Last week, as my dog, Jubi, and I were walking past a pre-school a few blocks from our home, a woman was standing nearby holding an infant in her arms. Our eyes met. We hesitated, paused, and looked at each other as if to say, “Do I know you?”
Then in a flash of recognition, we smiled, recalling the touching moment that first brought us together. The woman had been pregnant with the baby she was now carrying, and had been walking near my house with her other daughter, then about three years old.
It was 11 months ago – June 2013. I’d been sitting alone in the bedroom where my mother had passed away peacefully after a brief illness two weeks earlier. Tears were streaming down my face.
The night before, it had rained – an unusual summer occurrence in Northern California – and the sun had just broken through the clouds, drawing my attention outward. In hopes of comfort, I called to Jubi, “Come, let’s go for a little walk.”
We stepped outside. There was a cry … then a wail. What was the sound? Where was it coming from? We turned the corner. A mother and child were walking in our direction. The little girl was desperately reaching up and grasping at her mother to no avail. We drew nearer. The woman was pregnant, unable to pick up her crying child, who then tried to climb on top of her mom’s shoes. I smiled, remembering how I loved to balance on my dad’s shoes, my feet rising up and down with his, as he walked.
Sensing a need, I asked if we could help. “She’s afraid of the snails!” Mom said, with a twinkle in her eyes. Sure enough! Snails were crisscrossing the moist sidewalk from one grassy plot to another, leaving trails of ooze in their wake.
Mom said her family lived five blocks away, and she wanted to call her husband to pick them up, but had left her cell phone at home. “Here, use mine!” I offered. She dialed. Dad was at work, and couldn’t leave.
“My car is right here, how about if I drive you both home!” But that was out of the question, since I had no child seat. ‘Jubi!’ I thought, a full-proof solution. Our gentle white fluff ball had quieted many upset children through the years – surely she’d provide a tantalizing distraction.
“Would you like to pet Jubi?” I asked the child. “NO!” was the resounding response, followed by an inconsolable howl.
With no answer in sight after all, I instinctively knelt down beside her. Then an inner whisper, “Be still … and listen.” As is often the urge in moments of distress, I mentally reached out to the Divine with childlike trust. A feeling of compassion welled up, and a knowing that no matter what, we were all loved and cared for.
“Would you like to climb on my shoulders and go for a ride?” I heard myself say. The child hesitated, then reached for my outstretched hands. I hoisted her up. High above the sidewalk she settled in, and off we strode with Jubi in tow.
Mom and I chatted and laughed as we ducked under low-hanging branches sparkling with raindrops. The family was from Turkey, and Mom was earning her PhD at the nearby university. She was looking forward to the arrival of her own mother who was flying in from Turkey the next day to help with the delivery of their second child.
Four blocks into our trek, my shoulders began to sag. But confident that we were in good hands, I said, “Would you like to climb down and take Jubi’s leash?” With a jerk of her knees that signaled “yes,” she slid off, and led Jubi toward her home. When we arrived, Mom and I hugged. I wished her well.
Fast forward to last week, when we bumped into each other again. I congratulated her on her infant, and realized her older child was attending the pre-school – the girl I’d carried on my shoulders. As we recalled the day of our adventure, with a grin she said, “My daughter’s not afraid of snails anymore!”
I laughed, and breathed a silent thank you. I was glad for the child. And I was moved – this time to joyful tears – as I recalled that heartfelt experience, which at the time brought with it something surprising … and healing. A feeling that my mother’s love was still with me.
The qualities of my mom that I treasure, especially her generosity – her sensitivity toward other people’s needs, and her freely giving of herself – had been the very qualities that enveloped me that day. By the time Jubi and I had reached home, my shoulders were back to normal, the sun was shining brightly, and for the first time since Mom’s passing, I’d felt hope. I knew that as I lived the qualities that I and so many other people cherish in my mom, I would always feel the presence of her love.