“The oncologist…” She pauses. The words nearly strangle her as she speaks quietly into her phone. I glance sideways at the woman hunched over her cart in front of the Easter dishtowel display at TJ Maxx. She starts again. “The oncologist sounds hopeful,” she stammers.
“Cashier open on register seven,” the loudspeaker booms, drowning the woman’s next words. I’ve passed her now. It’s my turn to pay. She’s my age. My brain registers that thought as I reach for my wallet. I smile at the cashier, although my facemask hides my mouth. Her eyes don’t smile back. I’m a bad person. I’ve already been reprimanded by another sales associate for trying on the blue jeans I’m purchasing in front of a mirror at the end of an aisle in the middle of the store. This pandemic has made dressing rooms a thing of the past. What’s a girl to do?
As I pay for my jeans I wonder if the brown-haired woman on her phone is the one with cancer. Or if it’s a parent or child she’s talking about. As I take my bag and receipt, I turn to see if she’s still there. She is. Cart full of spring knick-knacks made in China, oblivious to the shoppers going around her on their way to pay.
Dear God, give her strength.
I check my phone before starting the car. There’s a text from a friend who has Covid-19. She lives alone. These past two weeks have been really difficult for her, but she’s managed to stay out of the hospital. I ask if there’s anything she needs.
Dear God, restore my friend’s health.
As I pull into my driveway my phone rings. It’s another friend whose life is falling apart. I sit for nearly an hour, listening to her rant and cry and process the pain of domestic violence and divorce and the beginnings of a custody battle that should be a no-brainer but isn’t.
Dear God, if justice is Yours, please let justice be done!
I walk into my home. Lights are low. Doors are closed. My mother’s voice comes through the wall from the guest room where she and my stepfather are staying for a few weeks until the weather thaws up North. I can tell she’s talking to her one living aunt. They are discussing my grandfather’s funeral service. The one that took place last Tuesday. The one Mom and I couldn’t attend. Who wants to put their 71-year-old mother on a plane during a global health crisis? Who wants to watch their father’s/grandfather’s funeral on FaceTime when they really want to be in Arkansas with the rest of the family as he is lowered into the ground next to Grandma?
Dear God, comfort the brokenhearted.
Today a girl with black curls turned nineteen. I was almost her mama once. She’s beautiful and kind and soft spoken and hardworking and moving into an apartment with her sister this week. I wonder if her birth mom is still alive. I wonder if she remembers the baby she brought into this world on the 12th of February, 2002.
Dear God, set the captives free.
There’s a song I like by worship artist Brooke Fraser. One line says, “Break my heart for what breaks Yours.” I sing it like a prayer tonight. My heart aches with God’s—for the woman at TJ Maxx, for my friend with Covid, for the single mom trying to figure out whether to pay her rent or pay her attorney, for my mother who said goodbye to her father on FaceTime for the last time a couple of weeks ago, for all the birth moms, step moms, foster moms and adoptive moms who have loved and lost and hurt in ways only a mother can.
I cannot understand the pain of this world. I cannot carry it. But Jesus can. He came to give us a hope and a future without heartache, death and disease. He has not forgotten us. Hold on, dear friend. Hold on.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
And not have compassion on the son of her womb?
Surely they may forget,
Yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; …”