Written by Karen D. Swim
On February 2, 1992 I sat in an office at Daniel Freeman Hospital with a nun and friends who were there to support me. My mother had passed away this day and I was dutifully signing papers and handling the necessary administrative details. I saw and heard very little and remember even less. I walked out of the doors of the hospital inconsolable. I could not control the sobs as my body absorbed the loss of my best friend, confidante, and role model.
As I walked into the light of day, a woman stopped and touched my arm. Soon her arms were around me as she consoled me and prayed for me right there in the parking lot. She had recognized the grief of losing a mother and rather than bowing her head and quickly walking away she stopped to offer comfort. From the experience of her own grief she gave me the gift of hope.
I clung to her every word, this warm and gracious woman who had survived the loss of a beloved mother. I trusted her experience and believed the comforting words she offered. I saw her sincere and giving heart and somehow through the pain knew that one day I would be okay too.
In the days and weeks ahead, her words wrapped themselves around me like a gentle hug. I ached more than I ever thought possible but because of this woman I had hope. The gift this woman gave me was more precious than gold. She gave the gift of her self, her time and her heart to a wounded 29 year old who desperately needed it.
This woman’s gift taught me that a gift of self is as valuable as a pot of gold. A willingness to share yourself with another may be the best gift you can give. Her gift also taught me to pay it forward from the cup of my experience. Over the years, I have been quick to help others through loss offering insight from my own experience. It is not always easy to revisit your own pain but I learned from a stranger that the voice of experience can touch in a special way.
So often we think of generosity as a tangible or financial gift but the generosity of spirit is just as valuable. I will forever be grateful to this wonderful stranger for a gift that continues to bless me 15 years later.