When Just Being There IS Enough

Laura died last Wednesday night.

I wish I could say I knew Laura well. But I don’t know what her favorite food is, or when she got married. I couldn’t tell you if she wanted more children or even if her parents are living. What I do know about Laura is that she was a favorite teacher of many first graders. Her smile rarely left her face and even after her worst bout of chemo she stayed positive.

I also know that she gave my son one of the best gifts of his life ~ her son Fernando. They’ve been best friends since the third grade and even when Michael went to another school, they kept in touch. When Michael decided to return to our district, Fernando was totally psyched.

Fernando is the kind of kid parents love to have stay over. He’s quiet and polite, likes literally everything I cook (even when it’s an experiment and kind of nasty), and he’s pretty darn smart, too.

Five years ago when we first met Laura, she’d just finished with chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. She looked great. Her short spiky hair was super cute on her and that smile, it just radiated happiness and positive vibes. It was easy to believe she’d beaten cancer and would live forever.

But that was only a dream. Laura died last Wednesday night and I didn’t even know about it until the next night when a friend sent me a message on facebook. I was shocked. Not because of her death, but that Michael didn’t tell me.

He didn’t tell me because he didn’t know. Fernando didn’t go to school on Thursday and even though he and Michael were texting back and forth all night, he never said anything.

Fernando’s silence baffled me and I was perplexed how to handle it. After all, Laura and I were not best friends, it was Michael’s friend’s mother who had died. I didn’t know what my role was or how to deal with Fernando’s mourning.

My instinct told me to hold back, to not rush over to his house with toys and food and good intentions. While all I really wanted to do was give him a ginormous hug and tell him how sad I was that his mom was gone, I knew I had to respect his feelings.

He came over Saturday and hung out for a few hours and I was able to give him a small hug, tell him we love him and are here for him if he ever wants to talk and even if he just wants to escape his house for a few hours. Fernando comes from a large Hispanic family and he’s had about 20 people camped out on his couches for the past few days. There was music and food and a lot of praying. For a thirteen year-old, that can be overwhelming. If we can offer a refuge where he can just be a kid and have some semblance of normal, then that’s what we’ll do.

Even though I didn’t know Laura all that well, I think of her often these days. At odd moments I find myself crying for her loss. All the small moments we take for granted, she’ll never have again. I woke Michael up for school Friday morning with a big snuggle and thought how awful it was that Fernando would never get to be woken up like that ever again. Even when Michael is angry at me, at least he’ll have his mom around to argue with. My heart aches for all the times Fernando and his little sister won’t have Laura there to share a moment, be it large or small, like a snuggle before bed.

Laura had cancer for a long time, but it never stopped her from living. Each morning when I wake up and think of what I’m grateful for, I’m going to remember Laura and her beautiful smile.

As for Fernando, we’ll be here for him. Always.

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31 thoughts on “When Just Being There IS Enough

  1. Tameri, thanks for sharing Laura’s message. “Laura had cancer for a long time, but it never stopped her from living” I’ll keep your Michael and your Fernando in my thoughts and prayers. Big ginormous ( love that Tameri word! ) HUGS to you girlfriend:) You are one heck of a great Mom.

  2. What a beautiful post and important message! Laura sounds like she is a tremendous inspiration to all of us to live life large. And I have no doubt your warm, open arms and welcoming home will make all the difference to Fernando. I agree, sometimes just being there IS enough! YOU rock!! HUGS!!!

    • Yep. Just hold him and let him know he’s loved and that his mom was very loved. Someday he’ll see how much she was an inspiration to so many people and I know he’ll be proud. Thanks for stopping in, Tamika.

  3. A friend of mine lost her mother over the spring, and it was a huge shock to her whole family. I’d only met her mother once or twice, but I went to the funeral for my friend’s sake. When I walked in, the look of relief on her face was intense, and she hugged me and said that out of all the 50 people there so far, I was the only one besides her immediate family that she actually knew.

