I saw her from a distance and a smile quickly swept across my face. She was conversing with the produce man, and I could tell he was enjoying her. She was adorable. Barely peeking over the front of her cart, a bright yellow cardigan covered up her prominent widow’s hump. I moved in closer to see that she had big, dangly bumblebee earrings that perfectly matched her outfit. Her white hair was perfectly styled to suit her tiny frame, and she had a hint of pink blush and lipstick. She didn’t need it. Her face lit up with personality.

Most of my shopping was done, and she was so intriguing that I decided to stalk her around the store. It didn’t take long to see that she was shopping for one, and the ring on her finger gave away her situation. I wondered; does cooking for one after the loss of a spouse ever become easier? She examined each package, but she didn’t appear to be looking at prices. It was easy to see her husband had taken good care of her both when he was alive and now that he was gone.

Not being able to lift the 24-pack of water bottles, she carefully placed three 8-packs in her cart. She was making healthy choices, but clearly wasn’t depriving herself of treats either. Besides, you never know when someone is going to stop by and need a cookie.

I followed her to the toy section. Purchasing gifts for grandchildren or great-grandchildren no doubt. I pondered over how lucky those kids were. She crossed off a couple of things on her paper list and glanced at her watch. I shadowed her back to the pharmacy. The line was long, but she was resilient. She started up a conversation with the grumpy lady in front of her with two snot-nosed kids.

I stared at her for a long time. Was I the only one noticing her? Was she just a little old lady with a widow’s hump?

My mind wandered. I could imagine somewhere in that frail body was a little girl. A little girl who used to run barefoot in the summer with her siblings and friends. She went to sock hops in high school, where the boys were crazy over her pretty face and fun, happy disposition. One boy was lucky enough to marry her. They headed out into the world together without a penny to their names. They raised a family. Her strong and straight body cooked, cleaned, played, and adventured. She led Bible studies and taught Sunday school. She always had cookies waiting for her kids when they got home from school. She opened up her home to single moms and hurting families. No doubt her shopping cart once looked like mine did that day. Full of food for Sunday gatherings, birthday parties, and holidays. Prizes for Easter baskets, decorations for the 4th of July, heart-shaped paper plates for Valentine’s Day, and candles to make a house feel like home. She was a cheerleader, first for the football team, then for her husband, her children, and eventually her grandchildren. As capable as she was, she fell to her knees many times. She was definitely a prayer warrior.

I decided it was time to talk to this incredible woman. I lifted my teary eyes to see that she was gone. I moved quickly to the check-out lanes to see if I could find her. Sure enough, in aisle eight, I spotted the yellow sweater. I slowly pushed my cart into the lane behind hers. I ever so slightly bumped her cart with mine. She looked up, startled.

I smiled. “Hi, Mom.”