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The Encounter

Sunday, April 29, 2012

As I was coming out of the sanctuary of my church this morning, I had a new experience. One which I have heard could happen to me at any given moment, in any given place, at any given time….I thought I saw Michael. Of course it does not make sense. I know I cannot just run into him. But all things familiar lined up to make it feel real for a split second. The kids were walking in front of me, as we were about to leave the sanctuary through one of the doors into a back hallway. Someone had quickly pulled back the door and was holding it open for us to walk through before he entered into the sanctuary. I had not paid any attention to who it was at first but then glanced his direction right when I was approaching the door. My heart flipped, my body suddenly radiated with heat and I became unaware of everything that was going on around me. Instantly, my eyes filled to the rim with tears, which I had been able to hold at bay throughout almost the entire service for the first time. At first glance, I did not even see his face, which is why I thought it was Michael. His outfit was put together like Michael’s would have been, his height felt similar to Michael’s, and he stood patiently, and happily, allowing my whole family through the door….like Michael would have opened the door for us. I quickly looked away and then glanced immediately back at him in an attempt to ground myself…I looked into his face and gave a faint smile and thought to myself, “How did that just happen? How did my emotions respond so quickly to the idea that he may have been standing right before me? I know he can’t be here holding the door open for me at church like he did for 24 years? Why did I immediately ‘see’ it as him?” This all happened…the encounter, the shock, the tears, and the attempt to pull myself together in a matter of seconds. With Mia walking in front of me, and the three boys walking behind me, I had to make my way down the hall with my eyes focused straight ahead without talking or glancing my eyes in any direction other than right before me. I had to tune out everything and completely concentrate on getting myself back out of the quicksand before the wave of tears spilled out of my blurry eyes. I have learned that if I focus hard enough, I can force the tears to recess back from where they so quickly came. I felt like I was walking down one of the hallways in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The walls felt as if they were closing in on me. I was disoriented and confused about this incident that had just thrown itself in my face out of nowhere, but, within seconds, I was going to emerge out of the hallway and be surrounded by people passing to get coffee in between the service and Sunday School. I had to get my wits back together in the same amount of time that I lost them. I was not ready to handle more uncomfortable glances of sympathy and chose to suck it up and push through the moment. I choked out a few “good mornings”, and then ran into my older brother, Craig…saved. Unaware of what had just happened, he began asking me questions and small talking about his daughter with me. I was quickly pulled back into this present moment.

I have talked to people who think they have seen their lost loved one in the grocery store, or passing in a car, or approaching them from behind while walking somewhere. The emotions that can be stirred and erupt in a matter of seconds is astounding. It can blindside me at any given moment, without any announcement that it is about to crush me. The wave hits, the wind gets knocked out of me, I stumble, maybe fall to me knees, like walking through rushing water, then struggle back to my feet, and force one foot in front of the other with deliberation and focus. It is an emotional workout, which builds strength, ever so slightly, with each hit that it takes on me.


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