or anything. I just asked about him.

Then I told him. For months when customers ask me if I'm married or how is my husband or say something complimentary about my wedding bands I say "ok, fine, and thank you!" But I looked this man in the eye and told him my terrible truth and right there in the middle of retail hell he reached out to hug me. And I hugged him. And we both knew what no one else in our vicinity knew (I hope for their sake). That we are both members of a club no one wants to be in, but one that will make us stronger and make us appreciate our lives more.

I won't tell you much more , except that we helped him get what he needed at that moment for his wife's funeral.

We gave him that little bit, and when you are deep in the chasm of grief that tiny little bit can be a huge thing.

I want to thank "Ams" for taking the time to help and taking care of him. You have payed it forward more than you will ever know.

And to my new friend "K" ? Hang tight, do your thing, follow your own path. And as I told you today, you call me, you e-mail me anytime.

I am happy to be your new friend. I look forward to becoming old ones.

32 comments:

Elizabeth said...

What a bittersweet story. I'm glad you picked up the phone today.

Anonymous said...

Now I have tears on my keyboard. Thank you for sharing that story. He needed YOU at that moment in his life to understand and God knew it, of course.

Kim said...

I am so glad I picked up the phone today too....I hope I can be a positive voice for others as well...

Ron said...

It's wonderful for you to reach out like that, to him and to us.

Floating Princess said...

It sounds like he reached the exact person he needed to reach. Thank you for sharing the story!

Val said...

Kim: So nice to have met you at Davelanta....I have read and re read your blog, cried laughed and related to your words. You rock. Hang in there and keep doing what you are doing.

Val the one with no blog!!!
sutherland.val@gmail.com

knoxvillepixie said...

This is a lovely post. I can think of no greater way to honor your husband's memory and honor yuor own pain than by helping someone through what must have been his darkest day. I often wonder why we, as humans, must experience such tragedy, but it can become the way in which we can truly relate and have compassion and understanding for one another.
What I do know is that what you did today for that man must have meant the world to him during a time when his world was falling apart. Wishing you continued healing and sending loving thoughts your way...

Ashley said...

and now I'm bawling. Although it doesn't take much to cause that.

Geekgrl64 said...

Oh Kim, what a beautiful post. I am sure you helped him and you definitely did pay it forward!

Daniel Walters said...

Thanks for sharing this. Sometimes these things just take care of themselves. This was one of those times...

Bubblewench said...

You did a great thing for that man by just being there for him when he didn't realize he needed you. You do amaze me on a regular basis woman!

Anonymous said...

Kim, this is why I don't believe in coincidences. He reached exactly who he needed to reach. And, sadly, you were able to relate, reach out, help. I say sadly because you've been where he is, and that is sad. I hate it for you. I love the way you're able to turn it around and find the little tiny bit of positive.
You're my hero.

Franny

LadyGlutter said...

You're continuing to pay it forward by posting this on your blog. Yeah, I'm crying, but I've been having a hard time of it this morning. This helped.

Sheila said...

This so sweet, so heartbreaking and so humbling. I'm so glad you were able to help him.

LOVIN7 said...

I agree with Franny-this was meant to happen to help BOTH of you. I hope you two can become friends and help each other thru the worst time of your lives. AWESOME story Coz ((HUGS))

Miss Britt said...

This was perfectly done, Kim.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

What a wonderful encounter for both of you, even though the circumstance was a sad one. You two needed to connect and it happened.

So Not Wishy Washy said...

I cannot think of a better person to have been his rock on that particular afternoon.

I cannot think of another way for you to have found yourself inexplicably linked with someone other than him.

You moved mountains for a stranger and entrusted your worst loss to him in the very same moment.

*hard hugs* I am so very proud of you.

Rachel said...

Wow, Kim, that is awesome. That you are allowing God to use such a painful thing to help someone else in the same pain is so amazing. I admire you. I hurt for you and your new friend. I sincerely can't imagine.

This is the most powerful post I've read in a long time.

Cape Cod Kitty said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful encounter. I am sure you have gone a long way to help this person.
Your way with words made the story so real and certainly provoke some tears on my part today.

TexasRaceLady said...

Kim, I know it was hard, but you needed this encounter to let you know that you are not alone in your pain.

You helped someone in need. And in turn, received help because it allowed you to connect.

You done good, girlfriend. :-)

(((HUGS)))

sybil law said...

Love it.
You WERE meant to answer that phone.
I am so glad you did, and I am sure he's glad, too.
xo

Beautiful Mess said...

I've got a lump in my throat because I, too KNOW about that vacant look. It's nothing like I ever expected to see when I looked in the mirror or when I looked at my father.

I'm so glad you took the time to help him and that you answered his call. It was a fate moment. I hope it was as healing for you as it was for him.
*HUGS*

Momza said...

If you never write another word on this blog, that post right there is the one that I hope is cemented on my heart.
What a blessing you are...those that have the privilege of knowing you, are in the presence of an angel. Wow.

Big Pissy said...

You were absolutely meant to answer that call.

What a wonderful thing you did for him.

{{{hugs}}}

Manda said...

I have cried while reading this. Thank you for sharing the story. You truly are a good woman.

Wade's World said...

Thank you for sharing this story...

KBeau said...

God put you in the right place at the right time. Thanks for sharing that story.

amykiane said...

oh wow. what an incredible story and what a wonderful thing you all did for him.

Trina said...

Found you via your spotlight on Alabama Bloggers and now I'm all snotty and my cheeks are tear stained.

You definitely paid it forward. I'm so sorry for your loss Kim.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

That was serendipity. Perfect serendipity. I'm so very glad you helped him and that you both have new friends.

I wish I could have given him a hug, too.

Maria @BOREDmommy said...

Lovely post Kim. Thank you for sharing this story - hard not to get emotional reading it.