Until last Monday, I thought my choir brought me healing simply because I got to sing with others, something that brings me great joy. I really underestimated it.
At my last rehearsal, our director began practice with an icebreaker. She had each of us stand, say our name, and say one thing about ourselves. Because it was MLK day she used words that exemplified Dr. Martin Luther King to prompt us. "Give us one way you have purpose, legacy, joy or dreams in your life" she said.
I spent the time waiting for my turn trying to listen carefully to each person talk and simultaneously grasping for something to say. My shy brain shuts down to brain-stem-functions only when I'm forced to speak in front of a crowd so I wanted at least a vague idea of what I'd say before I had to take my turn.
"I'm Cassie and I think my purpose might be to help others who've been through tragedy through my writing," I spit out and gratefully took my seat with shaky hands and burning cheeks, relieved to be a part of the audience again. Each woman or girl spoke endearingly of hopes and dreams, legacies and purposes and I grew more and more proud of my fellow choir mates and women in general.
Finally, the last woman to stand said she wasn't a member of the choir, but in fact, a choir member's grandma.
"I'm Joy and I'm Megan's* grandma," she said. I'm here visiting from out of town and I just HAD to see what Megan's choir practice was like. It's been so wonderful for her. Her mom died three years ago..." at this last statement, everything except those last few words receded into the distance and my body and mind were completely tuned in to that 8 year old girl sitting in the front row.
I knew Megan and I knew that her dad played percussion for us at choir concerts sometimes. I suddenly put things together. Most little girls who sing in the choir have moms who join them. It's an intergenerational choir after all. I'd never seen Megan with a mother figure and felt some kind of draw toward her and her father and had no idea why.
It had even crossed my mind that he might be widowed. Now that it was confirmed for me, I couldn't think of anything else.
As soon as practice was over I went straight to Joy and said "Well, you're not going to believe this but my mom died when I was five too and then I was widowed at 35 also!" I gave her my Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation outreach card and wrote my email address on the back to give to her son-in-law. She showed me the blog her daughter wrote in the last 7 months of her life. Not only did Megan and I both lose our mom at 5 years old, but to cancer as well.
We talked about how Megan was doing, how hard it was for me when I was her age because I didn't know anyone else who didn't have a mommy. About how long it took to heal. She told me she was worried her son-in-law was lonely and I felt those words deep in the pit of my stomach. Oh, lonely. I know lonely, I thought.
I left practice that night feeling a lot like I felt when I first went to Camp Widow. It's something I can only equate to what it must feel like for an alien stuck on our planet to find another member of her home planet among all the humanoids.
While I want to run up to both Megan and her father the next time I see them and say "let's be friends...NOW!", I know that that urge is just from the relief of finding some of my fellow aliens, but I do hope I can get to know them both better, regardless.
At therapy that week I told my therapist all of this. I told her that I didn't want to foist myself upon these people who didn't know me from anyone, but the urge was there anyway.
"How did you find support when it was you in her position?" she asked me.
I explained that I was lucky to have some females in my life (mostly friend's moms) who loved on me, cooked meals for me and made me feel accepted.
"So what makes you think that little girl wouldn't benefit from you in her life?" she said.
My eyes filled with tears so fast that they fell, heavy and huge, without hitting my cheeks on the way down.
Oh, she got me, I thought.
"Yes," I finally admitted. "That would be very healing for me." And I couldn't squeak any more words out around the giant lump that had formed in my throat.
I know this family doesn't know me. I realize they might not want or need my presence. But if they do I would be honored beyond words. If only to make both of them feel like they've found someone from their home planet to compare notes with.
*Names have been changed