The stories kept coming. For two hours a non-stop stream of people paid their condolences to the young widow as she stood in front of her wife’s slate gray coffin covered with white lilies and white roses. One by one they told their story of meeting, what meant the most, and the loss they grieved.
After the visitation, the stories continued on the back patio with the sound of August cicadas and more than one bottle of wine selected from the cellar without care as to whether it was the finest or the cheapest. “Remember the time when she…?” “How about the time when…?” Longtime friends interrupted one another with ease as they opened their broken hearts a little bit more with each story told.
The following day was the funeral. After the burial I saw this text: “Sharon had another stroke and is nonresponsive.” I try not to speed in my little sports car, but there are times one must.
If you have never seen a person lying in a hospital bed with the tubes the size of vacuum cleaner hoses strapped to their face it can be a shock. The scene in the sterile room where flowers are prohibited was familiar to me. The exception was the sweet face of my sister-in-law being the one motionless save the slight rising and falling of her chest under the hospital gown of the sort she had been wearing for seven weeks.
The remainder of the afternoon my brother shared stories. A distraction from thoughts of death and the unspoken worries of mounting medical bills, the stories flowed. “Did I ever tell you about that time…?” The hours flew without either of us looking up at the big white wall clock with the second hand marking the preciousness of the minutes.
My day ended with a long planned dinner with my stepdaughter introducing me to her new sweetheart. Still wearing my black funeral dress, I told the tale of my day in short form as we awaited the arrival of a bottle of chardonnay. Our glasses filled, we toasted the present occasion. We set about getting to know one another with, “So tell me about…”
Our stories help us make sense of our world. They help us to understand one another. They bring meaning to the events in our life. We are hungry to be heard and longing to be seen. Storytelling allows us to acknowledge that a life has purpose. That we made a difference. That we matter.
This is a story of a mere twenty-four hours. It is a new story, unlike those handed down through the generations. As I search for the meaning, I instantly see that life is precious. That I hope to be present to every story told. That people they never doubt they mattered to me.
Which stories help you understand your life?
Is there a story you want to hear from a loved one?
Are you listening attentively to the stories you hear?