Coffee, a croissant and condolences...

Image by Fernando Graphicos

I walked out of the local bakery,
coffee in one hand and a bag with a croissant in the other.

On the way to my car I saw his truck.
We often run into each other in just this way.
I waved, calling, "Hey! How are ya?" without pausing for a response.

I'm grateful then that I heard him say, "Not so good."

I turned and walked to his open window and asked what was wrong.
"My nephew," he said. "We lost my nephew."
I asked what had happened.
"He took his own life..."
I said, "I'm so sorry. How old was he?"
"Just about 30..."

We talked...

No, he hadn't seemed depressed.
He was working a new job he seemed to enjoy.
He stopped by often to say hello and visit.
No one saw this coming.
The family is devastated...

Sympathy, condolences, promises of prayer and
"Let me know if there's anything I can do..."

When we'd both said what we could say
and awkwardly realized we didn't know what more to say -
we said goodbye.

I didn't know how to walk away...

I said something about needing to get back to the office
which was true but I was too grateful to have the excuse.
Yet again I pledged our parish prayer at Mass this weekend.

We said goodbye one more time
and I turned and started towards my car.
I didn't hear his truck start up or his door open
so I knew he was still sitting there
watching me return to my car.

I found myself embarrassed
to be carrying this damn cup of coffee and a croissant.
I wanted to throw them far away.
I wished I hadn't bought them.
I wanted to fling them into the dumpster next to my car,
but I didn't.

I held on to them
though I wanted my hands to be free for anything
except carrying what weighed like signs
of inept and pitiable self-interest.

My pace quickened a bit
to get me to my car more quickly.

He was sitting there in his truck,
watching me carry my coffee and a croissant
while he mourned his nephew's death.

The contrast was deeply confounding.

My heart and mouth had been emptied of words
and now my hands seemed so grossly full
of nothing...

I got back to my office.
I drank the coffee and the caffeine seemed to help.
I no longer wanted the croissant.
I couldn't fill myself up
with Jeff back there,
his heart emptied by grief...

We prayed for Daniel at Mass this weekend
- and I'm still praying...
I pray that God will soothe whatever pain
brought him to this end...

I pray that God will heal his family's broken hearts
and fill them with much more
than a cup of coffee and a croissant...