How much does tunnel vision direct what we see? And what we don’t see? When the goddess-infused checker handed me the folded piece of paper from inside the Trader Joe’s bag I had brought along, she invited me to open it. She charmed it with a burst of creative storytelling, and when I opened the prize, what I saw was a grocery list that I immediately attributed to a woman who had been dead for nearly a year. The woman I had made a home with for the twenty-two years before her death. “This piece of paper is special,” I had said to Grace as I explained the reason why. Tears grew in her eyes.
Later on the day of the other-worldly exchange between me and Grace, I wrote of the incident, adding to a growing collection of pieces that highlighted my journey, what I had lived through, emblems of loss and change. In all of it, there was something beyond my understanding at work, and I was keen to express the ineffable.
Happy with my reflection on the magic of the moment, I posted a Medium piece titled “Saving Graces.” Perhaps others would recognize themselves in that moment of wonder. Perhaps the message from beyond the grave would encourage another grieving soul to seek comfort in blessed synchronicity.
A few weeks before, a dear friend of mine had traveled halfway across the country to visit me before her next school year would begin. We planned a trip to the redwoods on the coast and had done our shopping for the trip at the very store where the visitation occurred. Jewel had known my partner for many years and she had lost a friend when Trish died. I must tell Jewel what happened! I thought. In a follow-up to her visit, I sent Jewel an email, and pasted the Medium link for her to read, knowing she would marvel at the moment as I had.
When I read her reply, I gasped. How could I have forgotten giving Jewel the piece of paper, telling her that we’d need it for a grocery list, asking her to be the one to jot down what we needed on our way to the store? I didn’t want it to be true. Didn’t want my initial starry-eyed conclusion to crash to earth. Didn’t want to betray the tears I had caused in Grace or diminish the supportive stance of the sacker who had stood by her side, inspired. But what could I do? All was not as it had seemed. Jewel had written the list in my presence as we barrelled toward our errand before heading westward. The list had remained buried at the bottom of the bag until weeks later when Grace found it and handed it to me.
I knew I would have to face the truth. Here’s the email I wrote Jewel in return:
I am still processing the “part two” of “Saving Graces.”. . . .Why does our mind sometimes see what we want to see and not what is? And is it a lie if we don’t realize it at the time? Does it erase the magic of the moment when I told Grace that the list had been written by my partner before she died? Did I see what I needed to see in that moment so that the moment would happen? And why did I add the photos to the post and send you the link to the story? And what made you zoom in on the image of the list and recognize your own handwriting, which reconnected us all back together in a circle of mystery? . . . .And then getting your email, at first I was embarrassed to have been wrong, but then I became curious and got goosebumps at the nature of reality. . . .”
Here I am still mulling the experience. Of seeing what wants to be seen even when it defies the truth. Of being an unreliable narrator who at the very least has to admit faulty memory. Is that what happens as we age? As losses rack up their unreasonable demands? As we force feed ourselves fantasies to soothe the discourse between us and endings? Do I need to unpack the entire story and revise the contents completely? Can two versions deepen, rather than disparage, the meaning? Can the possibilities be even more endless? The answers even less solid? When does the certainty arrive? Isn’t it never?
The companion piece, “Saving Graces,” can be found HERE.