One of my favorite movies of all time is "The American President." In this 1995 film, Michael Douglas plays the star role of President Andrew Shepherd. President Shepherd is an extraordinarily popular president with very high public opinion polls. He is also a widower who is ready to start dating again. His attention is captured by a lobbyist named Sydney Ellen Wade. The two start to date, and the president's friends and family have a variety of opinions to offer the moment the president starts seeing this woman. Lucy, the president's daughter, also has advice to offer. One evening, the president is about to go out on a date and Lucy informs her father that he should compliment Sydney on her shoes. "Tell her you like her shoes. Girls love that stuff."
My friend, Tracy, loved shoes. She had amazing shoes. She had plaid pumps and the newest open-toed shoes. She had strappy sandals and shoes with very high heels. She had the latest fad shoes and she had classy, timeless shoes. She had tennis shoes and running shoes. She had a lot of shoes. She clearly loved the ability of shoes to add one more detail to her finished look.
However, I never recall looking at Tracy's shoes. I never remember walking down the street with her saying, "What great shoes." I do not recall ever complimenting on her shoes. I did not even know that Tracy had big feet like me - with her feet being a size 10 and mine being a size 11. Of course, the majority of the time I was with Tracy was on the weekend or at church where there was no need to "pull out all the stops." Still, I had no idea how many times she must have thought, 'These are great shoes," or heard the words, "I love your shoes," until the shoes were in a box in Tracy's apartment, ready to be loaded into her mother's car. I had no idea until it was too late.
At Tracy's memorial service, one of her friends who spoke shared how she had selected her outfit for that day because she knew that Tracy would have approved of her dress and her shoes. This friend expressed how Tracy had one day told her that she needed to wear higher heals to make her legs look not so short. Tracy noticed details all the time. And in Tracy's absence, I have realized how often I miss the small details.
One of the many marks Tracy's life now has on mine is to try to notice the small things and to do the little things that make a big difference. I am trying to write more notes to friends - notes that tell them how much I appreciate them. I have picked up the phone to call people more often, just to say "hello." I have met friends for lunch, coffee, or Happy Hour more in the last few weeks than I have in the last year. I am trying to make time for more people in my life.
Tracy has been gone over two months now. I have presided over dozens of funerals and memorial services before, and I cannot remember the specific day on which any of them died - I can only remember the month or the season of the year. Yet, I am not sure I'll ever forget July 31 - the day Tracy died - or her smile or her organized apartment or her shoes piled into a box.
Compliment someone on their shoes today. Women love that stuff.