The Woman In The Checkout Line

     At the end, the Alzheimer’s had left his mother a lost, old woman who would sit all day in her geriatric chair staring off into the distance. He would visit her at the church home and sit by her side, trying his best to lure the old light back into her eyes, hoping to see for just a moment the spark of recognition that would sometimes reappear out of the blue.

     On their last day together she was particularly feeble, and the afternoon had been long with silence. He had turned sadly to leave when he felt her hand reach for his. When he looked back into her eyes, they were soft and alive, and he could see that his mother recognized him. He felt her hand tighten around his. She leaned close and said, in words just above a whisper, “There was a woman in the check-out line who thought you were the most beautiful baby.”

     That was all. Soon her eyes went dull, and there was no elaboration, and he knew that none would come. The next morning, the call came from the home, and they told him that his mother had died in the night.

     In the years that followed he thought often about his mother’s last words to him and about the woman in the check-out line. She was in his thoughts when he wrote, “If you can't be anything else to anyone, you can be the stranger who nodded hello," and again, “There is no charity less costly to bestow, and more lasting in its effect, than a small compliment."

     There was a woman once who took a moment to compliment a young mother on her baby. Did she ever think again of her kind gesture? Did she imagine that her words would be carried in another person’s memory for a lifetime? Did she guess that fifty years later, a dying old woman, searching her crippled memory for words to console a grieving son, would say to him, “There was a woman in the check-out line who thought you were the most beautiful baby.”

~~ Robert Brault

16 comments:

  1. This is so lovely. Thank you.

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  2. What a beautiful story, thanks for posting it!

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  3. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. This makes me tear up every time I read it or share it with others. Thanks.

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  5. Been there, done that. Beautiful story. So, so true. Makes me cry every time.

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  6. I teach a religion class to high school students every morning. One thought that comes to me over and over is that we just need to be nice. It doesn't require service that takes us around the world, or an entire day. You phrase it so nicely “There is no charity less costly to bestow and more lasting in its effect than a small compliment." I will definitely share that with them. Thanks!

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  7. This story grabbed me by my face and dragged me into the screen where I proceeded to watch the story in person. I admire your writing style. Thank you for posting this.

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  8. This is one of the most poignant pieces I've read in a very long time. I write short stories and flash fiction, and to distill such emotion and truth in so few words is a wondrous feat. Thank you for sharing it, and especially for the honesty you put into it.

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  9. Your quotes have brought me so much joy & reflection over the years. I was led to this blog spot today and I now know why it had to be today. Reading this story has brought me much joy, that I will make every effort in my journeys to spread. Thank you.

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  10. A belated thanks to all. Your appreciation brings me more pleasure than you can imagine.

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  11. Thank you for this post. It's what I/we need in this time of disruption.
    Few things move me to tears anymore, but this did.
    I shall work to be like that woman in the checkout line.

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  12. Came back today for this one again. Not sure why or how the mind works. I just knew I needed to read it again. The world has gone mad with Covid and sometimes I need something to cling onto I guess. Thanks again for such a moving post.

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  13. Just ran into your blog and this was the 2nd post I read. It is a beautiful post and touched me deeply. It was evocative of my mother's last year and captured some truths about the end of life. Thank you.

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  14. All of your writings and all of your quotes touch me so deeply. I'm really going to miss you.

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  15. P.S. I ordered all three of your books today. :)

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    Replies
    1. Patrice, thanks so much for your kind appreciation. I have to admit that nothing quite touches my heart like book sales. (big smile)

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