No Words Necessary When Two Hearts Understand Losing a Child
I drove to the cemetery after work yesterday. As I pulled into the road nearest Tom’s spot, I saw a gigantic bouquet of birthday balloons on one of his neighboring graves. I have never seen so many balloons at a cemetery before. As I walked past it, I felt that combination of joy and sadness you feel when someone has been so lovingly remembered in their absence. I walked to Tom’s grave and sat in front of the headstone like I always do. As I sat down, I looked up at the stone and saw Tom’s half smile on the ceramic picture we chose to honor him. Instead of immediately crying, I smiled back at him. There was a joyous moment before the tears started.
I spent maybe 10 minutes there. A few people came and went from the decorative celebration nearby. As I stood up to leave, I saw a woman, maybe my age, and a young girl, maybe 8 years old. I asked if they were there to visit someone special. The mother put on that awkward smile and nodded her head which made me realize she did not understand me; she did not speak English well. I looked at her daughter for assistance who translated my question to her mother. The mother explained she was coming to see whose grave had all the balloons. Then, through her daughter, she asked me who I was visiting. In my very broken Spanish, I said, “Mi hijo.” She looked shocked and took my hand. It was apparent she wanted me to show her who I meant.
We walked hand in hand a few plots up to my son. She exclaimed, “Oh, Dios mio!” Oh my God! Although I could not understand her every word, I understood her heart. She was very sorry for our loss and felt sad for us. She hugged me as I started sobbing at her kindness. She continued speaking while her daughter translated. First, her son, Jose Chico, shared a birthday with my son, so they were exactly the same age. Her son graduated this year, in Tom’s class, and knew Tom. When Tom died, Jose told her that Tom was a good person. He was always kind to everyone and never caused problems for people.
As we continued to speak through her daughter, she told me where she lived. We realized we live just a few blocks apart and our sons (my two and her two step-sons) used to be best friends. Tim and Tom used to skateboard to her house and ask for her boys to come over and play. Her boys played at our house, on our trampoline and in our pool years ago before they moved away to live with their mother in a neighboring town. They spent many nights in our family room, sprawled out on the futon together while our boys slept on the couch. My husband and I cooked dinners and breakfasts for all four of them for a number of summers. They spent countless hours playing Mario Smash Bros together.
This realization made us both cry all over again. She talked of knowing we were good parents and that our boys were good children. Before we separated, she told me Tom does not want me to be sad. He is an “angelito” little angel, watching over us now. She said things I needed to hear, and she was confident in her words, it was like my son was speaking through her.
As we got ready to part, she told me she lost a son to miscarriage at three months, and how much worse my loss was. I explained we both suffered loss, they were just different. She told me whenever I am sad, I can come to her house (she repeated the address to be sure I knew it), and hugged me one last time. She promised she would find an interpreter for us if I visited.
My husband saw me at the cemetery and drove up to the top of the hill which overlooks Tom’s grave. He took a picture of me and this woman and posted it on Facebook saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Although there was a tremendous language barrier during our conversation, neither of us needed words to express how we felt. The connection between two women who both lost something so precious goes beyond words.
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Thinkstock image by Zuberka