I must be a good listener because people confide in me--A LOT. Standing in elevators, riding on buses, on long airline flights, waiting in doctor offices, you name it, people talk to me. They often tell me things I'd rather not know. I sometimes wonder if I have a tattoo across my forehead that reads, 'Shoulder to Cry on'.
Broad shoulders run in my family. Being raised on a farm, I earned my brawny shoulders the hard way. These shoulders of mine are often wet from the tears of people I know and sometimes from people I have just met while they are drenching my shirt.
Almost 29 years ago when my first son was born, I learned that a child depends upon the shoulder of his mother for comfort. Mom's shoulder can protect them from strangers and scary situations. It's a great place to hide eyes or catch a nap. It is where my nursery and primary children found relief from pain and humiliation and these upper joints where my arms hook to my trunk, have soaked up stuff other than tears on the shoulders of many shirts, jackets, and blouses. I learned to never wear dry-clean-only clothing to church.
I spent a few years as a Young Women's President. That was a period of teenage tears sopping my shoulder. Adolescent angst produces puddles! Girls between 12 and 18 seem habitually in need of an older friend to offer comfort, love, and support.
Currently I am on my second time around as a Ward Relief Society President. Now in my fifth year of serving in this position, I can't tell you how many tears have waterlogged my shoulders. Wide, absorbent shoulders must be a prerequisite for the calling. That is why I've started wearing blazers with shoulder pads. I have been in charge of 23 funerals over the years. That is a lot of cheesy potato casseroles, jello salads, and tears.
My phone rings multiple times a day, my doorbell chimes several times a week announcing people who want to 'chat' about problems. Death, divorce, illness, accidents, job loss, feuds, and various other mishaps are the typical subjects of discussion. Mostly, I don't have advice to offer, solutions to proffer, just these soft shoulders and a hug.
Yesterday, the appeal for a shoulder to cry on came from 3000 miles away, but was closer to my heart than other requests. My daughter, who lives in Baltimore, phoned to say she had experienced a miscarriage and a horrible emergency room episode. Just four days after she and her husband viewed the first ultra sound image of their unborn child and heard its heartbeat, the baby was gone. Dani and Kelly are heartbroken. I've never wanted to be the shoulder to cry on like I did yesterday. How I longed to hold Danielle close and hug her and soak up all her tears. As it was, all I could do was say, "I'm so sorry" and "I love you" over and over.
I think I need a shoulder to cry on.