A woman died yesterday. A woman I knew. She wasn't someone I knew well -- just in passing, really; just well enough to smile and say hello. Our daughters swam on the same team last summer. It was Ryan's first year and her daughter's last, so we didn't move in the same swimmy circles. She was old hat at the swim-mom thing; I was just learning my way.
I'd volunteered to coach the youngest swimmers on the team... 'My Little Sinkers', I called them. Actually what I did was not so much coaching as it was simply preventing them from drowning, and even though I was the oldest (by far) on a coaching staff made up of gorgeous 16 to 22-year-olds, each with about 8% body fat, I had a lot of fun. But there were nights when it took major effort to get me to the pool.
One particularly chilly evening, I got out of the water at the end of practice and stood, wrapped in a towel, shivering. The woman who died yesterday came up to me and said, "We all think you're pretty brave to get in the water on nights like this." I chuckled and replied, "Brave? Or stupid?" She burst out laughing. Then she said, "You are so good with the little ones. We really appreciate what you do."
It was such a simple statement. "We really appreciate what you do." But it had such an impact on me. She didn't have to say it. I wasn't even working with her daughter. She wouldn't be returning to the team next summer. We'd never spoken and she'd probably never see me again after the season was over. But still, she took the time to say something kind; something that affected me a great deal and made those chilly evenings a lot easier to take.
Of course I thanked her for her kind words. I suspect she was the sort of person who said kind things often but I wonder if she had any idea just how much they were appreciated by the people to whom she said them. Maybe she did. I really hope she did.