Tuesday I joined the church ladies group at the local restaurant for lunch. I arrived a little early and stopped to chat with a man sitting by himself at a table that could have accommodated the entire ladies group. It was the first time I had seen him since he had taken a public tumble and become a topic of our small town news. His arm was in a sling. I stopped briefly to chat. He has medical tests scheduled for next week. I would have enjoyed learning more and catching up in general but wasn't sure he would appreciate being joined by a bunch of women so I moved on to claim an empty table. I was then sitting by myself for several minutes and he was still sitting by himself. As I gazed across the room, I pondered the options that would have allowed me to chat with him a little longer. He was a member of my church years ago before moving out of the area and then to a nearby town. It's always nice to catch up with him.
That was Tuesday. His 38-year-old daughter was pronounced dead of a heart attack on Wednesday morning. My husband and I are going to the funeral home for visitation tonight. It will be a tragic scene. No parent should ever have to bury their child. And for reasons I won't go into, this is, if possible, even worse than most cases of daughters dying too early. (Perhaps all cases are worse than most cases in one way or another.)
Ever since I heard, I have gone back over that scene from Tuesday. There he was, sitting alone, dealing with his own health issues, unaware of what lay in his immediate future. There I was in the same room, sitting alone, waiting for other companions. It could have been one of them who met with tragedy in the hours to follow. It's not that I made the wrong choice, the curtain was simply drawn on the future and I didn't know it was the last chat I would have with him before unfathomable grief moved in to become a permanent fixture in his life.
Still, it's a terrible reminder of how precious our moments with people are.