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The Black Dress

Before I could fall to my knees and sob into the black polished cotton, I was interrupted by a kind tone and a smiling face.
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I studied my reflection in the dressing room mirror. The black, polished cotton A-line dress fit me well. I knew that it was the dress that I had come for. It was the one that I would wear as I wept on my mother's shoulder while they placed his body in the ground.

I sat on the bench in the dressing room and sobbed softly over the faint sound of Muzak. I quickly composed myself and searched my purse for a tissue. I couldn't find one, so I wiped my damp eyes with one of the dress rejects hanging from a hook.

When I stepped out of the small room and looked around the department store, it was shocking to me that the world was still turning. Older ladies were shopping the Petite department for polyester pants with elastic waistbands. Children were hiding from their mothers beneath clothing racks. Despite the darkness and the sadness surrounding me in that very moment, life was going on for others. Didn't they realize that a great man was gone?

I took my place in the lengthy line and my phone began chiming with an email alert. I draped the black dress across my arm and opened the email.

It was from the funeral home -- his obituary.

I battled the tears as I studied his photo, his gentle eyes and his warm smile. I remembered the feel of his mustache against my cheek as he kissed me and gave me away at my wedding years before. He had been there for me since my real father passed away -- since I was just a little girl. My life would never be the same.

I knew that my name would be included in the survivor's section, possibly as "god-daughter" or "someone special," but the family had simply listed me as his daughter. My husband was his son-in-law, my kids were his grandchildren.

Before I could fall to my knees and sob into the black polished cotton, I was interrupted by a kind tone and a smiling face.

"How are you doing today?" the saleslady asked as I tucked my phone inside my purse and slid the dress across the counter to her.

"I'm fine," I lied and attempted to smile.

She began complimenting the dress and talking about the clear blue skies and the warm temperatures.

I couldn't form words to respond to her comments, but I wished that I could. I wished that I could thank her.

I wanted to thank her for her kindness. I wanted to tell her that I was going through a terrible loss at that moment -- that I was riddled with emotion. Based on the gray at her temples and the crow's feet around her eyes, I knew that she was probably familiar with my pain.

I wanted to tell her that I appreciated her smile, her warm words, her compassionate eyes. Although, for me, it might as well have been pouring rain and 24 degrees outside, I wanted to tell her that I welcomed her small talk about the weather.

I wanted to tell her that I'd been treated so rudely by a salesperson at that same store only a week or two before, and that there was no way I could have handled that kind of insolence today. Her attitude, her kindheartedness, was just what I needed.

I wanted to tell her all of this, and I wanted to reach across the counter and hug her.

"Have a wonderful day," she smiled and carefully handed the black dress to me.

"Thank you."

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