Let me tell you what happened. Well, that would be a straight-forward account of how I helped a woman load some books into her car during my library shift. That happened. But the gift, my friends, is how it was completely saturated with meaning that only I would notice.
I met a lady unafraid to wear head-to-toe red-complete with a chic hat and some kind of wild, knitted scarf that she managed to pull off without looking silly. She was riding a motorized scooter and needed help bagging up about a dozen audio books. “I’d rather be listening to something than watch a movie,” she noted. “I just love to have something on all the time.” As it turned out, the scooter had no real place to load all these books, so we went down the elevator together and I offered to help her to her car. Before we did, her daughter called to check in on her. When I heard the ringtone, it startled me and I reflexively went looking for my phone, because it was the exact same ringtone from the phone my mom gave me a year before she died. The lady had one of those conversations that older people do….putting the caller on speaker, talking a little louder than strictly necessary. “Mom, how are you, is everything ok?” I heard her daughter ask. “Oh, yes. I’m having a fine time. I’m great. I’m at the library. Just getting more stuff to listen to.” “Ok, I’ll see you soon, then.” “Well, it won’t be as soon as you think, because I’m not at the library you’re thinking of, but I’ll see you soon.” “Ok, I love you…be careful, bye.” “I love you, too. Bye”.
She looked up at me and smiled. “That’s my daughter, she said. “She’s 66 years old and you would think she’s the mother and I’m the daughter. I tell her not to mother me, but what can you do?”
“Well, at least we know you won’t be trying to ride that scooter down the stairs now that she told you to be careful!” I joked with her. We laughed in the elevator. She was smart and quirky and funny. And I knew all these things for having hung out with her for only 10 minutes. She also wore the largest, prettiest square diamond ring I have ever seen. It took all my restraint to not say anything, because it looked like something royalty would wear. It was, like the ringtone on the phone, startling to me, and I couldn’t place why.
When we got outside, the scooter was going painfully slow, like it was out of charge. We joked some more about it being like a turtle, but she showed me how it was on maximum power. “Thank you for helping me. It was a real pleasure to get to be with you today,” she said so kindly. “You’ve been a delight,” I told her sincerely. She had made me feel like we were old, old friends, coconspirators, even.
Now I have worked in library services for over ten years, and I have never not once ridden on a motorized scooter on the job. But that is what I found myself doing to return it to our building. Just as I got on that thing, the “maximum power” part must have kicked in and I lurched forward like a girl on a bronco. And then stopped. And then lurched. I looked ridiculous. And my new friend thought so too because she started laughing. Because she was funny and liked funny things, she teased, “There yah go. You’ve got it! You’re a natural.” I started to ham it up just a bit because, why not? It was our moment to share. So there I found myself, in the midst of a day of heavy sadness, grinning my face off. A true, wide grin with only one word popping unexpectedly into my mind: Mom.
I suddenly remembered my smart, funny, quirky mom who got on a motorized wheelchair thing and made us all laugh. We “be careful!-ed her like crazy…her legs frail from cancer, her muscles seemingly not as strong. But she was hammy and funny and daring and bold. Whizzing around with this goofy aviator hat on in a way that only she could pull off. I remembered how she looked hard (and found) the good in every one and every situation. She could shape the reality of her declining mobility into a hilarious day at the park.
I thought of my mom who was always listening to something. Ahead of her time, she listened to radio before podcasts. I thought of the way she became a hat and scarf aficionado after the cancer hit…turning the drag of hair loss into a whimsical exploration of turbans, hats and scarves. I thought of my mom, who sent me diamonds two years ago, whose phone sounded just like this lady’s, and who might tell me if she could, that she would see me soon, but not too soon.
Do I think the lady with the flower in her hat was an angel? No, not really. I don’t think she usually has wings and lives in Heaven and that she was on some kind of mission to bring my mom closer.
But do I believe that God, who knows every detail of my life, every memory my brain has ever stored, every association I would be apt to make—do I believe that he sent a convergence of details into this day to bring my mom closer? Yes. I do.