I turned my head to her. Her shoulder length blond hair had started turning grey. Her light-blue eyes focused on some point in the front. She must be pretty when she was young, some of the beauty still remained in her appearance. A subtle elegance. She was driving, her face looked soft and relaxed.
I didn’t quite fit in when I started working in the department. Being presented as some new blood in the team with a solid educational background, I was excited and eager to contribute to the development and reconstruction of the organisation. My enthusiasm, however, was met with some doubt from a few colleagues who had been working in the department for decades. They certainly had valuable experiences, and were familiar with the systems and structures. Sometimes I took a different approach towards the tasks then they were used to. I wasn’t always on excellent terms with them. She was amongst the more experienced staff.
It was an autumn evening, and we both worked overtime to meet our deadlines. When my elder colleague and I were about to leave, it was pouring outside. The sky turned dark-grey and it all felt heavy and depressing.
After hours of complex calculations and careful analysis, I felt dizzy and sick. I shut down my computer and was ready to run into the rain when her words reached me.
“Can I give you a lift? We are heading in the same direction”, she said.
Surprised and touched, I said yes and thanked her for her thoughtfulness.
The car was parked not far from the building. I opened the door on the passenger side and jumped in.
“It must be tough to balance a full-time job with three kids”, she said without turning her head to me.
“Oh yeah, I really struggle sometimes. How many children do you have? They must be grown-ups now”, I said casually.
“I have two or I used to. My son was killed in a car accident six years ago”. She said quietly.
My heart sank. Do not get too emotional. A voice whispered. My own voice.
“It’s very sad. I am sorry to hear about it”. I did not turn my head to her this time.
The regrets sneaked in. I should’ve been more understanding to her. I should’ve showed her more kindness and softness.
“It is fine. This is the way life is”, She said. For a moment, her eyes looked blank. She regained her composure and focused on driving.
“You are very tough. It must be hard to have to go through this loss”.
“The bell kept ringing that night, I went to open the door finding a priest standing out there in the darkness. I got it. Of course I got it instantly. He was planning to move to the newly refurbished flat with his girlfriend, my son. It was supposed to be their home. They were moving together. They were about to start a new life”.
“I only had two children, now I have one, my daughter. She was pregnant with twins at that time, in her third trimester. She gave birth to two lovely babies shortly after. It sort of took away some of the pain, the loss. I made myself to think this way, I lost a son but I got two grandchildren. The twins made up for the loss, or they made this loss possible to tackle.
“When life turns its back on you and you can’t change it. You just accept it and move on, what else can you do? You don’t have alternatives”.
The car reached my house. I hugged her quickly and jumped out of the car and run into heavy rain and darkness. She shouldn’t see the tears.
I read a quote some time ago, can’t remember who said it. It goes like this:
Treat everyone you meet with kindness, you never know what they have been through. Be kind and smile.
(Photos taken in Oslo and Stockholm, autumn 2017)