“It’s interesting when you’re in crisis the subtle things you do to shield people from knowing how bad things really are or how sad you really feel. After all, as the caretaker, you have to be the strong one. You have to hold it together. You have to make sure everybody else is ok.”
Those are the words of Diana Register, a heartbroken widow in the throes of grief over the loss of her husband to pancreatic cancer.
Unwanting to drag others down or ignite feelings of pity from friends, family, and strangers alike, Diana often found herself seeking out hiding places to let it all out.
In fact, for her, the grieving process started long before she had to lay her sweet husband in the ground.
She explains that even before her husband’s cancer diagnosis, she would search for places to go where people couldn’t see the uncontrolled waterfalls from her eyes that silently screamed her pain — the pain of the loss that she had not yet experienced, but soon would.
“The closet was a favorite. The shower. But when I wasn’t home, it was parking lots that became an asphalt covered oasis. I found very early on that red lights didn’t work well because people look around when they’re stopped waiting for the light to turn green. They’ll catch you with mascara tears and while they won’t say anything, there’s that awkward moment where you lock eyes and you know they’re secretly wondering what’s wrong with you. And then there’s that feeling you have after a tragedy where you don’t care what somebody thinks of you but at the same time, you don’t really want to have to explain anything.”
That’s why parking lots became her safe haven to cry it all out. While they were often packed with shoppers, Diana noticed that people were generally too self-occupied with the mission they were on to pay much attention to the mascara bleeding down her cheeks.
But as grief often goes, she couldn’t always perfectly time when or where the blues would hit her.
One day, as she was about to place her order in the Dutch Brothers coffee drive-thru, the wave of sadness hit her like a tidal wave in the middle of her conversation with a friend.
“I could barely catch my breath and the ugly crying started,” said Diana. “The problem was, I was stuck in the coffee line. At Dutch Brothers. The one place where all the workers are young, happy and jamming out to music. And there was no way out. I was literally blocked in, so unless I wanted to back right up into the SUV behind me, I was about to be seen for the mess I really was.”
In a split-second decision, she decided to face the barista in her broken state and place her order. But what Diana did NOT expect was the beautiful surprise she received at the window:
“She took one look at me and saw how disheveled I was and said nothing. She just handed me my drink. A drink I didn’t order because I couldn’t even muster the words, but a drink she would know I wanted.
I tried to smile when I took it from her and drove away and finished my call. By this time, I had pulled into a parking stall and was trying to regain my composure. I reached for my iced coffee, and when I looked down in the cup holder, I saw it.