One day at work, I was getting ready for my next client, who was already sitting in my chair. She was about sixty years old, the same age my mother was when she died, and she even resembled her a bit. I had talked with this client many times during her weekly hair appointments, and she was always well groomed and beautifully dressed. I knew she and her husband owned a successful business and had no children. I was feeling sad that my mother wasn't able to be here to enjoy simple pleasures like having her hair done, or to even enjoy her life a bit longer. I asked myself, “Why wasn’t it my mom sitting here in my chair, instead of this customer?”
I could feel the sorrow rising in me, but I quickly remembered to say a silent prayer to be able to appreciate this woman, rather than be upset or resentful that my mother wasn’t there in her place. I prayed, “Please forgive me, God, for still feeling so much sorrow. I miss my mother, and at times it’s very hard for me to understand your message.” Just because my client had chosen not to have children so she could do the work she loved didn’t give me the right to resent her or compare her to Mom in all her perfection.
Having calmed myself, the client and I began to talk. I asked her to tell me more about what she did besides work in the business. Eventually I asked her if she and her husband had chosen not to have children so they could be free to travel. She looked at me, surprised, and burst into tears. Then she shared her story. She told me she’d had a little boy early in her marriage and that she’d spent most of her time taking care of him. She worked in the business only when she had spare time because her son had always come first. But one day when he was at school, at just nine years old, her son became quite ill with a very high fever and was rushed to the hospital. The school called to tell her and she rushed to the hospital with her husband, but only a few hours later, her son died of bacterial meningitis. I was stunned and couldn't contain my emotions. As I cried with her, I felt the pain of her tremendous loss.
Only minutes earlier, I’d been consumed by my own grief and loss; but now I felt such deep empathy for this woman. If I had stayed focused on my own pain, rather than praying for understanding, I would have continued with my false assumptions about her life without ever knowing the truth. It proves that we never fully know someone’s story and can’t assume that they haven’t also endured difficult challenges or suffered terrible pain. As a mother it is hard to imagine a greater loss than that of one’s child, and I remembered my own mother saying she prayed that she’d never again have to bear the loss of one of her children.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt my client’s grief as a mother losing her child. Because I had prayed, God let me hear his voice, which was getting clearer. Not only did I have compassion and an understanding of her loss through hearing my client’s sad story; she also became a role model for me. She transformed into an example of strength and the love that lives on in our hearts, even after so many years; for time does not diminish our love for one another, not even in death.
After hearing my client’s heartbreaking story and remembering my mother’s words, I knew it somehow was a sign from Mom that she understood what I felt and was at peace, and so was my client’s little son. From this experience I learned that when we are feeling a loss, if we examine the heart of the matter, without getting caught up in resentment, we will find ourselves transformed. That’s because when we ask, we hear His answer.
In my daily prayer practice, I continued to work on eliminating every thought and emotion that was unloving or focused on loss. Whenever our feelings are not filled with love, if we pray to God to see the situation and the people involved the way He sees them, rather than through our own limited thinking, we can help create miracles for all those around us. In the wise words of William Temple, “When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t pray, they don’t.”
Catherine Nagle ~Imprinted Wisdom
Causes Catherine Nagle Supports
Westwind Foster Family Agency, Christian Children's Fund, Compassion International, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Invisible Children, Save the Children