Sunday, September 09, 2012

Grief Punches You in the Gut in the Strangest Ways

I was at the gym today ('cause that's how I roll), and I was about halfway through my elliptical workout when she came in.

Fragile. Avian, almost.  Short. And topped by a baseball cap, that telltale, g*ddamned baseball cap preferred by women who don't like the fakeness of a wig, or the frippery of a patterned scarf.

Like my mother. My mother was one of those women.

We buried her with her cap.

This woman gingerly stepped on the treadmill, settled her bag next to the machine, and pulled her cardigan tight against her slim form.  After hesitatingly poking a few buttons, the treadmill started up, and she walked.  Not briskly, but not slowly either.  Somewhere in-between.

I had a clear view of her because the treadmills are in the first row of machines, and the ellipticals are the second row of machines.  She chose the one directly in front of me.  So there I am, Karmin's 'Brokenhearted' bouncing in the background, staring at the back of this woman's head. It looked so much like my mother's -- soft, gray fuzz peeking through the keyhole in the back of that hat -- that I almost cried.  I just wanted to go hug her, to tell her that I wanted her to win, that I was sorry for what she was going through.

But how do you do that?  I have no problem wishing a stranger well.  But I wasn't sure how to navigate the well-wishing without touching on my own loss.  And instead of offering support, I'd be a harbinger of doom.

'I offer you nothing but empathy and support, because you remind me of my mother, who died of cancer after a brief, but dignified, struggle.'

Not a lot of hope and support to be found in her story, not for someone who is trying to beat cancer.

So I stayed on my treadmill, and silently rooted for her, sending good thoughts and energy her way.  (Yes, I understand how hip-tastic that sounds, but there it is).  I understood why she was there.  Call it intuition (or superimposition, take your pick).  She was there because she couldn't control the population explosion of cannibalistic cells in her body, but THIS, she could do this for herself. She could walk on a treadmill and make her muscles strong.  She could get out of the house, or the hospital, or wherever, and do something healthful, instead of lying back and being pumped full of cancer-killing treatment.

She walked for about a half an hour, then packed up to go.  She didn't shuffle, but she tread very carefully, deliberately.

I hope I see her again soon.  I really do.

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