When I am in the hospital or waiting room, in a place that is often full of nervousness and sadness, I like to look for the ridiculous, or the happy, and then share them with my parents. For example, I look for the "Emergency Exit Only" door that is marked "pull" on the handle. And I look for the children who bring flowers, or yo-yos, or stuffed animals, to their parents in the hospital. This kind of active watching keeps me mentally engaged and a little more emotionally balanced than numbly sitting there, wallowing in my own thoughts.
(This co-worker also had forgotten to bring anything to read, so I gave her my current book and my emergency back-up book out of my car. She was sooooo grateful to have anything at all, and doubly grateful that the current book was short stories, to fit the short attention span issues she has while dealing with her mom.)
On Tuesday night, at that fabulous house-party/cook-out, I had a conversation with a really interesting, kind, and fun woman. Long after I'd settled in to enjoy sitting next to her for dinner, she mentioned that she had lost her husband to cancer a month ago, and that this was her first "real" social event since that loss. I expressed my condolences lightly, and the conversation regained some energy and went onward. We were talking about something else when the natural progression came around to pets, and she told me that she had put her dog to sleep that morning. And she still managed to blink and continue the conversation. She was determined to be a pleasant part of my new-arrival-to-this-group evening, and was not about to let a little thing like the death of her closest partners stop her from being an engaging conversationalist. Wow. I wanted to smoosh-hug her out of gratefulness for her grace and generosity when she had so much reason to take rather than give, that night.