I was selling my jewelry and shiny rocks at an outdoor market near a tourist attraction on a Sunday afternoon. The sky was overcast, the air chilly, the wind strong. There weren’t many shoppers, so I was able to give my attention to each person who stopped at my table.
I saw an older man spending a lot of time with the vendor next to me. Good for him, I thought of the other vendor. On such a slow day, I was glad for anyone who made a sale.
The fellow finished his business with the vendor next to me and made his way to my table. He was older than I am, maybe by twenty years, but he seemed to be in good shape. He walked easily without a cane and didn’t seem to be beaten down by life.
I said hello to him, but before I could tell him about my merchandise, he blurted out, I lost my wife.
At first I thought he meant he and his wife were there at the tourist attraction together, she’d wandered off, and he didn’t know where she was at the moment. That sort of situation occurs a lot at that market. So often, while one part of a group is browsing in the market, others in the party wander off to see the natural wonder.
I was about to reassure the man I’m sure she’s around here somewhere, when he continued to speak and I realized by lost, he meant dead. I was glad to have learned more about his situation before I opened my big mouth.
She’d died nearly two years ago, he told me. He was doing better, but it was still hard, he said with a sad smile.
She was the real shopper, he continued. If she had been here, she’d have stopped at every table, wanted to buy something from every vendor.
In the past when he’d traveled alone, he’d always been on the lookout for something nice he could buy to take home to her. Now there was really no point in looking at all the beautiful things.
I’m so sorry for your loss, I murmured, but I really didn’t know what else to say. I’m often surprised by how freely stranger share their grief with me. I wonder if these people share their grief freely with everyone they meet or if they sense some kindness or understanding in me.
The tourist man didn’t spend much time at my table. He only hung around long enough to apologize for not buying anything and to tell me how his lost wife loved to shop, then he was gone. I hope I helped him through his grief a little. I wish I could have done more.
I took the photo in this post.