“Thank you for your smile”
It was a faint whisper, like everything else she said, and I’d had to lean in and ask her to say it again.
The second time was followed by a demonstration. Her thin lips stretched across her face and slowly turned up at the ends. Had her face been a yellow circle, it would have made the perfect single line smiley face.
But then I realized what she said and smiled again at the thought of being thanked for offering a smile with my greeting. Her smile then spread right across her face and became a sparkle in her eyes.
Of all the conversations I had yesterday, this is the one statement that stayed with me.
Maybe because I had preached just a few hours earlier on gratitude as a form of worship. Maybe it was because so many other conversations were redolent with tears. Or maybe just because this tiny lady reminded me of the way joy breaks into our lives in unexpected ways.
She knew that I knew that death is near for her. I was not asking her for anything more than her company, nor offering her a meal or medical intervention. So she was able to read in my smile the simple joy of being present for another with no agenda.
We shared a few more smiles and even a laugh before she fell asleep again. I stayed, watching her sleep, wondering at the beauty of her frailty, offering silent prayers for her husband and this dear one’s passage from life to death. She woke a few minutes later and greeted me with a smile of recognition and gratitude.
It’s funny – I’ve long tried to be mindful of my countenance as I greet people on the street, at the store and at work. It is my personal reminder that I carry light and life within me, that I can choose to face a crazy world with hope. I don’t always feel like smiling, and I don’t fake it (though I do try to at least avoid greeting the world with a scowl).
It’s the very least I can do.