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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Grief and the woman on the phone

My email signature
There was a woman’s voice on the other end of the call. Far away from Lake Tahoe, somewhere in Florida. I figured our connection was a mistake of the internet as I looked for a contractor to replace some doors at our house. But she was part of the call center, probably working from home during the pandemic. She was helpful and offered to set up an appointment for someone to come take a look, take some measurements. The appointment was set, then after talking it over with my husband, we changed our minds. We wanted a local shop with a showroom, where we could go look at doors and feel the difference between wood and fiberglass. I emailed to let her know that I called the Sacramento office and canceled. That would have been the end of it, but she followed up.

“On another note; I noticed the bottom of your email.

My heart sank.
I am so, so sorry for your loss.
My heart goes out to you.
No parent should ever lose a child.

My prayers go out to you and your family.
May little Riley rest in peace until you meet again.”

This woman in Florida is the first person to ever respond or even mention the words that finish every single email that I have sent for more than six years. The first time. In more than six years. I've often wondered if the words were really attached to my messages and I've looked at my sent mail to verify its existence. And there it is. Every. Single. Time.

As time goes by there are fewer and fewer times when people ask about him and fewer and fewer opportunities for me to talk about him. I responded with a thank you. I thanked her for bringing him into the moment for me. I thanked her for taking a chance. I told her that Riley loved maps and baseball and Tabasco. He loved telling jokes, the color green, and sitting in my lap. I told her that he was the love of my life. And while her email brought fresh tears to my eyes, I assured her that her message did not make me sad.

Silence is what hurts. 
Acknowledgement is what heals. A bereaved parent needs a lot of acknowledgement. We need to hear our children's names said aloud. Or typed in an email. This faraway woman helped my broken heart feel slightly less broken. Her note definitely did not make me sad or remind me that Riley has died. I'm acutely aware of his death and absence practically every minute of every day. Rather, her mentioning him made him alive. And I thanked her for her the gift.

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