"You look just like your mother." she said, her voice velvet and soft, and my breath caught in my throat.
It was mid-day, at a bagel shop of all places. My youngest two were taking an art class near by, so like every week, the eldest and I hunkered down for an hour.
When I heard the ladies at the table nearby mention the place my mom and dad used to work at, immediately my ears perked, and my heart raced. It's not a name you hear just anywhere.
It took everything in me not to run, the sheer mention of the organization my mother poured her life into, it brought so much grief and emotion to the surface. Instead, I casually walked over, excused myself for interrupting, and asked if in fact, they did work there.
"No, we don't. But I've volunteered there for decades." she began, the one on the right, I'll call Ms. B, whose face was etched in age, but wore a smile that lit the room.
"Oh, oh, okay. My parents you see, they used to work there. I just found it intriguing to hear it in passing. Thank you." and I began to walk away.
"Who are your parents, dear?" the question burned a bit, worded as if they're both still alive, breathing, around.
I told her their names and she nodded.
"Yes, yes I remember them. Your mother, oh her heart for her work. A true servant she was, I know she passed."
And there it was. There was the bomb. The four words I needed, not realizing the fear I felt in having to say "Oh you didn't hear? She died."
*I know she passed.*
I needed that. I needed this woman, Ms. B, one I'd not met until now, who by happenstance would be in the same tiny bagel shop as me, on a cold and blustery December day, unknowing that I needed so much this encounter. Needed so much the gift of this experience.
It shook me for a few hours, and I allowed the words of remembrance, her eyes filled with gratitude for a woman half her age, that had such a heart for those less fortunate, my mother, I welcomed those words and let them sink deep into me.
I could have allowed this to break me, and perhaps two years ago, it would have. Instead, I decided to see this as a divine appointment. Ms. B gifted me with something on that day, she reminded me that the memory of this one I loved so fiercely, that it was alive and well. That her light and life wasn't for nothing. That it was still burning, and will continue to. When she told me I look like my mother, I welcomed the compliment and took it as one of the greatest I could receive.
During this Christmas season, I'm reminded that the most memorable gifts aren't tangible ones at all, no, they sometimes come packaged up in a random occurrence at a hole in the wall shop, or in the words of a stranger, or simply, in a smile.
I hope you too find these types of gifts this season, I also pray you feel led to give them. We never know when the words of our mouth or the spreading of a smile, will change the course of someone's life.