I met Bob for the first time today. Of all days, it was at his mother's wake. I was accompanying my boyfriend as he supported his friend in mourning and I wasn't sure it the right time for an introduction. But there I was. Never heaving met Bob, I already knew intimate details. I knew that his father had passed a number of years ago; that his mother lost her 10-year battle to breast cancer; that he is an only child, now the sole member of his immediate family, and only in his 30's.
We entered the funeral home and very quickly found Bob, baby-faced and towering in a room filled with old(er) guests seated and hunched over, some over photos, talking and reminiscing. Andrew gave Bob a tight hug, the kind that expresses what words might not as easily convey, and then proceeded to introduce me. So warm and welcoming, it felt wrong that Bob should be there to make me feel in place, the interloper of so personal an occasion. A minute later, a young woman joined in, Bob's partner Stephanie. Stephanie immediately called attention to Bob's face. While his mother's passing in the end might not have been a surprise to those close to the family, Bob's clean-shaven face was. It was a final request made by his mom. Not even Bob's partner of 7 years had known the face beneath the beard.
Stephanie placed a hand over the lower half of Bob's face to highlight his eyes and then moved her hand up to feature his nose, cheeks, mouth and chin. Very sweetly, she commented how each half was clearly delineated from each of his parents. I wasn't daring enough to catch more than a glimpse of Bob's sleeping mother, but from the surrounding photos of a life double mine and still cut short, I was amazed by the accuracy of Stephanie's observation. I'll not assume that all family relationships are the same and a positive experience, but for those that are — how special. To bear that kind of resemblance, to find your parents features in your own, it's like an ever-present reminder of and from your loved ones. I just met Bob and I felt sad with Bob. But, in this weird moment amid strangers, feeling things for strangers, I was happy for him too.
It's an amazing thing how quickly we can become invested in someone else's experiences. In just a momentary crossing of paths, we can share in someone else's joy and sadness, we can worry about their well being, we can wish the best for them on their journey. The anxious, pessimist in me sees how this can become emotionally taxing — too much feeling! But I'd rather focus on how special these tiny moments are, presenting opportunities for humanity and connection, no matter how brief.