The woman stood hunched over slightly in the corner, dabbing a neatly folded tissue into each eye.  She sobbed audibly, though not loudly.  She looked down, maybe embarrassed, maybe frustrated, that she couldn’t stop the tears that continued leaking despite her persistent dabs.

I didn’t know her name.  I’d already said all my goodbyes and was on my way out.  It was a long drive home and I hadn’t seen my kids in 48 hours.

Still, I felt compelled to turn back and approach her.

“Would you like a hug?” I offered.

She laughed ruefully and nodded, still dabbing.  I dropped my purse on the ground and we wrapped our arms around each other.

I could feel her breathing begin to slow and I held her as long as I could.   When it felt time, she pulled back, laughed ruefully, and dabbed her eyes again.

“I guess it’s obvious I’m not really keeping it together…   ”

She spoke a bit about her father who passed away three years before.  “People think I should just be over it.  But I don’t think I’ll ever be over it.  Sure, I’m not flat on the floor every day, but I’m not over it.”

I nodded.  “It’s like if your leg was amputated.  You could learn to get around eventually.  Even get a prosthetic leg.  But you will always be missing your leg.”

Her eyes lit up with recognition.  “Yes!  Yes…  That’s really how it is.  Thank you.”

I shrugged. “My loss was different.  But that’s how it was for me.”

I picked up my purse and I gave her arm another squeeze.

Then I drove home and hugged my kids.