A little over 5 years ago I met a woman whose husband had just died suddenly. She was an instant widow without any preparation at all. He wasn’t sick. He was a handsome, vibrant, comparatively young man.
He just keeled over and died.
She stood there in her driveway in her bathrobe, tears pouring down her face. This new widow hardly knew me except that we both had dogs by the name of Lucy. She was broken-hearted, confused and hurt about how all the people she thought were her friends had just disappeared. I did not know her name, I did not know her husband except I would see them once in a while at synagogue on the High Holy days when I would go with Mark.
She begged, no pleaded, with me to come by to visit her she was so alone and frightened. Her hands were grabbing at my arms and I could feel her shaking with upset.
I said I would come by, and then, I never did.
So what does that make me? Someone who owes her an apology even though it is more than 5 years later. It makes me someone whose integrity is out of alignment with who I want to be even though I had a really, really good reason.
In fact I had many reasons.
No long after we stood on her driveway that morning, my mother got sick and died and simultaneously my husband was diagnosed with a rare cancer and I had to put my dog Lucy down because she had cancer too and was going to bleed out and die anyway.
I became so preoccupied with what was happening in our lives that I never made it back to tell that woman whose name I do not know, how sorry I was for not being able to there for her.
Recently I saw her as was coming down the driveway, she waved to me from the drivers’ seat of her shiny black Mercedes as she drove away. I wondered if she remembered that day she clutched at me for dear life as I do every time I walk past her house wishing I had made it right somehow.
My reasons for not showing up are good ones of course, but I also know that reasons have a way of becoming the storyline of one’s life. Reasons can sometimes take us away from being our most genuine or authentic selves. Reasons can be a substitute for living with integrity and I have often felt very bad about that regarding this woman who I did not know at all. It didn’t matter I promised her I would come back and I did not.
I screwed up my courage one day recently, no long after my husband Mark died and rang her doorbell. I wanted to tell her that I never forgot that day, she was so sad and how I had broken my promise to her and I really understood now how awful that feels.
At first no one answered the door, and then a tall young man opened the door and I knew right away it was her son. He looked so like his father. “My mom is on vacation she will be back in two weeks, “ he told me.
As I walked down the driveway I breathed a sigh of relief. I could put this off for another week or two and maybe for forever. Maybe now she doesn’t need me reminding her of those dark, difficult days. Maybe now she has a whole new life.
Or maybe being told by a neighbor, who meant to keep her promise but did not, that she deserved better, would put something to rest for both of us once and for all.