Today, my heart is heavy.
A back story:
Ten years ago a complete stranger showed me a random act of kindness that still leaves me in awe to this day. I was your typical broke college student who found myself in a situation where my current lease was ending several weeks before my new apartment would be ready. I was in summer school, working almost full-time hours, and had two cats in my care. I had friends willing to let me couch-surf for a few weeks, but I had no idea what to do with my cats. I had a lot going on, and to anyone on the outside looking in, I probably didn’t need the extra responsibility of not just one, but two pets. And to this I wouldn’t disagree. But, for what it’s worth, I hadn’t obtained my pets irresponsibly and without proper forethought and planning. It so happened that they came into my care quite suddenly from a pregnant co-worker. I hadn’t intended to keep them, but such as it was, they ending up staying with me and I now have very fond and loving memories of the many years following that we shared. At that present time of being in between apartments, however, it sure didn’t seem as if I would have a future with them, but rather that I may soon have to find them a new home or give them up. On a whim, I posted a Craigslist ad imploring if there was anyone that could temporarily shelter them and promising as payment what meager funds I could spare. I didn’t have to wait long for a reply. An angel quickly wrote back that she would be happy to help.
A few days later I packed up my skittish kitties and all their food and gear and drove to the angel’s house. This lady didn’t know me from Adam, yet she and her 11-year-old daughter greeted me warmly at the door and invited me into their home. And for approximately the next month she housed my two fur babies. She would email me once or twice a week with updates and pics. I returned to the house 2-3 times during their stay to bring fresh food and supplies. It was during these visits that her daughter would sit and talk with me while we played with the kitties on the floor. And each time before leaving, Angel would steadfastly refuse whatever payment that I would try to give to her.
At month’s end, I had finally settled in to my new place and came to retrieve my cats as promised. My angel helped me walk everything out to the car, I thanked her profusely again, and handed to her a what she believed to be a thank- you card (which it was, it just also included a small monetary token of appreciation that I had managed to scrape together, and to which I knew she would have again refused if I had tried outright to give it to her. ) I remember she gave me a big hug, saying again how glad she was that she had been able to help. And then we departed.
That was the last time that I’ve ever been blessed enough to be in her physical presence. A year or two later, we found each other on Facebook and I recall then a short swap of personal messages exchanging greetings and updates on our lives and filling her in on the cats’ current well-being. Since then, we’ve not been in any frequent, personal contact but over the years we have remained Facebook friends with the occasional “likes” of one another’s pics that tells you someone at least still remembers who you are. At least, I think she does. Sometimes I wonder if maybe she doesn’t specifically remember me as its’s been years since we’ve shared any personal and direct messages. She shares a lot of public posts on Facebook as she is now courageously battling and blogging about lupus. I follow and read and every so often will send messages of prayers, love, and encouragement. Maybe she sees my likes and occasional comments and thinks it’s just from some random blog reader. But no matter, the point is that I certainly remember her. And every so often, particularly when her name and posts show up in my feed, I am reminded of her extreme kindness to me. I worry about her when she posts that she’s not feeling well, and it’s always nice to see a post of her smiling and enjoying her life and family even on days when its clear she’s still not at her best.
Within the past year, I’ve been following her updates and statuses even more frequently once she announced that her daughter, the sweet little girl that happily cared for my cats and chatted me up when I would visit, was now expecting a child of her own. Angel was ecstatic over becoming a grandmother and her posts showed it. Her excitement was contagious and it was so cute to watch her happiness and anticipation unfolding over the course of her daughter’s pregnancy.
A little over four months ago, due to preeclampsia complications, her daughter had to deliver her grandson very prematurely. It has been an extremely precarious situation ever since. Her grandson has had many varied medical issues that have repeatedly threatened his life. It has been nerve-racking sometimes to see her name pop in my feed; I would always pray before reading, please don’t let her say something happened to her grandson. Please let him be ok. But he wasn’t always ok. To make matters worse, her daughter had an extremely hard recovery and Angel herself ended up in the same hospital a time or two for lupus flare ups and complications, no doubt in response to the strain, stress, and worry over her family’s situation. But that baby, no matter what, always pulled through.
