Very recently I was in Trader Joe’s, mindlessly wandering around there as I am wont to do. I was in the soft drink aisle with my right hand on a four-pack of Jamaican brewed ginger beer when a woman beside me softly said, “Does that taste good?”
“I don’t really know,” I answered. “But I know my son likes it and he’s coming for dinner so I wanted to have some on hand.
She said, “Beer. What kind of beer?”
“It’s not alcoholic. He doesn’t drink alcohol. He’s in recovery.”
“Recovery from what? Drugs? Alcohol?”
“Oh” she said, lowering her voice and choking out the words, “Two weeks ago yesterday my daughter died of a drug overdose. It was heroin.”
Her story rapidly tumbled out.
“This is the first time I’ve gone anywhere.”
“I sometimes think I can’t breathe.”
“I laid next to her for two days while she was in a coma.
“She sold her body on the streets.”
“Sometimes she was homeless.”
“I loved her so much.”
“She was so beautiful.”
“Her fiancé ‘committed suicide’ in jail last year on a drug charge.”
“I plan to write a book. I hope I can write a book. I need to write a book.”
“She was my baby.”
“Where do you live? I live in the northeast.” I told her I live in Hollywood and that I really hope she writes a book.
“I came into Trader Joe’s because my daughter liked this store so much. She always said this is a happy place. This is the first place I’ve been to.”
She told me her name.
I wanted her to know that she was speaking to someone who truly understood, so I said,
“My son, my first child, died by suicide on Christmas of 2015.”
“Oh sweetheart,” she said, “I am so sorry, you are bearing so much.”
“No more than you are.”
“Yesterday I received the box containing her ashes. My tears watered her ashes.”
“Oh,” I said, “I so get that. God, I am so sorry.”
“I’m in a fog. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Two weeks and one day ago, I thought to myself. I remembered how it was for me on January 9, 2016, when Ron was gone two weeks and one day. It was 3 days after his funeral. People were beginning to return to their lives. I couldn’t imagine returning to mine. Two weeks and one day. Ohgodohgodohgod … I thought to myself. Oh, the raw hell you are in. As I post this, it will be 15 months to the day that Ron died. The wound never heals, yet the heart somehow manages to bear it. How can it be that we survive such pain?
Then, she said, “Do you believe in the Resurrection? Are you Christian?”
I immediately realized she was not asking a theological question but an existential one. Her question was. “Where is my daughter? Where are our children? Will we see them again?”
I said, “I have my own interpretation of the Resurrection which may be different from yours. But I do believe this: to have a child on the other side means we never again need to fear death.” I took her hands in mine, looked into her eyes and said, “When we take our final breath and close our eyes for the last time in this life, we will open them to see our child looking into ours with their arms open to receive us.”
“Oh, she said, “Yes. Yes. That must be true. Please, God, let that be true.”
I gave her my contact information in case she would like to reach out to me.
Just about everyone I know is more private than I am. When people say, “May I ask you a personal question?” I usually say, “There’s almost nothing too personal for me to answer. What do you want to know?” So for me to say, “My son is in recovery” involves no sense of shame. Actually, I am grateful that my son is in recovery and has been for 7+ years. Being able to say that gives people hope. Opening my story to her somehow gave her the emotional space to tell me about the loss of her daughter.
It has long been my personal theology that everything that befalls us is intended for the life of the world. At another time in my life, when I was involved in traditional Catholic parish life, I was a writer of the weekly prayers of petition. While praying and meditating on them, I would look at world events, look at the world around me and, finally, look at my own life. My thinking was that, if there was a certain prayer that was required in my life or the life of someone I loved, chances were that someone else in the parish community carried the same pain. The prayers invariably worked.
So if I were to write Prayers of Petition today, these are a few I would write:
For all who grieve the loss of a child that they might be strengthened in the hope of seeing the face of their beloved on the other side of life.
For people caught in the grips of addiction, that they might remember their essential goodness and find their way to recovery.
For families, friends and co-workers of people who suffer from mental health issues, that we might learn to listen closely in order to grasp the pain conveyed through words unspoken and behaviors judged and misunderstood.
For people who wander in and out of our lives with eyes filled with sorrow and hearts heavy with pain, that we might provide a moment of empathy and relief from their pain.
41 thoughts on “Trader Joe’s, Jamaican Beer and Resurrection”
Marge this is so beautifully written and so tender. What a blessing that you were there in Trader Joe’s to minister to someone whose grief you so well understand. I miss your petitions, so thank you for sharing these. Thank you for sharing so much of your journey
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Oh Julie, thanks so much for this validation.
Utterly beautiful, utterly human and of God!!! Love, Maria
Marge, Awesome just awesome
Oh Steve, thank you for this affirmation.
Thanks so much, Steve.
They say God never gives us more then we can bear. Some make it some don’t. It was so nice of you to comfort this poor mother. You were at Trader Joe’s for a reason that day. Yes, one day we all will be with our love ones on the other side. Until then we must try to care on because you know that’s what they would want. I so miss Ron. ❤
I so appreciate the comfort you wish to convey, Donna, as well as how much you miss our Ron. I have a different belief about God. If I believed that God was somehow involved in Ron’s tragic death and the resulting pain of us all, I would want nothing to do with that God. There are just too many people walking around filled with overwhelming grief, loss and pain, otherwise there wouldn’t be so much addiction. It has become clear to me that Ron carried more than he could bear. He also had a deep belief in a loving God. I believe God only wants our comfort and healing. God doesn’t give us this stuff but very much wants us to overcome it and heal one another. That day in Trader Joes’s, that other mom and I were God’s love to one another.
Ditto. My bible since my 19 year old son died is When Bad Things Happen to Good People..
