My friend was late again. Mentally I shifted from irritation to acceptance as I ordered a second pot of tea to break up the time of waiting in the Sports Club lounge. People were starting to come in - some waiting to begin their activities, some sweatily glowing from their exertions.

A lady dressed all in black, save for the flash of colour given by her red scarf, came in and took a seat about three tables away from me. I smiled and said, “"Good Morning". She hesitated for a second as though considering whether she should reply and then smiled tentatively , repeating my greeting. An intuitive sense told me that this woman was
trapped in grief - I could feel it like a leaden weight around my heart. I trusted my instinct and I opened up a conversation with the traditional British obsession for discussing the weather. In a few minutes I had invited her to join me. At first she said no but she also followed an impulse and joined me. Within minutes, I knew that the second anniversary of her husband's death was in a few days time. Married for 49 years, he had been 76 when he died from a sudden onset ,very aggressive cancer. The specialist had said he had no more than six months but he wanted more time with his family and together they paid a high price to purchase an extra ten months.

I told her that I had watched a friend die of the same cancer and I knew how hard it was to see this happen to someone you love. In sharing this with her, it was as though she could allow all the sadness she had been holding back to flood out. In the end she had prayed for him to die, for the suffering to be over and in turn I opened my heart and revealed the memory of times when I screamed at heaven and demanded that same release. We understood one another.

Their marriage had been very happy, blessed with children, now grown up, married with their own children, and successful in their professions. Unfortunately they had all moved to distant places and the nearest lived over 200 miles away. They were loving and supportive, visiting her regularly but she had turned down their invitations to spend Christmas with them because the weather might make it difficult to travel. Again that intuitive sense told me otherwise. I smiled and suggested that Christmas is most precious when we are where our memories are most vivid, those memories that keep our loved ones alive for us. She admitted that this was indeed the real reason she had chosen to be on her own in the home they had shared. She wanted to be alone with the memories of the life they had shared.

I was just about to ask her if she had sensed her husband's presence with her when she looked at me as though reading me. Then she said, "I feel him with me when I am at home. I don't tell people about it in case they think I am mad. Does that sound strange?" I laughed and told her that if she was mad, then she was not alone. We talked about our experiences with this sense of the presence of a loved one and then it happened.

We were both enveloped in a blanket of beautiful warm loving energy that filled us with a quiet joy. With every sense of body, mind and soul, we knew he was with us; we felt his essence touch us and her sadness lifted, leaving peace in its place. We had shared something special together and she was clearly moved and grateful but I also received a blessing from our encounter. I received the gift of another human being's pain, the gift of trust from a stranger and the gift of bringing some healing where needed.

I could have sat in my safe cocoon , sipping my tea, reading a book and ignoring the human beings set in my path that morning, grumbling about the lateness of my friend, but I chose to seek connection, to smile and to respond to the intuitive sense that we are all gifted with. I chose to step out into the world and bring my gift with me. The Universe moved and gave me an experience which made my soul sing, an opportunity to stretch my wings and fly. In my flight, I lifted a wounded spirit out of her sadness and we connected soul to soul.

So who will you gift your smile to today?

Whose life will you touch in giving them permission to share?

After all, a smile is an invitation.

Invite someone in today and your gift to them will be the universe's gift to you .

Author's Bio: 

Maria Stepek Doherty
Catalyst for Change
Maria Stepek Doherty is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist with advanced qualifications in EFT and NLP. She trained as a Positive Psychology and MindStore Life Coach.
Her practice, "A Change In Mind" is the meeting place of coaching and therapy in a compassionate and empathetic blend of corporate executive experience, therapeutic excellence and coaching skills.

Maria ended her 25 year career in Retail Management as the Board Director responsible for company wide HR practices, training and development from shop floor to the most senior Board members. She was highly innovative bringing in visualisation techniques, meditation, in house counselling, staff consultation and policy creation groups. She also participated in the Family Business Network based at Caledonia University.

She has a particular interest in helping others through their grief and also those who are confronted by life limiting illness. She is a survivor of renal cell carcinoma.