I was standing in line at the store waiting to check out. The young lady at the register looked up, smiled and said “I like your hair.” That’s usually how it starts. I have found that in most cases people under 40 or over 60 are most likely to comment about the color of my hair. The conversations that follow are most frequently about loss of a loved one.
“Thank you. The color is for my two sisters I lost to cancer.” The expression changes and the instant apology almost always follows
“I’m so sorry”, she replied.
“It’s okay, it makes me happy. It’s the way I choose to keep them with me every day. I look in the mirror and I see them and it always makes me smile.” At that point her reaction changes from somber to more light-hearted when she realizes she has not offended me.
No one was in line behind me so we engaged in a short conversation. She tells me she lost both her parents.
“Oh, I’m sorry – you’re so young!”
As we talk, I learn she is in her early thirties. That’s young to lose your parents. I was only 19 when my mother passed away. She explains the losses were due to heart disease and emphysema. It is a magical moment when this young woman tells me how she keeps her parents with her. Her father was a musician and she loves to listen to gospel music because it reminds her of him. Her mother loved to cook and she spends time trying all her mom’s recipes. We smile at the end of our short exchange, each of us acknowledging a lighter feeling knowing we have shared something important to us with a perfect stranger.
I have a theory that we can connect with one another much easier when we find something we have in common – even if it is something like the loss of someone we loved dearly. It is so healing – especially in these current times – to share our stories. To look someone in the eyes and connect. To speak and to listen to one another is one of our greatest gifts as human beings.
We just need to exercise those gifts more frequently.