As I walked through Chelsea, I hesitated to cross the street at 20th and 8th. The crosswalk sign said “Yes, c’mon over to 19th Street,” while the blaring firetruck turning right said, “No, stay right there.” I paused. The woman next to me said, “I decided it’s not my time.” I nodded in agreement and we struck up a conversation. Bundled in a puffy coat and hat, she pushed a cart filled with toilet paper, paper towels, and other pantry goods.
“I lost my husband five months ago. He died from colon cancer.”
Hearing this news, I slowed down and we walked together at a conversational pace. The five blocks we shared felt like a lifetime — I learned she was married for forty years. After her husband’s death, her daughter and dog moved in with her. I shared with her how I lost my father to pancreatic cancer.
At 15th Street, we paused. Before she headed left and I headed right, she said, “I bought a Christmas tree. I must keep doing what I have to do.”
I knew how difficult it was to break free of grief’s grip. Her heroic trip to buy toiletries was not lost on me. Both of us were mourning the loss of our loved ones during the holidays. Both of us were putting one foot in front of the other, following the winding path grief set out for us.
Neither of us felt compelled to keep in touch, yet we both knew our serendipitous talk was sacred. I was thankful for my five-block walk with the woman in the hat and puffy coat. Both of us left a little bit warmer and comforted on that cold night in December.