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Listen to an excerpt from The Descent of Man read by Kevin Desinger:

Excerpt from Chapter 8

It’s probably more telling than I can appreciate, but what helped me get through the difficult night of our miscarriage was a remark made to me by an elderly woman in the waiting room while Marla was in surgery. This woman was sitting across from me, reading a magazine. She looked up with a sad smile and said, “It happens.”

Those were the words I needed to hear. They may have been the only words I could hear. They were as comforting as a hug, and, as they sank in, something in me relaxed. Either I let go of an emotion that had been crippling me or a tension faded on its own. I suspect that we as a species don’t want our individual sufferings to be unique.

I hope I thanked her, but I don’t think I did. I may have nodded. I know I didn’t consider the sense of her words at the time, or what she had seen in me that prompted her to offer them. I don’t believe she had overheard anything between Marla and me, or between the staff and us. Sometimes I think that the only way humanity can tolerate itself is by exercising its ability to empathize. Empathy is one way humanity renews its membership with itself.
Which makes me wonder now, with the benefit of distance and perspective, if what I felt from the elderly woman’s words was a communal comfort, a sense that we might not be alone in this world, that even strangers can share, and thereby ease, grief.