By Misty Gassaway
I have been in high gear, aka fight or flight mode, for the last several years. Many factors play into why I’ve been on this high gear, but reality is my body is finally speaking up. I’m grieving the loss of many things, but lately my grandfather’s death is most predominant.
Letting my body be out of whack is hard. It’s a whole thing and I know everyone goes through a similar process, often multiple times in their lives. This is where I’ve been lately and the first time I’m writing on it.
I have so many resources to get me through this time, and I’m thankful for all of them. I am, however, reminding myself the goal isn’t to get through grief. My goal is to be present in my grief.
Just the other day I was racing through a store quickly picking up some items. I was leaning down to grab an item and a wave of intensity came over me. Not because of the current surroundings, but a realization that life was overwhelming. It was poor timing to say the least.
In that particular moment, life felt unbearable. And instead of stuffing, I did my best to allow my feelings to just flow.
Thankfully it was inaudible. In the midst of an aisle of groceries, I found myself pleading for a hug. I was stuck and I knew I needed to snap out of it.
Rational thought kicked in at this point. My legs started to rise and I quickly walked to a new aisle. Rationalizing internally, I knew it was unlikely innocent bystanders would hug me on a regular day, a total stranger, much less during a pandemic. And yet, there I was in the midst of grief needing physical relief.
The whole experience weirded me out. I’m not a physical touch person by nature. I tried to distract myself with a new item on my list. I found myself praying in the midst of the frozen veggies pleading for respite.
Not even kidding you. A tall, gorgeous, elderly man with an infectious joyful spirit turned the corner a few moments later. He was rocking a bright red sweater, and even in a mask I could tell he was smiling. My first thought was dread. “God, not a happy person right now! I can’t handle extra.”
The stranger turned to me and said, “We have passed each other at least 12 times already. Mija, I’m starting to think we came together with the same list.” He instinctively reached for a hug and stopped himself. My brain was still processing the scene.
“Wow, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I haven’t gotten so tickled by something in a grocery store in months. Just months… This place isn’t a space for comedy, you know.” When I processed what he was saying, I realized something. This stranger helped me break a smile. I had no idea he had been in every aisle I was in. How wild is that? And, usually, I’m never that oblivious.
As the stranger pulled his hands back, he touched my elbow and said, “this is silly but I’ve already made a fool of myself holding my hands like this. I’ll just hug your elbow. So sorry! How embarrassing.” Although you could tell we both felt awkward about the space barrier being broken, you could tell he quickly adapted. He was living his best life.
Personally, I felt so at peace in that moment. And then I began to tear up. At first, I didn’t think he noticed, then he quickly began to apologize. The stranger assured me he had been vaccinated and gotten both his shots downtown. (Poor guy! I’m sure that was a weird scene to encounter.)
I wasn’t crying about his touch. We were both double masked and wearing thick layers. It was more important to me that my prayer had been answered. I assured him in some way and we continued chatting from behind our grocery carts. We exchanged quick wit back and forth for a time or two and then he let it rip… a laugh so boisterous it reminded me of my grandpa so much. And around the corner came a little boy saying, “Gram-paw… can you please laugh quieter? The world can hear you.” It was like the biggest hug I could ever receive. I loved this encounter with this sweet grandfather. We exchanged elbow taps and kept on shopping.
And the cherry on top was this man embodied so many characteristics that were iconic of my Grampa. My Grandpa used the phrase “tickled” often. (I’ve never heard anyone else use it before.) This man’s laugh was strangely similar too. In that moment as I walked away, I knew I had experienced a precious moment, completely catered for my grief process.
Thank you, God. I felt so seen in the grocery store that day. Your faithfulness endures forever.
One day I will see my Grandpa, again, but more amazing than that, I’ll come face to face with the Father to the fatherless. The God who knows grief intimately. Hebrews 10:23 reminds me that “I’m called to hold tight to the hope I have for the future because God is faithful. Until my final breath here, I’ll continue celebrating the small gusts of hope.”
I celebrate everyday moments where small prayers of young women are answered in grocery stores. I celebrate hope percolating between strangers in the midst of the freezer section.
God is faithful and He sees us in the everyday heaviness too. Ask Him to show you that you’re seen, and He will be faithful in the most unexpected ways.
After years of overcoming, the only thing that gets the best of Misty nowadays is Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream. Misty Raley Gassaway, from San Antonio, Texas, is married to Jason Gassaway. Together they aim to open their home and their resources to give back to others. Misty has had a variety of jobs over the years, but everyone involved working with children and their families. She has every intention to begin Christian seminary. Most weekends, you can find Misty hiking, traveling, or going to music festivals. Her loves include spicy food, emojis, hanging with her community, and going with her mom to buy unnecessary items at Costco. “