A friend of mine just unknowingly brought up a memory for me. She was talking about how she felt awkward when she recently thanked a soldier, a stranger to her, for his service to the country. She was nervous because as she put it, “I had no idea of what this person had endured.”
Anyway, it resurrected thoughts of an incident in my life that is one of my biggest regrets. It happened over 25 years ago while I was visiting the Vietnam Memorial with a friend. We were looking for the name of one of our fraternity brothers who had died in Vietnam. A lady, who was probably in her early 60’s, was standing alone at the wall just a couple of yards away. She was reaching out ever so gently and touching a name engraved in the wall. As she turned toward us, she was weeping. I could only assume that the name she had tenderly caressed was her son and this was the only contact she would ever have with him again.
I ached for this woman and wanted desperately to go up to her and just envelop her in my arms and tell her everything was alright. But it wasn’t and I didn’t. It took her a few minutes to release herself from the despair and then she was gone. That missed opportunity to reach out to her has stuck with me ever since. It was truly a time to help heal and show compassion to another traveler of life’s rocky road. A kind word, a caring touch or even just an understanding glance. But I blew it.
That’s pretty much all I remember from the trip to DC that weekend. A rare moment turned into a regrettable one. I still wonder who she was and what her life has been like since that day. I hope it has been as blessed as mine. I hope she found comfort from others around her. She certainly deserved at least that.
But she taught me something valuable that day. Since then I have never missed a chance to hug someone who needed a spiritual or emotional lift. Family, friends or strangers…..there’s really no difference.