Angel’s daughter began to recover and get stronger every day as well. Angel also mended enough for release. And I nearly jumped for joy when she posted just two weeks ago that after four long, ardous months fraught with worry, her sweet grandson was finally going home! She has (understandably) been a bit quiet on Facebook since then, eventually resurfacing all of two days ago, on the morning of this past Tuesday the 4th of July, to inform that they are all adjusting to and enjoying life at home with baby. She shared the sweetest batch of pictures of new baby at home snuggling with Mommy, and some with her. I was at home on the couch, enjoying the holiday off with family and friends when I saw the pics early in the afternoon. My heart instantly melted to see a beaming Gigi Angel in all her grandmom glory, her pride and happiness literally radiating from the pictures. I was so moved I went beyond my usual standard “like” and left an actual comment of how stinking precious those pics were and how I was just so happy for them all.
At the time that I left that comment around 2pm, just hours after she had posted those joyful pics, her daughter lay down to rest and never woke up. Not the baby, not Angel, but completely, unexpectedly her daughter. A beautiful, young, new first-time mom that had just brought her sweet preemie baby home. I was still at work when I first saw the words fill my screen and my heart simply dropped.
I didn’t even have a moment to excuse myself before immediately bursting into tears while on a call (they expressed concern and thankfully were understanding) And I have been so overcome with grief and emotion since then. I don’t fully understand myself why this is hitting me so hard–other than the fact that it’s terribly sad and that I would imagine any person with half a heart would feel a moment of sorrow upon learning the news. But the way I feel right now though, so broken and helpless, one might assume that I was extremely close to the family, and in truth, I can’t claim that honor. Yet this is hurting me to my core. Maybe its the horrifying thought of a mother losing her child, any parent’s worst nighttmare, that is just completely overwhelming me right now. This stark, harsh reminder of just how quickly things can change in the blink of an eye. To be over the moon elated one moment, and then in the next instant… I can’t fathom the pain and grief they are now experiencing. Knowing that sweet baby no longer has his mother, a mother who was by his side every moment and worked so hard to bring her baby home. Knowing how ecstatic Angel was to be a new Gigi, but still, a grandmother, not to 100% fill the shoes of primary mothering. But I know she will now lovingly take those reins and cherish this baby with every ounce of her being, yet still, she is not completely well herself. It is just a devastating and heartbreaking situation to wrap ones mind around.
I couldn’t sleep last night. I just couldn’t stop looking through the sweet, beautiful pictures of this lovely young mother and her dear tiny baby and reading through the heartfelt and moving tributes being posted from friends and family. Wondering if the initial death announcement had yet been published, I took to the web for a quick search. And in doing so, I inadvertently pulled up an obit for someone else, a girl with the same first name that passed away all of two weeks ago in a neighboring town. And this girl, my god, was just thirteen. A link to her story brought me to her mother’s anguished posts over her baby girl’s suicide behind alleged bullying. Post after post, picture after picture, the mother’s heartrending, unconstrained grief was so raw, so honest, so angry, and so breathtakingly sad and painful…My heart ached as I read every line. I don’t know at what point I eventually sobbed myself to sleep.
This morning, I woke up still sad. Needing to try to process these intense emotions, I just started to write. I realize this post has been long and meandering and maybe a bit noncohesive. If you’ve made it this far, then I thank you for reading and I apologize that I don’t even know where it is that I’m going with this or even what point it is that I’m trying to make. I guess I just wanted to share a personal story of a stranger’s kindness. You never know just how much of an effect you can have on someone to the point that a decade later they still reflect in awe and appreciation of your actions.
This woman has touched me and I feel deeply for what has transpired. I would ask for anyone that is reading this to maybe say a prayer tonight for this family and/or keep them in your thoughts. And to also give thanks for and hug your own loved ones tonight (and everyday) as well. And maybe, in memory of and out of respect also for that dearly departed thirteen-year old girl, we can all try to be a little more kind to one another, a little more selfless, and show a little more love. Much like Angel and her sweet daughter did for me.