‘The last stop was the frozen aisle. That’s when I saw her. I wanted to help. Would she think I was a kidnapper? Her son turned the corner and disappeared. I knew I had to act.’

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“There is one moment in a tired mom’s life that is the most freeing, liberating, flash of twinkling stardust. It’s when the clouds part and the Heaven’s open up and angels descend with golden harps singing the Halleluiah Chorus. Your body physically changes. You stand up taller. You swing your hair. You walk with conviction, smiling and winking as you cross the threshold of the automatic door. You pause for a moment. You look to the right, then the left, take a deep breath in and reach your arms to the sky taking on a ‘Freddie Mercury’ pose, not just because you have found your inner rock goddess, but because you are the alpha female. You have done it. You have succeeded. You have mastered motherhood. YOU-have-made-it-to-the-grocery-store-ALONE.

Your first instinct is to skip down the aisles, eat ice cream from the container and flirt with the butcher. You have visions of standing in the make-up aisle for longer than 30 seconds and picking out some nail polish for when you actually get to paint your nails in the next five years. You take comfort in the fact you won’t have 43 extra things in your cart that are sticky and unnecessary, and you won’t be spending half of your shopping trip putting cereal back on the shelves.

Ah, yes. It’s a mother’s dream. It happened to me once. I really did saunter in, grabbed a $5.00 coffee and headed down the aisles to grab the things I needed. First to the bread, then the dairy, a gallon of milk and some string cheese. Off to the vegetables, then some spices and whole chicken. The last stop was the frozen aisle – and that’s when I saw her.

A sweet, young mother with four small children. She was looking for something as she tended to her baby in the cart while the other three were climbing into the freezer. ‘Mama, mama, mama’ rang through the air. She fixed her messy bun on top of her head and tried to corral her brood. They ran from her. They grabbed at popsicles. They laughed. She was at war and she was being defeated. She snapped her fingers and yelled their names to no avail. I found my item, still reveling in the fact that on this day, it wasn’t me. On this day, I was free. On this day, I was going into the store by myself. But as I watched her, my heart tugged. I wanted to help her. But what would I do? I wanted to walk down the row and grab her little ones by the hand and lead them back to their mom. Would she think I was interfering? Would she think I was a kidnapper? Would she snap her fingers at me, too? My thoughts were broken when one of her boys turned the corner and disappeared from sight. I knew I had to act. I turned my cart and pushed it up next to hers, looked her in her teary eyes, and smiled. I left my stuff and went into full sprint after him, finding him one aisle over. I swooped in, picked him up and carried him back to the woman who gave him life. She thanked me when I handed him over, and for the next two minutes, I watched them while she gathered up everything she needed. But before we parted ways, I wanted to offer her some reassurance. I wanted to tell her everything would be alright. I wanted her to know there was hope. So, I hugged her and whispered the lifechanging phrase into her ear that somebody told me when I was at my wit’s end one day. ‘They grow up.’

Two years later, it happened again, under very different circumstances. I was at a cancer specialty hospital with my now late husband, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We were there to consult on a surgery to remove more tumors they found after he completed several months of chemotherapy. I knew it would be close to impossible to save his life after the cancer invaded his organs, and I was scared. I was tired, frightened, anxious and full of worry. But, in the midst of it, I was hopeful. I was hanging on to every shred of possible good news we could get, and trying my hardest to stay the course.

We went to the appointment, and as we were walking out to the car, I saw her again. A different woman, but another woman who was alone and in the middle of a crisis. She was sitting on a bench outside of the hospital, and as we walked past her, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she was crying. I smiled at her, and she tried to smile back. I took 10 more steps before that feeling hit me in my gut, and the thoughts raced through my head again. Do I invade her space? Will she be offended if I talk to her?  Will she think I am crazy?  Will she push me away?

I suddenly decided I didn’t care. This woman was in pain and I had to take the chance. I turned on my heels and beelined back to her. I said nothing as I sat down next to her. She looked at me for a less than a second and leaned her head on my shoulder and cried. I wrapped my arms around her, and she buried her face into my chest, and she sobbed. And when she finally found the courage to pick her head up, she wrapped her arms around me and cried some more. When she was done, she wiped her tears and whispered, ‘I will be ok.’ I nodded and quietly said, ‘Yes, yes you will.’ Her car pulled up, she squeezed my hand, and she disappeared. As quickly as she came into my life, she left.

To this day, I do not know her name. Nor do I know why she was crying that day. I do not know her circumstances or her story or what happened to her. But, what I do know is that people, in their time of crisis, no matter how big or how small, should not be left alone to face it on their own. There is goodness in people. There is a sisterhood we are all part of, and sometimes we forget that. Sometimes, we are scared or overwhelmed in our own lives, and sometimes we feel like we are crossing a line. I am not suggesting you go out and hug random people all day, but I am suggesting we remember our value and what we can offer to each other when we need it the most. That is what I am trying to do in my life. That was I am trying to teach my beautiful children and what my friends are teaching theirs. Sometimes, that actually is a hug. Sometimes, it’s a kind word. Sometimes, it’s just a smile. Whatever it is, give it. Your heart, and their heart will thank you.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “My Kid Is an Asshole, and So Is My Dog” are now available in print and kindle. You can follow her work on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.

Read more from Diana:

‘When I was a little girl, we knew if mom came home with chocolate cake, we better shut up. We all knew what cake meant. Something had not gone right, and Momma was NOT happy.’

‘I had a possessed uterus. I’m not kidding. P-o-s-s-e-s-s-e-d. I’m sure the devil himself placed his creepy monster hands upon my womb and cursed me. Test after test showed nothing. NOTHING.’

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