It was a Friday morning and I woke up alone. My beloved husband had passed away the afternoon before at the University of Washington Medical Center and the friend who had spent Thursday night with me left for work before I awoke. My clients were canceled, and it was the first day of the rest of my new life that I didn’t ask for and certainly didn’t want.
I didn’t know what to do. The house was so silent, empty and awfully lonely. I am not surprised that as I have always done in times of stress and turmoil, I turned to exercise. I left the house and started walking with no clear thought of where I was going or how long I would be gone.
I walked aimlessly around Edmonds and Woodway for awhile, before my feet took me toward Westgate. At that point my body was screaming at me to eat something, despite absolutely no appetite, and I found myself at the Westgate QFC Starbucks. My husband in his last months had taken to visiting this QFC store every morning, picking up donuts and tall lattes for us. (One of my most cherished memories is that just four days before he ended up in the emergency room he surprised me with a gorgeous bouquet of roses along with my latte. I’m so grateful I took a photo!)
When I walked in to Starbucks, they recognized me and one of the baristas said, “Your usual two tall lattes?” That’s when I broke down, responding through the tears that I could not hold back, something like: “No, because my husband died yesterday.” Heidi the manager, whose name I didn’t know before that morning, sprung into action. She ordered me a grande latte and sat me down at a table, asking what had happened and offering tremendous words of comfort. I will never forget the care and concern I felt in those moments.
Instinctively, every morning after that, I woke up, got dressed and went down to the Westgate QFC Starbucks to see “my girls.” I ordered a grande latte every time and I sat at the same table every day—if you walk in the door and look straight ahead, it’s a two-top at the south end of the store, just beyond the espresso machine.
Every day healing I didn’t even realize occurred at that table even as I focused on mundane tasks. I wrote in my journal, I managed my calendar, I read the paper, I talked to the baristas and the other regulars. Every morning my $4.65 latte got me out of the house and into a neutral environment where my pain wasn’t so acute. I interacted normally with others; I met wonderful caring people; I got an energy boost (not just from the caffeine); and it helped pass a little bit of the endless amounts of time I was faced with working through overwhelming grief and loss. I’ve sat at that table nearly every morning for the past fifteen months. Best money I’ve ever spent. I tell people it saved me.
As my life has returned to “normal,” I find I don’t need to spend as much time in there but my daily grande latte remains an important part of morning routine. Just a few days ago, I went into my Starbucks as usual. Sitting at my table was another regular who I had gotten to know last year. The last time I ran into him was two days after he unexpectedly lost his mother, when it was obvious he was overwhelmed with shock and grief. This time, it looked like he had brought some stuff to do which meant he was staying a while. Not only did I not mind that he was at “my” table, I was glad.
When I picked up my drink, I said hi to him, and then I said, “You know this is a healing table, don’t you?”
He said, “Yes. I do.”
Previously published on My Edmonds News