A few weeks ago, I voted early in the Super Tuesday election. Over the decades, I’ve learned the benefit of voting early to avoid long lines on election day, as long as I’m prepared to do so in the early timeframe. If not, I will wait until election day when I’m as prepared and informed as I can be on my decisions because I take this responsibility seriously. Voting early was a great decision, as the voting lines this year were very, very long on election day, due to both the presidential primary and an open seat in our congressional district for the first time in many years.
As I entered the voting area at a nearby grocery store and dug my driver’s license out of my purse, I suddenly felt ill at ease and tried to figure out why I felt this way as I also talked with the election volunteer. It didn’t take long for me to realize what was wrong. For over fifteen years, I have seldom, if ever, gone to vote by myself. I always took my elderly mother with me. Now, for the first time in many years, I was all alone while voting.
I kept my composure fairly well during the initial process, but the tears started to flow in earnest while I was selecting my candidates at the voting machine. Thankfully, I had my *long* written list with me, so the process went fairly quickly, and after pushing the big red “Cast Ballot” button, I headed to the restroom nearby to grab a tissue and wipe the tears streaming down my face. A sweet older lady walked in and even asked if I was ok, and I assured her that I was fine. I briefly shared why I was teary so that she wouldn’t worry, and to my surprise, she gave me a little hug, which made me want to cry even more. I somehow kept it together at that moment, thanking her for her kindness, and I made it through the balance of the day with no issues for the most part.
Hubby was out-of-town on business that night, so I took the opportunity to sit outside on the back porch with the dogs and a book before bedtime, thanks to the warmth of our new propane table heater which provided just the right amount of heat to keep me comfortable in the late evening cool. After about fifteen minutes, though, the tears started flowing again. Sometimes I just need to let them flow, and this was a time to just have a good ol’ cry with only the dogs as witnesses.
As I sat there, I remembered the many times Mom and I went to vote together and the call I nearly always got from her on the first day of early voting to remind me that we needed to go vote soon. I also remembered one particular election. A few years ago, Mom was very sick on the day that the voting machines were brought to the assisted living place where she lived. I had already told her that I would come to her room and escort her through the initial process, while also voting early there myself. Due to her illness that day, it was very hard for her to even get out of bed, but she insisted on voting anyway. I helped her get dressed and pushed her in a wheelchair to the lobby to go vote, and I will never forget her insistence on voting that particular day. There was a certain gentleman running for office for the first time, and she was determined to throw her support behind him. I missed Mom terribly that night as I sat there all alone with only my sweet pups and years worth of memories to keep me company, and it was time to just succumb to another round of grief for a few minutes.
My parents instilled me in the importance of this precious opportunity we have to select our leaders. Perhaps their passion for voting was reinforced by the fact that my father’s younger brother died in a prison camp in Europe in WWII, paying the ultimate price for his country at a young age. My father and brother also served in the military in wartime, so the very least our family could always do was to vote after doing our due diligence as far as candidate research.
I’m so grateful for the influence of my older family members in this regard, especially my late brother’s influence in more recent years when he challenged me to learn even more about candidates before voting. He died in 2007, but I still “hear” his admonitions to be more diligent in gaining knowledge, even though it is not an easy process. My views were forever impacted by his own passion in this regard, for sure.
Still, voting without Mom hit me very hard because I was not emotionally prepared. I shared my experience on my Facebook page with a trusted group of friends, and one of my best friends shared that such an experience is referred to in grief counseling circles as being “ambushed.” She and her mother have been attending a grief group for the past few months, and I appreciated her sharing this terminology that gave some clarity and justification for what I had experienced.
Here is the definition of “ambush,” courtesy of Oxford Dictionary.
- make a surprise attack on (someone) from a concealed position:
“they were ambushed and taken prisoner by the enemy”
synonyms: attack by surprise · surprise · pounce on · fall upon ·lay a trap for · set an ambush for · lie in wait for ·
I certainly felt ambushed by both memories and emotions that day. Mom’s absence loomed very large, and for a brief moment, I even thought about just walking out to avoid making a scene while voting, but I’m grateful that I didn’t have to leave before casting my ballot. Who would have ever dreamed that voting could bring back such vivid memories and strong emotions. Obviously, I certainly did not.
The older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the less I worry about tears and just try to “let them be.” If the tears come, let them come. I think it’s just memories paying a little visit to keep my heart tender and keep me grateful for what was, as well as grateful for what is today.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve been “ambushed” like this after the death of a loved one, and I seriously doubt it will be the last time. Hopefully, I can just experience these moments for what they have to offer, then move on with a nugget of gratitude for it all, even if it is hard. Life never promised to be an easy affair.
“Sometimes we need the salt of tears to remind us how to savor the sweetness of life.” — Lysa TerKeurst
Amen, Lysa. Such wise words.