"Hey," said the voice, as I walked by the table outside my favorite dining establishment in small town. I braced myself as I turned to look at the person who belonged to the voice. I was sure it was one of two types of people, someone from town who knew my family and wanted to offer their sympathy or one of the local homeless/down on their luck folks who occasionally ask for help. Turned out to be both in one.
As I swung around, I looked into the eyes of R. I've written about him before. I smiled, as best I could, and said "Hey, how's it going," and there was this silence and a look in his eyes...then he got up and suddenly his arms were around me, holding me close as he whispered, "I'm sorry."
I whispered back, in a very shaky voice, "Thank you, R. Thank you." After a moment, he stepped back and went back to his seat. I smiled again, struggling to keep the tears at bay, and said "Thank you" again, before I turned and headed to my car. I cried all the way home. Shuddering sobs. The gaping wound in my soul was opened again, but also soothed...by someone unexpected but very welcomed.
I caught a glimpse, yet again, of the beauty of R's soul tonight, of the person behind the addictions, of the person behind the label "homeless". I was given the gift of comfort from an unexpected source. It's a gift I'm going to cherish for a long, long time on this journey of grief.