One little conversation
We were sitting outside a beach town bakery, our last day of our family holiday. An old man with a walking frame ever so slowly approached us, his newspaper folded under his arm. He stood over our table looking at the three kids, each of them tucking into a sausage roll while my husband and I enjoyed a few moments of quiet as they ate. I looked up at him and smiled. He nodded and asked how old the kids were. The gleam in his eyes revealed his love of children, and watching mine as they ate brought a smile to his face. "Keep them close," he said. At first I thought he meant their relationship - to make sure they would have a strong bond that would keep them close to each other. Perhaps his own kids had become estranged? Then he said, "I had five kids". And that's when I realised where the conversation was going. You see, he used the word 'had'. He had five kids. Just like I had four kids. I understood now what he meant. 'Keep them close' was a sentiment I knew all too well.
"Two of my kids died," he continued. I instantly felt my heart sink a little lower and beat a little faster. How was it that this man chose us to chat to? Was this a coincidence or were we somehow drawn together? Before I'd even had a chance to attend to these thoughts I heard myself ask him their names. If I've learnt anything in my first year as a bereaved parent, its that hearing and saying your child's name is music to a broken heart.
If I've learnt anything in my first year as a bereaved parent, its that hearing and saying your child's name is music to a broken heart.
He shared their names and I asked him more about them. Two precious boys, 4 and 6, killed by a drunk driver while they were playing on a playground. I felt myself becoming overwhelmed by his story. How do you survive losing two children like that? Two children — who were living, breathing, laughing, screaming, adventure seeking, full of life children one day then so tragically and irreparably taken away the next. How do you live without them? And yet here he was, at the age he was, still living without them. Still saying their names. Still sharing their story. Still remembering them. Still their dad. Still — after some 50 plus years without them.
You see, ever since Nora passed away I've found myself wondering what the rest of my life will feel like. Will I always miss her this much? I assume I will. Will my memory of her always be this strong? I hope so. Will the pain hurt less? No I don't think so, but I think life will grow around it. Will the longing be more? Yes, I expect sometimes it will. Will I still tell people about her in 10 years? 20 years? 50 years? Yes! Thanks to this one little conversation with this man — a forever father of 5 — I now know I will.