Wednesday, November 21, 2007

An Unexpected Gift

Today I experienced something I have never experienced in my lifetime until now. This afternoon, I felt a man's neck bend, his shoulders fold in, his hands clasp tight around my neck, his sobs. When he came in to pick up his check, no one else happened to be in the office. I immediately stood and went to hug him. He is my friend. He is someone who has my utmost affection. He lost his brother less than 48 hours ago. And I felt his neck strain, then surrender. I recognized the gesture because most of the time -- no, all of the time -- it is coming FROM me. This time, he let himself go. A grown man. An adult male, over 40, with wife and kids. Sobbing into my neck, not holding it in, not editing it, for several minutes. An adult man grieving out loud, visibly, noisily, honestly, deeply. Tears ran down my face, too, I kept my arms firm around his back; I could feel that I was supporting him, his body, but also the full weight of his grief for those few minutes. The tenderness in me! The amazement! I felt a hollow FILL that has always, I guess, silently existed in me. A muscle that has always been there and always known what to do, but has never been summoned before, flexed, awakened, gripped him, welcomed his emotion. An adult man, a man who grew up in the macho-steeped culture of rural Mexico. NOT crying like a baby, NOT crying like a child -- no! Crying like a man ought to always feel free to cry when he loses his brother. And when he quieted, then stepped back, he simply met my eyes and clasped my upper arms -- no apologies, no embarrassment, no shyness. I'm touched to the center of my DNA that he entrusted me with that, that God allowed me to be the one who was there for him in that way, at that moment. And then, like a fountain unstopped, he began to talk about it all, the horrible details hounding his mind, bits of dialogue, how drastically badly Gilberto's widow is taking it. I kept my hands firmly on his forearms as he leaned on the counter and talked, talked, talked, mostly in English but sometimes reverting to Spanish. And his eyes kept finding mine, open, plainly open and raw. When he readied himself to leave, I hugged him again as he tried to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving, but choked up, and for another several minutes he leaned into me and sobbed. My shirt was drenched; my neck was soaked; his eyes and face were pouring tears, his shoulders rocking, sagging. I will never forget the sounds he made. Sounds I've never heard from a grown man, not from ANY man after they hit puberty. I've never been asked (allowed) to comfort any man, EVER! Not my brothers, not my sons, not my father, uncles, friends, no one. What a loss!!! What a robbery of potential richness, exchange, humanity, soul! All the voids in me, so ready and willing to be partaken of, utilized! I've been shown a deep solemn place within myself, in the midst of his agony of grief, completely accidentally, and it's as if having been shown an entirely new horizon of myself. All of me stills when I think of the entire exchange. I was so so happy he came in; I'd WANTED to hug him, say something supportive, but I had no idea of anything that happened. How fortunate am I? How intense a feeling to know he would let me share in that release, to reveal himself in such a way to me. My heart is just rocked by it.


Veronica said...

Holy Moly
I feel so sorry for him and his loss of a brother. It must me an amazing feeling to have that type of emotion for a brother or sister for that fact. My family never had that closeness. Totally has my respect he does.