Thanks so much, Nancy.
Thank you so much, Nancy.
A very lovely and meaningful story Marge. A meeting that was meant for you both
Dear Marge, This was an amazing story of reaching out as “Grief Warrior.” And what a blessing for both of you. Your openness to others grieving and suffering is a gift to all and hopefully for yourself as well. Thanks for sharing. Bless Up, Cassie
Thanks so much, Cassie.
Simply Beautiful, Marge. I resonate deeply with your “personal theology”; Nothing is about us alone.
Thanks so much, Sharon. So looking forward to our retreat.
Marge, I’m in tears. Your writing is beautiful, heartfelt and i can hear you in the store being an angel to this woman. Thank you for writing and sharing. I am similar to you in feeling there is nothing “personal” I need to hide and being open really allows a different path through life, doesn’t it…
Thank you, Gabby, for this affirmation. I was so hoping that the “Resurrection” part was not off-putting to my Jewish friends.
You are an artist,Honey. Keep creating what is beautiful and sacred. Love.Tom.
Don’t know how I’d do any of this without you, honey.
What a blessed encounter, Marge. Talk about being “healing presence”! You were meant to be there, at that moment, for that woman. ( And she, for you!) I think our most personal experiences are universal. We think we are alone, but we’re not.
Thanks so much, Mary. I hope to use my grief for the life of the world.
Beautiful story Marge, I needed this meditation. I really miss my friend Ron. Loved your line about when someone said “may I ask you a personal question?” This innate openness and willingness to empathize and understand others is such a great part of who you are, and an incredible trait you passed along to both of your sons. Thank you for always openly sharing your journey and your heart for all of us in need! Please keep sharing.
Thank you so much for this, Tom. I loved how much he loved you, Franny and your kids.
What Tom C said goes for me too. Love you Marge, cousin Kathy
What a powerful, emotional read. So well done. I am so thankful you are sharing these thoughts with the world.
As always, I am so touched by what you express. I hope you are doing well.
On Sat, Mar 25, 2017 at 10:42 AM, Grief Warrior wrote:
> Marguerite Sexton posted: “Very recently I was in Trader Joe’s, mindlessly > wandering around there as I am wont to do. I was in the soft drink aisle > with my right hand on a four-pack of Jamaican brewed ginger beer when a > woman beside me softly said, “Does that taste good?” “I don’” >
Thank you so much, Merle. One breath at a time. But I continue to take them.
Marge, I have not experienced the same grief that you have, but I know deep pain and how it makes us feel alone. Maya Angelou describes it as living ‘coiled in shells of loneliness’.
I’m grateful for people like you that hear between the words of our stories so we all can heal. Blessed Be!
Thank you so much, Adjwoa. I am so grateful for your affirmation.
Thank you for posting this. It is beautifully written, and I have the unwanted distinction of being a “sister mother” having lost my son 3 years ago.
Dear Sharon, I am deeply grateful that you connected with it. The loss of our beloved sons hurts beyond imagining.
I was sitting outside with my mom yesterday and as someone strolling by stopped to chat with her I quickly looked at my phone and this caught my attention on news feed – even though I read it quickly it stayed with me til I had time once back home to read it more carefully. My visits with my parents have become more precious than ever as they are quite old. We talk freely about death, and they try to prepare me for when I lose them, saying I should remember they had long fulfilling lives. But I know I can’t second guess what it’ll be like. And after an especially poignant visit it hit me later, for a split second, the heartbreak I will feel. So one of the things you wrote here that stood out to me personally was, “The wound never heals, yet the heart somehow manages to bear it.” It was kind of ironic I was sitting next to my mom when I first read this.
But I have to say that the sentence that stood out most of all and which I really want to remember is this, “It has long been my personal theology that everything that befalls us is intended for the life of the world.” The meaning of this goes so deep, and your “chance” meeting with the grieving mother so clearly illustrates that meaning. I feel it more in my heart than I can articulate.
Thank you so much for this deeply thoughtful and moving response, Sue.
Thank you for so openly sharing your wisdom.
I am not a writer however when I read what you have written I am brought to tears. You are here for others who need your help; you provide stability and love even though you are hurting so much. Please continue your blogs for all of us who need to hear your words of comfort; for you ARE strength. You are an AMAZING woman and I am/we are blessed to call you a dear friend.
Michele Clausz (& Bet)
Dear Michele and Bet, your tender affirmation means so much.
I read this earlier this week on a mini break at work with tears streaming down my face, struck not only by the generosity of your heart but how its openness and transparency creates so many meaningful moments with others, including strangers like this dear woman. The beauty of your writing itself, that cadence of how and what you shared, was incredibly moving. Thank you for continuing to use what you’ve been given to bless, to heal, to inspire us all.
Oh Naila, I am so grateful to be able to articulate grief moments. It saddens me to think of all the people whose grief is locked inside and seeps out in ways that hurt themselves and others. I have long believed that all the problems of the world are a result of unresolved grief. Much love to you.
Marge. Just so you know, my 9th graders are reading and discussing this essay today. We’ve just finished reading a novel called STATION ELEVEN and viewing a film called CLOUD ATLAS, and each considers the nature of ‘intersecting lives’–I’m always grateful to the universe that mine has intersected with yours and your hubby’s. Without the kind of mindful presence that you clearly engaged in with this woman (and with everyone you come in contact with), she might still be wandering in that darkness. Here’s a quote from the film that I’m using to underscore one layer of your (beautifully-written) piece:
“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future. ”
So thank you and your story has now been passed along to the youngins.
Oh my gosh, Rob, I am so deeply moved that you took this and shared it with your class. How I love that quote you gave me. It is so true. What a wonderful teacher you are.