Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind.
The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.
– Henry James
I had not seen her for some time. “Miss B.” used to run the childcare room at my gym, but left when she got sick. I had heard she had battled breast cancer, beat it for a few years, but then it came back. And now she was gone. Gone forever, I mean. The sign at the gym said she had passed away the night before.
I didn’t know much more about her than that she was a single mom of 2 kids, and that her son shared the same name as mine. We bonded over that. Every time I saw her, she was smiling. Every time I saw her, she was kind. Every time I saw her, I was grateful to have a gentle, caring person to watch my baby — then babies — while I got an hour to myself. The fact that she was always there, knew my kids’ names, and made sure they were safe and happy meant more to me than the break, though.
I’m not going to lie. I would sometimes pretend I didn’t hear the intercom: “Will Riley’s mom please report to childcare?” I would sometimes resent being tracked down on the treadmill to change a dirty diaper or fetch my fussy son who was setting off the other babies. “See you next time,” Miss B. would say, apologetically. She understood.
I am surprised that Miss B.’s passing affected me so much, given that I didn’t know her well. I suppose it’s partly that it seems so unfair. But since when is cancer fair? It’s also because I saw her nearly every day, so the loss seems more real, somehow. But it’s mostly because she was one of the first people I trusted with my babies.
I believe there’s a special place in heaven for people who recognize the particular challenges of parenthood, and do what they can to ease the burdens of other parents. I believe that it really does take a village to raise a child, and Miss B. was a key part of my village when my kids were small. I cannot imagine what it must be like to raise children on your own, on an hourly wage, and to battle a life-threatening disease not once but multiple times while doing so.
Miss B.’s legacy, for me, is not a reminder that life is short and unpredictable. It’s not making sure to take care of myself and schedule annual mammograms. It’s kindness. How many of us with much less to worry about walk around with scowls on our faces, impatient, frustrated, complaining to and about others? (Please tell me I’m not the only one raising my hand right now.)
I can tell you that no matter what kind of day I was having, Miss B.’s kind smile never went unnoticed. Even on the days she sent me home with my screeching baby. God bless, Miss B. Thank you for your kindness. You will be missed.