4.25.2012

Again, on Gratitude

The other day I was helping a customer when I asked her about her last name, a short, one-syllable name I'd never seen before.  She told me it was German.  "I was married twice," she said.  "This was my second husband's name."


After a meaningful pause, she went on.  "They both died."


She told me she had known her second husband for ten years but that they'd only been married three when he died.  I could see in her eyes the wound was still tender.  "We were only married for that brief period, but I have a lot of wonderful memories from that period.  We got to travel a lot together."  She looked at me.  "I'm very lucky to have fallen in love again.  I'm grateful for the time we had."


With that, she left.  And in that moment I felt all of the stress of my day melt away to be replaced by a warm and secure and absolute feeling that everything would be all right.  That it always is, somehow.


For this woman, probably one of her worst nightmares came true.  Twice.  The death of a spouse is probably something a lot of married people worry about.  They wonder if they will have the strength to deal with it if it should happen.  I'll never know how that woman coped with those deaths at the time or how long it took her to be able to have casual conversations about them with bank employees, but what's clear is that she has emerged with gratitude.


To me it seems at once the most difficult thing to do--to let go of attachment--and the simplest.  Having had the experience of losing or having stolen significant possessions, I was surprised to find myself not only not crestfallen but with a strange sense of relief.  The relief of the burden of having to safeguard the thing in the first place.


People are, of course, infinitely more valuable than possessions.  It seems a different thing entirely to lose a person, or to lose one's own life.  And yet I love the idea of being ultimately able to handle that loss in the way this customer did.


About love, about this whole experience of living, I hope I can hold her message close to my heart: I'm grateful for the time I had.