It was unusual that years later I only remembered the story, not the storyteller. The stranger’s face faded, but her story never did. I was at a playground with my youngest child when another mother sat down in the swing next to me. We watched our toddlers play in front of us. I remember it was dusk and even though there were many other children and parents all around us, in my memory of that evening it was just her and I, and our little girls.
We struck up a conversation, noticing our girls were the same age and that we were not typical ‘young’ mothers. Both of us had our daughters later in life. I briefly shared my story of infertility, and the miracle of having this child at all. And then she told me her story. She told me about preparing for the very real possibility of her death as she fought Cancer. Of meeting a man at a laundromat where she had to use the cart to steady her frail and weak body. He asked her to coffee. Later, she explained to him her dire situation and the futility of new beginnings in the face of a life ending. He told her it was not the end. He told her she would live and they would marry and have a daughter. Against all odds, he was right.
When I left her that beautiful spring evening, I felt suspended outside of myself. Our conversation lasted only about 30 minutes, but time stood still while we spoke. I was deeply moved, and we embraced as we parted. I never saw her again.
Or so I thought.
Five years passed. I was at a neighborhood party talking to another mom about how much I loved the woman, Elizabeth, who ran our daughters’ Girl Scout troop with such amazing patience and passion. I was just beginning to get to know Elizabeth better, as our daughters had struck up a new friendship over the past year. Then I heard the woman I was talking to say to me, “Elizabeth has a remarkable story of surviving cancer, have you heard it?” My arms and scalp tingled and I was covered with goose bumps. As it turned out, I had. Five years earlier.
Amazing grace often visits us quietly in the most mundane of circumstances. At a park. At a party. At a laundromat.
There is so much divinity in the everyday.
“Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” ~Albert Einstein
*Postscript: I called Elizabeth the next morning after the party. I asked her if she remembered meeting a woman at a park years ago on a perfect spring evening, exchanging stories of miracles. Then she remembered too. This is what she wrote to me when I sent her this essay before publication. I found it so very, very touching. So I’m sharing it here, with you.
“Lori, Your depiction of meeting is just the way I remember it, too. How lovely that the universe wasn’t finished with us after that first encounter; we were brought back together into the same school, the same girl scout troop and now, the same classroom family! I marvel at the many events that had to align for all of this to unfold – sweet serendipity and, as you have said, grace. Please feel free to share this story just as you have written it, so beautifully . . . xo Elizabeth”