“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a phrase I have heard many times. Yet I never dreamed of the different ways that beauty could reveal itself.
A few years ago, my husband and I were invited to a friend’s 70th birthday celebration in Spokane. I thought it would be fun to take a long autumn weekend to see her and her family. It had been a while since we’d been to the east side of the state.
We checked in at our hotel and stopped to eat at an Applebee’s. We were waiting to be seated when a polite man came up and said to my husband, “I apologize for disturbing you, but I can’t believe how much you resemble my father! When I saw you sitting there, I caught my breath and did a double take!”
We exchanged last names, thinking we might be related. No, our names were different. He wished he had a picture of his father to show us. He told us his father had died recently. “Do you mind if I go back to our table and bring my mother to see you? We’re done eating and about to leave.”
He returned with a frail, elderly woman. Her hand went up to her chest as she gasped, “Oh, he does look like him!” We talked a bit more and shook hands before they left.
I could not believe how coincidental the meeting had been. I could tell the man and his mother were deeply touched. “They say everybody has a double,” my husband remarked after we were seated, and continued reading his menu.
We were surprised when the man returned and slapped a $50 bill on our table. “You have made our day! My mother is sitting in the car weeping for joy! She’s had a hard time these last couple of months since Dad died. I’m her main caregiver and it’s been hard on me, too. Please let me pay for your dinner. She believes this is a sign.”
Who knows what forces are at work to guide our lives? Maybe she thought her husband had reached out from heaven to give her comfort through the resemblance? Maybe he died suddenly and there was no time to say goodbye? That made sense to me — my grandfather died suddenly when I was 11, and my grandmother was inconsolable. And how I wish I had told my mother I loved her, one last time, before she slipped away.
One can be at the right place at the right time for a stroke of good luck, or at the wrong place at the wrong time for tragedy to strike. I’m glad we played a part in this story. If mother and son were so happy with this chance meeting with a stranger, then that is a beautiful thing.
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