~ “Right time right place” ~ “Meant to be” ~ “Divine intervention”~ “Coincidence” ~
No matter how you slice it…sometimes, things just line up perfectly.
My husband and I frequent an eclectic restaurant for breakfast every weekend called “The Friendly Toast,” located in downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It’s our go-to-spot located 30 minutes to our north. It is, by far, one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had, and well worth paying the toll to visit. What makes it so special…for starters, the thick sliced homemade bread and strawberry Habanero dipping sauce made from scratch, which go beyond what most breakfasts spots serve, as well as the vast array of traditional and not-so-traditional egg, pancake, and specialty beverage offerings. But it’s not just the insanely awesome menu or crazy decor that keeps us coming back; the word ‘friendly’ in the name aptly describes the incredible staff. From cook to server, the staff keep this ‘dive’ thriving.
I guess you’d say we’re ‘regulars,’ arriving early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, sporting our exercise attire and unkempt hair, and ordering basically the same meal without much diversion. We see familiar faces, have learned the names of some staff, and have actually had dialogue with them that goes way beyond a food order.
A few servers have shared bits and pieces of their lives with us, taking the time to linger at our table and discuss being a single parent to a teenager, the significance of their tattoos, and their upcoming travel plans, while we in turn have shared our parenting experiences and what we’ve learned over the past 28 years raising three awesome kids. We’ve discussed how life is short, and that traveling and experiencing new places is so important. How finding your passion, being true to yourself, and doing what you love is the undeniable key to happiness.
Last weekend, our server was a young man who had waited on us many times over the years. Although always friendly and attentive, he was quiet, more reserved; maybe that’s why we never engaged him in deeper conversation. Regardless, this particular Sunday morning was different because my husband decided to ask the young man his name.
From that handshake on, the conversation flowed effortlessly as we talked about our grown children; our youngest his age, and he told us about his upcoming wedding plans. At one point my husband alluded to the fact that a family member was quite ill, but the conversation did not lend itself to more details at that time. Then, with pad in hand, the young man discreetly excused himself to put our order in.
After a few minutes passed, he reappeared with coffee and a question…”If you don’t mind me asking, I was wondering about your family member who’s ill?” Without hesitation, my husband explained that his 84-year-old father was in Hospice care in a nursing home suffering from stage four lung cancer and Alzheimer’s; a stinging combination of deterioration.
Fighting the emotional swing that comes almost automatically with discussing the illness, my husband explained the situation; how we had just brought him to the nursing home three days ago, and how troubling it was to leave him. He talked about how painful it’s been watching his dad head into what seems like a downward spiral since the diagnosis three months prior. The young man looked at my husband and said, “I can truly understand your situation, my mother is 44 years-old and has been battling stage three colon cancer.”
He went on to tell us about her circumstances and how he could empathize with my husband. Suddenly, I could see the tears well up in his eyes as he looked off into the distance trying to compose himself. Then, I watched my husband place his hand on the young man’s arm to offer a physical gesture of support, and I could see him fighting the tears as well. I looked at the two men, basically strangers, trying to hold each other up as they shared a moment of compassion; my eyes filled.
From there, he knelt down next to the table and we spoke quietly about the situations we shared. Once the tears passed, we learned more about his family, and that his father was a Pastor. Then, mindful that a new wave of breakfast patrons was rolling in, we took a few last minutes to share our thoughts about ‘what’s next,’ meaning that we all agreed there had to be more to all of us than this earthly life. We were on the same page; we had faith, and that faith gave us hope.
During the next week, I found his parent’s church online and picked a random sermon to watch. As I listened to his father preach about relationships, more specifically those divinely directed by God, providential as he referred to them, I couldn’t help but be awestruck.
As I see it, this young man has been wandering in and around us every weekend, for years; but this meeting in particular, from my perspective, was directed to happen. The sermon I so casually chose to watch supported my belief. For me, striking up a conversation with him that Sunday was no coincidence; it was meant to be.
No matter how it came about, our time at the ‘Toast‘ that Sunday morning provided us with a unique and irreplaceable moment; one that filled us in a way that only pure selfless human connection can do. Dare I assume, a conversation over eggs and coffee provided us all with a much-needed exhale, due not only to the common bond of a ruthless disease, but to the commonality of sharing our sorrow, fear, guilt, helplessness, and even more importantly, our hope.