People I’ve Never Met

I was in Chicago the weekend before Thanksgiving for a conference. The Saturday night tradition in this traveling technical show is for the speakers to go out to dinner together. I wasn’t speaking but I had been interviewing the speakers one by one and so they invited me along to dinner.

While we waited for everyone to show up, I spotted someone I’d been looking for all day. I didn’t think that he knew who I was but I needed to speak to him. I waited politely while he finished his conversation with an attendee. They wrapped up and he looked over at me. He had no idea who I was.

Months earlier he and his wife had sent us a large display of flowers when Elena died. It meant a lot to me then. I can’t explain it, but it meant even more to me there in Chicago when I realized that it was an act of kindness from a man who didn’t really know me.

This year has been full of discoveries like that. People have pointed to this blog and sent me kind notes. There have been people who have suffered losses like a mom who has lost more than one child to a man who lost both his twin and his wife. Some have been neighbors who I have not yet met and some have been from countries I have never visited.

They wrote to me in February, in March, and in months since. To me, even though they wrote to me at all times of the year, I associate this reaching out with this time of the year. This giving to people we might not know.

There have been people who haven’t suffered losses who have written and posted. Perhaps that’s not correct. Everyone has suffered a loss. It’s probably more correct to say that that’s not why they are writing and posting and linking. There’s a woman in England who links in from time to time. I’ve just recently noticed that she grew up quite close to where I did. There are fathers and mothers who have written to say they look at their children a bit differently.

Often I learn a lot and am touched the deepest by talking to these people.

After that dinner I rode the elevator up to my room with another speaker I hadn’t met before tonight. He reads the blog. He told me that his mom had died a few years earlier at a very young age. He hadn’t realized until then how often we reference mothers in our traditions and every day life. It was such a nice comment that connected deep inside to Kim and my situation.

Thank you all for your thoughts, your time, and your support. Whether you’ve responded or just read. Whether you check in daily or just now and then. It all helps in ways I can’t explain.

Whether you’re a long time friend or one of the people I’ve never met.

Published in: on December 19, 2006 at 12:26 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. On Saturday night I went to a holiday open house at the home of someone I barely know. I’d met Mary at the same time I met George – at a company I worked at a few years ago. George and I became friends, and I’d see Mary at events he organized, about once a year. Last spring I posted a message on the Seattle Writergrrls listserve about the power of blogs, and I pointed to Dear Elena. Mary happened to become a list member that day. She read my post, read Dear Elena, and wrote me an email full of warmth and support. She had lost her brother not long before that. In the midst of her open house, with guests packed in the kitchen, living room, and hallways, Mary asked about you and your family.

  2. Daniel-
    I’m one of those you spoke of- I’m a father of three, from a town you’ve probably never heard of. We’ll probably never meet, and I’ve never experienced anything even CLOSE to what you, Kim, and Maggie have been through. I check back about once every two weeks or so, I read, I cry, and I post occasionally, even though I know that I haven’t a clue what you’re going through. I’ve wondered before this if I should post anything, if it made a whit of difference, or if I was hindering more than helping. I’m still not sure. I feel that I have no right to comment, and that my words are so inadequate. But I do know that if anyone’s post on this blog has helped you, then it’s only a slight repayment of what you’ve given to all of us.
    I don’t pretend to know why things happen. I’ll find out one day, when my journey is over. But I do know that events ripple, and it’s often not the events themselves, but how you respond to them that has the longest and widest influence. You took a tragedy and turned it into a gift, a blessing, a wonderful offering for all to share and participate in. We all grieve for you, and thanks to your writings we can all grieve _with_ you, even if we don’t fully understand the depth or color or warmth/chill of the emotion. It’s ironic that someone we’ve never met can touch us so deeply. That’s your gift to us, and I truly thank you, with all the gratitude that I can convey, with words so woefully inadequate. I see my children differently, I treat them differently, I look at my world differently, because of your gift to us.
    Thank you.

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