    Just being there absolutely is enough quite often. Being compassionate is one of our greatest strengths *hug*.

  4. Poor kiddo. A friend of ours just lost his younger sister (don’t know the specifics), and he and his wife are bringing their two teenagers to California from Denver to live with them. I wish them nerves of steel and hearts of velvet. It’s never easy to navigate someone else’s grief, especially a child’s. I think you got it right, to let him know you’re there, but not steamroller him with sympathy.

    • Oh, Gayle, I love love love that phrase ‘nerves of steel and hearts of velvet’. That is so lovely and so perfect. I wish your friend all the best, he’s got a heart the size of heaven, that one.

      It’s never easy and I don’t think time does heal all wounds, but a kind word or quiet hug can ease the pain a little. Thanks for commenting.

  5. I think the fact that you are remembering her as a gift to her and to her son. It’s all we can hope for, I guess, that we touch other’s lives enough to be remembered. And that’s all we, the living, can do…just remember and be there to give hugs.

    • Thanks Shannon. You’re so right ~ remembering Laura and all her goodness is such a great gift we can give to her son as well. Someday, when he’s not overwhelmed with everything, I hope he sees how amazing his mom was and what she gave so many people. And I hope it helps to ease his sorrow.

    • Thanks Angela. I know, that’s what gets me all choked up. Simple moments in the day, when I hug Michael or make him dinner, little things that I’ll suddenly think, ‘Fernando will never get this from his mom again’. It has made me really appreciate those spontaneous hugs from my son.

    • You know, Jennifer, I think she did. She was so incredibly loved by everyone at her school and at her church, that I’m sure she knew her kids would feel that love as well. I love thinking this, thank you.

  6. This is absolutely beautiful Tameri. You have a heart of gold. God bless you for all that you do and the support you show towards others. Just being there is all you can do right now. He’ll let you know, when and if he is ready for more. That poor boy. Hugs to you all.

    • Aw, Debra, thank so much. Yep, if and when he’s ready, then I’ll be here. And if he’s never ready for more, then at least I can provide him with whatever he needs, even if that means silence. I might have to break down and give him that ginormous hug, though. Silence and no hugging is just way too much to ask of me. ; ) Darn it, your sweet words made me cry. Again.

  7. My sons were 12 and 13 when their father, Peter, died of pancreatic cancer. The moment is etched in our souls forever. It has been 23 years now (as of last week) and those heartbroken boys are fine young men with children of their own. Life has been good to all of us and Peter’s memory lives in our hearts, often guiding us. Tears come quickly at the mention of his name. The friendship and love you and your family offer Fernando now and in the years to come will be appreciated more than you will ever know. And you are right, it’s a loss like Laura’s that causes us to stop and remember to be grateful. Every. Single. Day.

    • Oh, Patricia, that just shatters me. Your love for Peter still shines through, even 23 years later. Knowing that your sons grew past their pain and went on to live fine lives gives me a sense of comfort.

      Thank you for sharing this. I know it was painful for you, but I so appreciate your candor and comforting words.

  8. You all never cease to amaze me with your love and support. I read these comments off and on throughout the day and each time would end up crying at your kindness.

    You honor me with your compassion and in so doing, you honor Laura. Thank you a thousand times over.

    xoxoxo, tameri…
    Mwuah! and ginormous hugs to you all!

  9. What a sad, but heartwarming story. You’re right, sometimes just being there for someone is all they need.

  10. I’m lighting a candle for Laura the moment I post this comment. Thank you for sharing this touching story, Tameri… May we all count our blessings, love our loved ones out loud and cherish every day, no matter what happens. Michael and Fernando are both so blessed to have you in their lives. Your being there is lots more than enough!

    • August, that’s so thoughtful of you. Thank you so much for your kind words as well. I like to think I’m pretty lucky to have them in my life as well. ; ) Indeed, may we count our blessing each day!

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