She approached with a friendly smile. “Don’t you have a new baby?”
I was at bootcamp and the woman behind the words was familiar to me. I knew she had a little baby from an interaction I had with her a few months ago. I remembered her friendly face. In bootcamp we often have to pair up. Many times I don’t know anyone in the class, so I look around to see who has a welcoming face. This woman had caught my eye.
The words caught in my throat. Six months after my daughter’s death I don’t get choked up when asked about her; I can say the words with out crying. But I get hung up on what to say, how to say it. I almost dread disappointing people when they ask such a simple question, one that deserves a simple answer. I pause awkwardly when asked, thinking how they have no idea the bomb I’m about to drop on them.
“I did… she died,” I replied after a too long silence.
“Oh,” her face fell and the easy smile that pegged her as a friendly workout partner disappeared. “Oh… I’m … I’m so sorry.” Her brow wrinkled in a mix of concern and surprise and I watched as she walked away processing the information.
When the warm up was over, I found another partner and threw myself into my workout. I mulled over the short interaction in my head, sometimes thinking simply how surreal it was. This was my life now- killing conversations, saying my baby died. There was no other way to do it. The question was asked; the words had to be said.
At the end of the class, I stood, sopping with sweat, slurping my water bottler as I gathered my things to leave. She came up to me and got my attention. Her eyes glistened with tears held back and said in a wavering voice,
“I just wanted to say when I asked you earlier- I wanted to tell you that you look so strong. Even more so now that I know. I’m so sorry.”
“Thank you. Don’t be sorry for asking,” I said with a half smile. “It’s nice when people ask about her. She was real. It’s nice to talk about her.”
“I had a baby is November and that was my worst fear.”
“Me too…. I knew she was going to be sick, but I still hoped.”
“I just want you to know I’ll be thinking about you. About both of you.”
What a nice thing, to have a second chance. She handled the first interaction well, but she did even better with the second one. It was genuine. My first words caught her off guard, and she was decent. But she shined when she had some moments to herself and really process. If only everyone was gifted some time to reflect, perhaps kind words would flow more easily.