This was written in early January of 2020

It’s the small things that help me. Tonight at the local grocery store, outside, eating under the stars is one of their workers* on break, a young man who is also autistic. He’s very open about his autism. He’s sweet and kind and always has a smile.

He points Venus out to me. “Watching down on us,” he says.
“The planet of love,” I say.
He says out of the blue, “God always answers prayers.”
I say, “I don’t know about God anymore. He (or God) didn’t answer mine.”

I had just been thinking of this deeply the night before and today. The young man pauses and says something kind.
Then he brightly says, “Maybe this year will be better than the last or a better decade.”

I can only hope but I say to him, “I don’t know. My mom died,” as if nothing good can come, and then I fight back the tears as my voice quavers.

The last decade was the last decade I was with her. I think he remembers my mom and me, he would say hello to both of us when we had lunch there. He talks on about what his mom taught him, how with the double digits of 2020, the number should be written out in full on checks, this year, to avoid fraud. And how his mom told him to never ever give out his social security number to anyone. I like his mom.

He talks again about Venus and then about my mom saying, “She’s up there, she’s watching over us.” Then he pauses as if to think and says with surety, “You’ll see her again. She’s with you. Just because you can’t see her doesn’t mean she isn’t with you.”
“I hope so,” I say.

He repeats his words again with sureness, that she’s with me, and then he says, “I don’t know your mom’s name.”
I say, “Cathy with a C.”

He says, “Hi mom!” out loud. I follow. He says, “What did you do today, mom?”
I could imagine my mom saying, watching over my daughter, being with my daughter.
“Probably watching over me,” I say.

I loved that he talked directly to my mom. That he included her in our conversation. He made me feel better. Though now I’m in tears because I’ve come home to an empty house and I want to tell her about it. Maybe she initiated it all. I don’t know. But it made me feel better. Like for a split second she was there. But then, tears are there. It’s a strange juxtaposition of existence. I can tell my mom about the conversation, but she can’t talk back. So I’m telling you all about this sweet and compassionate young man who is always kind to me.

Most people are afraid to bring a loved one who has died into a conversation. They think they’ll upset you or make you remember something you don’t want to remember. But we, who have lost loved ones, always remember. We don’t ever forget and, for the most part, we love talking about them. We want to share them with the world. We want them included in our lives. They are never forgotten by us, and we want people to know their name. 

*Jesse hasn’t been working at this store since Covid started. I miss his sweet and kind smile and words. Wherever you are, Jesse, I hope you well and still looking up at Venus.