Friday, June 18, 2010

A Lesson From Larry

Sometimes we don't know how lucky we are until we lose someone or something. Why does it always take a loss or something devastating for us to realize how lucky we are? So often we take for granted the gift of life and the pleasures we have of living each day to its fullest. Recently I had this brought to my attention and it has made a huge impact on my life ever since.

I learned a lesson from Larry. I didn't know him and I still don't, but I wished I had taken the time to get to know him better before he walked out of my life. For Larry was reaching out to me and my husband and we didn't know how to respond.


A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were shopping at Trader Joe's (a small specialty grocery store). Half way through the store we were at the back of the store where they offer free coffee samples. We were tasting our mini cups of coffee when this man came up and tried to strike up a conversation with both of us. He asked us if we liked the coffee and we made small talk for a few seconds.

Moments later we were at the refrigerated cheese case, the same man boldly again came up and asked us if workout at a certain local gym. We said we both go to the gym regularly, but not the one he mentioned. He mentioned that my husband had on an exercise shirt (Under Armor), looked familiar and his hair was a "military" cut...so maybe my husband was former military (like him)? Well, since my sons ARE in the military, we got to talking with him. We found out his name was "Larry".

Larry was a pleasant (and obviously friendly) man (and in good shape for being 57 years old). We learned what he did in the US Army back in the day, explained what our sons are doing now in the Army and Air Force, etc. We learned his only son is only 2 years older than our youngest...and they both went to high school together. Perhaps they know of each other? We talked about exercising and staying healthy. Then Larry dropped the BOMB on us!!!!

Larry has been alone for 6 weeks. His wife passed away suddenly after being ill (undiagnosed) for a month. He brought out a picture of this beautiful blond woman that was only 52 years old. It was an obituary card of her life. My heart sank and broke at the same time. He said they had been married happily for 32 years. Suddenly she (her name was Patty) was gone! When he came home from work, he found her on the bed and she had died there. It turns out she lost lots of weight, felt like she had acid-reflux and no energy. Larry's wife Patty passed away from a heart related issue. Suddenly, this man has his life pulled out from under him! It was so overwhelming and quite shocking to hear.

I felt awkward pain and sadness at the same time. What do you do when some kind and friendly who is obviously reaching out tells you something like this...plus you don't even know him???

After another 15 minutes of talking, we said bye, it was nice to meet you--you are in our prayers. My husband and I for days, even off and on for the last couple of weeks have felt we should have DONE something for Larry. He was reaching out and needing a friend. Should we have invited a stranger over for a beer, a home-cooked meal, an ice tea? What would you have done? I feel horrible that the opportunity to be there for someone is now gone.

I feel now I should have done something for this sad and lonely person. However, HE did something for me. He taught me the lesson to stop taking life for granted. Live each day to its fullest. It was so good that my husband and I experienced this TOGETHER...because this month we celebrate our 29th wedding anniversary!


Thank you Larry! Thank you for the gift of loving each day to its fullest--we don't know how much time we have on this earth. I'll keep looking for you in Trader Joe's grocery store...because my husband and I have a home-cooked meal waiting for you. We'd love to have the pleasure of your company one day...

9 comments:

  1. Search the obituaries for Larry as a surviving spouse and Patti as someone who died. You have their first names and their ages - it won't be that hard. Give me the name of the city and I will do the research for you. That man needs friends!

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  2. I believe it's Charlotte, NC?

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  3. Ahhh....what a heartwrencher. It's understandable to feel awkward and need the time to process something like that. Especially in today's world. Searching the obits is a great idea as is keeping your eye out for Larry.

    I think most of us would have reacted similarily. I had a stranger woman stop me in the grocery store recently and ask me if I thought she did the right thing by not giving a man a ride. He needed one and was on crutches. I agreed with her decision, she had to think of her self and her family that needed her before helping a stranger.

    Unfortunately times have changed.

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  4. you did just fine,, unfortunately there are predators everywhere..like the Good Samaritan killer who preyed on people's kindness.. It sucks we are in this kind of world but just letting him vent helped..

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  5. This is a tough one, knowing the right thing to do.

    I've have people do this to me often and I really think they just need to talk so I listen as long as I reasonably can. A smile and a friendly conversation can help a person immensely who is suffering. I know that a few weeks after the funeral is when many people feel most vulnerable. Friends and family stop calling or visiting as frequently and this is right about the time where most people are ready to open up and talk the most.

    Larry must have seen a friendly, compassionate couple and reached out. You did the right thing by listening. Don't feel badly for being cautious, this is our reality in this day and age.

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  6. Thank you ladies for your feedback! This has really bothered me and I wanted to write about it, but just couldn't bring myself to do so because I felt so bad for this person. Did my husband do the right thing, or did we let down a fellow person in need? It is a tough call.

    It does take you back and you do need time to process this whole situation when it is sprung on you like it was.

    It is like one of those hidden camera moments where you are suddenly tested...and you wonder, did I do the right thing?

    Sassy Jen, you may be right, just the friendly conversation we had with him may have be enough at the time.

    Thanks y'all for your input...I REALLY needed it! Wishing everyone a great weekend. My will be cool--once my A/C gets fixed tomorrow!!!!

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  7. I believe that, if the Lord wants you to minister to this poor fellow further, He will bring you to meet up with him again. Ask Him... He will do it if it's part of His plan for you and for Larry. And i also believe that it's quite possible that you did all that you needed to do, in that you were compassionate listeners at a time when Larry really needed that! :)

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  8. The first thing you have to remember is to keep yourself and your family safe. I might have suggested meeting someplace to have a bite to eat or some sort of beverage. In this day and age you can't be too careful, but I'm one who can tell you for sure that there are lots of lonely people out there and at least he talked to you and your husband Nikki and didn't just try to talk to you, which says a lot in my book.

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  9. I can relate to your concern about Larry. It's so hard to know if you did the right thing... I tend to question myself. A grocery employee recently struck up a 5-10 min conversation with me about his wife who is addicted to prescription drugs and how they've lost their home and family due to her addiction. He said he loves her but she's abusive and he feels guilty when he consideres leaving her because of their vows. He said she'd stand by him but he just can't live like this anymore. I'm usually rather curt in a situation such as this and wouldn't normally stand around long enough to listen. However, I could tell that this person needed an ear. I've thought about that employee ever since and worry that I could have offered assistance (even as simple as notifying his boss that he needs help) and did not.

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Love, Leslie

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