This may come as a shock to my city-dwelling readers, but there is not a UPS store on every corner in rural Alabama.
In fact, there isn’t one in the whole county where I live.
So when I had to return something with a prepaid label, the nearest place to do it was up the highway and off an exit that I probably haven’t taken in a decade. After dropping the package, on a whim, I scooted across the street to the Winn Dixie store for just a minute.
As soon as I entered, I knew I’d made a dreadful mistake. The store had not changed even a little in the years and years since I was last there.
And the last time I was there was with all four children.
Those were the days when we piled into our Suburban and did marathon shopping runs to take advantage of every sale in one day. My kids were experts at finding the right size item specified on whatever coupons we might be using to drop the price even further. I would dispatch the boys to get heavier things as I went up and down the aisles loading the buggy with canned goods.
So when I walked in and the store even SMELLED the same, I was instantly transported to those days. I could almost hear the laughter of my sons, see my daughter next to me and feel that blessed togetherness I cherished even then but long for painfully, desperately NOW.
I’m not sure that my heart didn’t stop for just a second or two. I know I held my breath.
It was both beautiful to remember and more painful than I could have imagined.
I was utterly unprepared for the grief wave that swept over my heart.
I forced myself to walk slowly to grab the item I needed. I got in line, made small talk with a friendly customer and a chatty cashier. And then I practically ran out the door and to my truck in an attempt to escape the sadness.
At home, I let the tears fall. Sat in silence and gathering darkness and let myself FEEL all the feels.
I am oh, so grateful for every single moment I can remember but oh, so sad there won’t be any more.