Spoke with my Mom today. We talked about everyday things. Which might normally mean nothing in particular. But every family has their stuff. Their struggles. Their small but poignant personal tragedies. None of it matters in the grand scheme of things. A speck in the vast cosmos of Creation.
She was in her thirties when she lost her oldest son. He was 12, one month away from his 13th birthday. It was July 4th when the “bomb in the brain” went off. Something closely similar to an aneurysm. A tangle of blood vessels waiting to burst. He passed on four days later.
She, as well as her husband, was responsible to two other kids. One 11, one 10. No time to mourne excessively. There was swimming practice to get to in the morning, softball and baseball practices to get to as well. Camping trips and visits to the Jersey Shore. Because normalcy had to be restored. Bills had to be paid, challenges had to be met. Life goes on, and the world doesn’t stop spinning.
So she gathered her deceased son’s belongings. Memorabilia to be packed away. His infant cup, his baptismal gown, his baseball uniform and glove, his baseball card collection. On and on. Amazing how much stuff we acquire over the course of even the shortest of lives.
It’s a confusing time. Death. All things are thrown into a different light. But the world doesn’t stop spinning and life continues to move forward. And in the rush of daily life things get less than the desired attention. So some of her deceased son’s belongings got labeled as donation and were given to a local charity. His infant cup and other personal effects. Irreplaceable and momentary. The little and only evidence that he was here.
So in a momentary lapse of attention, the precious items were gone. And she was lost. In grief. An all too new grief. Caused by her lack of attention. Her brief moment of inattention. She was inconsolable. She was alone. His death was not her fault, but her inattentiveness to his worldly possessions, his worldly reminders, was perhaps inexcusable.
Enter Mrs. Edgett. She had suffered the loss of her own son, 8 years old, some time ago. There was no one else that could understand. Not even my mom’s own mother. Who else could understand, who else could pass judgment, could excuse such inattentiveness, could recognize the new tragedy that had occurred. (If you haven’t been through it, you haven’t been through it. Yes, you can sympathize. But, still, you haven’t been through it. You just don’t know.)
A random, desperate phone call. Mrs. Edgett wasted no time. Unintelligible sobs told Mrs. Edgett that this was not a conversation that could take place over a wire. She and my mother were not close friends. They were members of a tragic sorority who understood an incommunicable experience.
So Mrs. Edgett hung up the phone. Travelled immediately to my mother’s house. Sat beside her. And simply and gently stroked her back, stayed by her side, and let her know that she was not alone, that she was not to blame.
I only learned of this recently during a random phone call. It’s amazing the stories we each have to tell. More importantly, that we each have the opportunity to witness. Once learned, to which we each have to testify. To say, in the simplest of terms, that this did happen, that this did matter. If not on a grand scale for all to view and validate, then on the precious personal level to receive, respect, and recall in a simple, small effort to affirm the heightened value of each human experience.