On October 21st, I walked into the ICU to bring the nurses Chick-fil-A. I have never felt the need to post about it—in fact, the only person that gets a picture each year of the bag is Brooke, my sister. This post isn’t about doing “something nice,” it’s about bringing awareness to grief—blah, I hate it too.
You see, a week before my mother passed away, my sister left the ICU family waiting room to grab us lunch. Chick-fil-A makes everything better, right? Wrong. It didn’t that day because Brooke forgot to check the bag for my dipping sauce. Let’s just say I had a full-blown melt down, the first sibling argument where I walked away yelling, screaming, acting like a total nutcase, all the way down to the hospital visitors parking lot. It wasn’t about the sauce, though.
Brooke knew it wasn’t about the sauce, and the stranger outside who was grieving the loss of her husband knew it too. Grief. Ten days later, when it was my turn to sit in the front row at the funeral, I got it—my family and I were the newest members of the “I’ve sat on the front row” club, where you get a crash course in grief, where you learn there is no right way of handling it, and as a member of this club, when it’s your turn to witness someone in a hospital parking lot losing all sense of self-control over a sauce packet, you’re equipped to provide a judgment-free zone—the same one the widow had so graciously provided to me 10 days prior.
I never wanted to look at a Chick-fil-A again, but I knew I had to change the narrative or that rage would creep back in, bringing me back to that awful day when we were told “We don’t know what else to do,” the day beautiful Julie sat on the sidewalk moments after taking her husband off life support.
So, here I am. I never talked to Julie again, but I still think about her. I still think about all of those I passed as I made my way through the halls, completely inconsolable. If it wasn’t for that missing honey mustard (unknowingly, my first sign that grief doesn’t come accompanied with a navigation manual), I would have never had an encounter with the newest member of the “widow club.” I wouldn’t have handed this bag over to an angel of a nurse tonight, who shared that she’d cried all day too (I may have been the reason we both had to grab another tissue), but lucky for us, Chick-fil-A makes everything better five years later, and that’s still so, so true.
Here’s to understanding sometimes the sauce really isn’t needed and understanding grief has never been and never will be linear.