September 26, 2014
I was smacked in the face earlier this week. I was smacked in the face and left mildly stunned in about 5 seconds flat.
It happened on Monday night at a work event. This particular event happens twice a year and is specific to the area that I recruit students in. It's my biggest event each semester...my "show" if you will. (And for those of you that know nothing about me...I'm a college recruiter - that will help this story make more sense.)
So there I am flitting around, making sure everything is in place, greeting people as they arrive and a woman walked in that I vaguely recognized. This is not uncommon that I vaguely recognize people as I meet with prospective students and their families all the time, most times only encountering them face-to-face once or twice. So vague recognition is the name of my game.
She walked toward me with purpose and with body language that communicated that she definitely recognized me. When this happens, I typically roll with it knowing that I have indeed met this person before and I will be able to figure out in what context it was that we met in.
"Hey! I recognize you!" is how the conversation started. I immediately began trying to place what coffee shop I had probably met she and her high school student in. I asked her to remind me where we had met.
"Remember? I saw you in the elevator at Huntsville Hospital and your boyfriend was in the hospital and you said you were just so tired and they couldn't figure out what was wrong with him. How is he doing?"
My mind started racing - oh crap, oh crap, oh crap, how do I say this? I mean, we all know...I talk about this event in my life like it's the only thing that's ever happened to me. I am not afraid to dive into the details and I often make people uncomfortable with how offhanded I mention it. For me, that's how I have processed and grieved...talking through it. But at this moment I thought, how do I say this in such a way that won't make her feel uncomfortable?
And then I just said it.
"Oh gosh, he actually passed away." The look on her face could have been a lot worse, but a wave of regret and sympathy washed across it, followed by a "I'm so sorry."
She handled the news very graciously and we continued the conversation. As we spoke, the details of our encounter in the elevator began to flood back to me. On that day, I was on the elevator heading to my car. She knew who I was because she worked at one of the high schools I had just visited. I don't remember what I said - apparently that I was just really tired - but she was so genuine in her concern. Later that day I would go back to the hospital and say goodbye to Richard forever..
As we continued to chat at this event, I found out that she had been visiting the hospital to see her sick mother who also ended up passing away, after 56 days in the hospital. We only had about a 2 minute conversation, but it was just enough to stop me in my tracks and remind me what is important in this life.
I think often times God throws something in front of us to stop us in our tracks, to smack us in the face, as a reminder to slow it down. I'm glad that this time, my reminder was in the form of a sincere, genuine person (as opposed to a speeding ticket I got this one time).
So, keep those eyes open, friends. You've got no idea at what time your proverbial smack in the face will hit. Try not to fall over.