Her name was Elena, a kindly but frail older woman in the neighborhood. She often had a small little boy with her. He was a rowdy one, a screamer, strong-willed, curiously independent and hyper-sensitive. Whenever I would see them together, I thought, what a curious pair, a sweet, kindly fragile grandmother with her rowdy rambunctious grandchild.
As my son got old enough we began to take him to the community playground. There we got to know more of the young children and families in our community. One of the community mainstays at the playground was Elena and her boy. Over time I learned, she was NOT his grandmother, but in fact his mother. She had adopted him very young, same age as my son, smaller, some special needs but the happiest sweetest kid. I chalked up his good nature and kind heart to all of the love and care he received from his mommy. Whom the more I got to know of, the more my heart was touched by their story.
Here was this fragile older woman, all alone, who willingly chose to take on the responsibility of parenting a young child with special needs, despite her own needs and circumstances.
As I watched them over time in the neighborhood, him being mischievous as most young boys are, her slowly chasing after him or pleading with him, correcting his ways; I came to admire her true strength. The strength and fortitude it takes to be a single mom, by choice, to give love and all of yourself to another in need, to put another’s needs – special or otherwise- ahead of your own when your own personal needs seem so great. I truly admired and respected this kindly woman, although I never told her.
In time our bonds continued to grow, those generic communal recognitions turning into community brothers in arms as our kids became friends. the various families with small kids in our community, all contributing and lending a helping hand in helping to guide all the kids in some way or another.
I began to see how it truly ‘takes a village’ to raise kids, and this kindly woman was a lynchpin in my community, to providing that village feel. She would help guide my son if ever I wasn’t looking or wasn’t around, and I’d do the same. As is the case with all the small kids and the families here, a model she definitely helped start. A standard that I am grateful to have and be part, for the sake of my own little one and the other kids here.
Today that kindly older woman passed away. Alone, just her and her boy. At the tender age of 5, this lil one, with his hypersensitivity and overexcited ways, had to discover the only person he’s ever known as a mother, dead. He was forced to go outside, find neighbors, and plead for help.
I can only imagine how painful and traumatic that is and will be for him in the years to come. I can only imagine the pain she must’ve felt, not just in dying, but in the knowledge that she was leaving behind her small helpless child. I imagine when she adopted him, her dream was to see him grow into a full solid man, owning his power and worth, being his best self despite any obstacles. The last thing she or anyone else would wish is to leave their child – or loved ones in general – prematurely.
Today my heart aches for the loss of a kindly woman – mother, although, I know she isn’t really gone as the passing of the flesh is not the end all of everything. However, I mourn the loss of a mother, for a small child still in need. I mourn any further hardship and difficulty he may have to face. I mourn for a missing piece of value to this community, a presence that provides a guiding light for other parents like myself.
So unable to do much else, I write this piece to express my feelings, my gratitude towards her, towards them; just for knowing them, the experiences we shared, the lessons I’ve learned just watching them. I am forever grateful, and you will be missed.
May you rest in peace Elena. Love, light and my heart go out to your son. May he be blessed and guided well in the years to come ❤