Writing 101: Serially Lost

Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

(I opted for a fictional approach).

“The woman was crazy. No other explanation. How else could you explain,” M.J. muttered to herself, “that she could be so ‘tore-up-from-the floor-up’ and be so serene and, for heavens’ sake, happy! Smiling as if she had a million dollars in her raggedy pocket book.” Recalling a story she heard on the news once, M.J. cautioned herself, “Then again, you never know. She just might.”

Although some of the details of the story escaped her at the moment, M.J. remembered that, upon her death, it was discovered that a seemingly destitute, homeless woman had thousands of dollars squirreled away in bags and other containers in her grocery cart, and even on her body. “Umm. I am sure I can find the facts if Googled it,” thought M.J, unaware of how much time she had invested in thinking about the story and that woman, Suzanne.

At first, M.J. was startled, then deeply offended, when the then nameless woman, head looking like a birds nest, at least in comparison to M.J.’s smooth coiffure, had walked up to her, introduced herself, and then had the nerve to sit next to her on the park bench. “This is what I get for acting on the impulse to pull into the park on my way back from that awful business lunch,” she had grumbled silently. “Me, the guru of life planned to the second. Okay. Okay. Fifteen minute intervals. Good heavens! Why am I arguing with myself? I must still be more rattled that I realize by the encounter.”

Not only had Suzanne introduced herself verbally, with a serene look on her face she had extended her hand to M.J. After quickly scanning it, thankful that the nails were short and dirt free, M.J. had shaken Suzanne’s hand. As an impressionable 10 year old, she had heard a story once about people entertaining angels unawares. Since then, she had been careful to be polite, although not overly friendly, to strangers. From her “it is better to be safe than sorry” perspective, being rude to someone who could be a divine messenger in disguise would never be a good choice for anyone. She was pretty sure God had struck someone dumb once for not believing what an angel told him. “Was it David?” she wondered. “No, his punishment had gone far beyond temporary loss of speech after taking another man’s wife and murdering the man to cover the affair. His dirty linen had been hung out to dry in ways newspapers like the Enquirer would envy. And, why are these old stories I know I have outgrown coming back to me now, anyway? Goodnight! My last visit to church was almost 4 years ago to see then 5 year old, Montgomery Jackson, in a nativity play.” Montgomery, her beloved nephew, would die 6 months later of complications from a ruptured appendix. Thoughts of him still pierced her heart like a red hot poker. “Will the pain never go away?” she sighed, brushing tears from her eyes.

After shaking Suzanne’s hand, M.J. had started gathering her belongings in preparation for the most rapid retreat in the history of unplanned encounters in a public place. Remembering her intended action, M wondered, “Did they have records of such escapes? Probably. Someone seems to keep record of the strangest things.” Suddenly, she realized she was, as she had done several times recently, taking another mental trip down a ‘rabbit trail.’ “What is wrong with me? Am I developing adult onset ADD? I had better check with my doctor on Friday.”

Turning her attention back to the encounter with Suzanne, M.J. remembered Suzanne’s soft but clearly spoken words, which had frozen her in place. “God knows you are still hurting over the death of Montgomery Jackson. He knows that you blame yourself for not recognizing immediately that the tummy ache he had complained of while staying with you overnight, was not just a tummy ache. It is true you would have given your life for him but you could not possibly have known what was wrong.” Suzanne, eyes full of tears and compassion, then walked away. M.J., thoughts of escape forgotten, had dropped to the bench, eyes fixed on Suzanne’s back until she vanished from her sight around a curve in the path. The persistent chiming of her cell phone had reoriented her to time and place, and the tears streaming down her face.

Now, days later, M.J. acknowledged that her contemptuous mental attacks on Suzanne were a rouse to distract her from her experience and the question it birthed: With the loss of Montgomery, she had also lost her spiritual moorings but God had sent a messenger to her. How was she going to respond?


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