Grief is everywhere. I’m standing in line at the DMV, the great equalizer. Rich, poor, black, white, Christian, Muslim, old, young, male, female… everyone must wait in line.
The elderly woman in her Velcro shoes and elastic waist pants, too well coordinated with her JC Penny’s top, waits patiently. She was widowed thirty years ago and grieves her husband’s absence at their daughters’ weddings. The two hip young Muslim cousins, in their spike-adorned boots, skinny jeans and plain head scarves, chat quietly together. Their grandmother, who just lost a quick and painful battle with pancreatic cancer, would have been so proud to see them graduate next weekend, the first college graduates in their family. The African refugee with a lost look in his face stands beside his American volunteer, also looking lost. He thinks of his mother’s family when he last saw them- the aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents- face down, now nameless victims of a senseless genocide. His volunteer helper grieves her own loss, the dumb-luck circumstances that have led her to her early forties, single, but so badly wanting to start a family. The woman behind me talks too loudly on her cell phone, cheerfully exclaiming what a good day this is, the lightness in her voice masking the sorrow she has lived with everyday since her teenaged son was killed by a drunk driver. The distraught, slightly frazzled young mother wrangles her three young children, dreaming of the life she lost. She grieves the college scholarship and chance to move out of the trailer park, which she gave up when she found herself a statistic- another teen mom without a high school diploma.
I stand with them, clutching my registration, with a typo needing correcting. It’s an errand long delayed, made possible to complete only because my daughter died and I was granted extra leave. I imagine myself here with an infant carrier and grieve the reality of my lonely wait in line. I distract myself by looking around, seeing these strangers and imagining their stories. They are my companions in line at the DMV. We inch forward together, each holding our secret grief. We can not understand each other’s losses, but we all have the same goal- to get to the front of the line and out of this hell hole.