I have developed a new obsession with silk pajamas, having bought a beautiful pair for $6.99 at Goodwill. Now, I have to look for more, because that’s what happens when you have a shopping disorder.
Today, I was patiently searching a rack at a gigantic thriftshop called Savers, when a woman standing next to me started to cry. I had noticed her earlier, registering that she was very short and looked disadvantaged somehow.
She looked at me and said through her tears, “My brother was killed in Vietnam.”
I tried to compute this, thinking, But that was a million years ago. I managed to say, “Oh no, what year did this happen?”
What a stupid question! I think I was trying to catch her in a lie. Still, she tried to remember. Sixty-something.
I then said, with all my heart, “I’m so sorry. It never gets better, does it?”
She agreed and we started to talk. I asked her brother’s name (Ricky) and showed her my locket where I keep Max’s hair.
She told me she had taken care of her mother for six years and said: “She died in my arms.”
I asked about her kids: One has stage 3 liver cancer and another needs therapy but her insurance won’t cover it.
We talked about how some days are worse and some are better. She confided that she goes to thrift-shops to distract herself from her sadness…I think she said something like, “so I don’t get depression.” I assured her that I do the same.
I told her to remember that she is loved and needed. She asked Max’s name so she could pray for him.
Wherever you go, a person standing next to you may be suffering, and isolated in the bubble of their grief. The act of comforting someone is more gratifying than a million pairs of silk pj’s. Alleviating someone else’s pain is the best way to soothe your own.
For a little while, because of this encounter, I felt like a valuable human being. I didn’t find any pajamas but I did find a silk nightie for $2.99.