Balancing the scales…
I first met Hallie over 22 years ago. She, like my son, was 5 or 6 and in first grade.
That very first day, as children and parents sat in a circle on the floor of their classroom, Hallie shared that she had spent the weekend releasing balloons for her sister, who had died exactly one year before.
Her mother’s eyes, fixed on this little face, filled and spilled over, but there was a shy smile working at her mouth, as if memory alone was determined to conquer grief. Her mother’s name was Bonnie.
I later learned that Hallie’s older sister had an acute allergy, that despite reading a list of every ingredient, despite verbal warnings to the kitchen staff about the danger, despite reassurances that all care would be taken, somehow someone had made a tragic mistake, and right there, in the restaurant, she had done what we all do, what we take for granted: she had eaten, and died before help could arrive.
Ever after that first school day, I searched Bonnie’s eyes when we would meet. Our children attended a small, private school, and were classmates from first grade through graduation.
We lost track of most of those connections when our kids scattered for college, and it was a pleasant surprise to see Hallie a couple of years later, working at a local, small independent films theater we frequent.
I remember the shock I felt when she told us her mother had died. Bonnie had been diagnosed with leukemia, and was gone three days later.
Yesterday, again after a few years, I was present as Hallie buried her father. Liver cancer.
She is working on her MBA, is engaged, and spoke of gratitude for the gifts of encouragement and perseverance he had given her. She spoke of love and optimism and how beautiful the day around us was. She shared hope and dignity.
And I thought of strength and grace, and wondered that she is so resilient despite the awful blows life has handed her.
We struggle, we fall, but we rise, however slowly, however painfully, for what other choice is there?
Some you know, many you do not, but whose lives collide with yours, are on their emotional knees right now.
Memories, or pride, or the privacy of grief, mask most of the pain, until you search their eyes, until you know their story.
Be gentle, for we will all join their path.
Why do I share this with you today?
Maybe I know that one word, on-air or off, can mean everything to someone who interacts with you today. You reach so many people. Your influence ripples so much farther than you realize.
Maybe I hope you will say a prayer for Hallie, that we can will to her some of our collective good fortune because hers has always seemed in short supply. Balance the scales…
Maybe I just want you to share what she has taught me, that we can lose everything and still keep our hearts full of love.