The Other Mother

April 2023 Love Note: I first published this story 5 years ago, 5 years into my journey of being a grieving mother. I am now counting down the days until May 5th, Sage’s earthbound 21st birthday, and the marker of my heart and a mother’s lessons of 21 years. In my dreams, I have been visiting the past, and in my waking hours, I daydream of what is to come with the love story of my son and me. And, then in odd moments it is not my heart I think of or feel, it is the heart of all mothers,

When Sage was 3 I went back to school to study Massage Therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine. To get certified and insured I needed to complete CPR training. As I sat in the workshop for two days (mostly bored!) my imagination played the game of possibility. When would I be called upon to perform CPR? When would I be the savior, the healer on site? Who would I save with my new magical CPR skills?

Thankful that the weekend workshop was over I moved back into my world and the imaginary stories of ‘Deb the Saviour’ slipped away. Four days later I was driving to my Kinesiology class, a class I loved but found very challenging. My mind was on meridians and trigger points when I noticed a commotion on the other side of the very busy two-lane road. As I passed I saw three men, two stopped cars, and a sense of something very wrong on the road. The road divide opened and I, without thinking, turned my car around. Once parked I ran towards the men to discover that they were all towering over a young boy – a boy the same age as Sage. The boy was bleeding, not moving, and had very obviously been hit by a car. The men were stunned and not acting or moving.

“Who knows CPR?” I asked. They all shook their heads in unison. And so it was clear, it was up to me. I ordered the men to call an ambulance and to close the road. They shifted from frozen and moved to task, leaving me with the boy. As I knelt to the boy the blood was what I noticed. It was not flowing. He was not breathing. He was still, as still as death. There was no pulse and blood covered his mouth and nose. It was clear that he was gone. Perhaps a blessing as I knew he was not in pain.

In the course days before we were taught you perform CPR until the ambulance arrives so I began. His face was too badly broken to offer my breath but I found the place over his chest that housed his heart and I began compressions. As I pulsed my hands I prayed to his little soul and called upon angels to be with him (and me). I wondered how this boy had found himself on the road alone. He was so young. Had he run away? Was someone looking for him?

In time the ambulance arrived and I was pushed aside so the paramedics could work. One of the men first at the scene came to me. He shared that the boy had let go of his mother’s hand and run out onto the road thinking the crossway was clear. His mother watched from the sidewalk as her boy was hit by the car.

“What! He wasn’t alone. Where is the mother?”

The man pointed to a small TV repair store on the side of the road. I entered the store and found her sitting alone, staring into space. Her shock filled the space. I gently approached her and sat by her side. She moved from frozen to a still-moving mother who looked at me with no questions as I am sure she was afraid of my answer.

“The ambulance has arrived. They are with your son now.”

She nodded. We sat. I knew her son was gone but would not be the one to tell her. Moments later I asked her if she had called anyone and if any other family members lived close by. She told me in broken English that she did not have a phone and no one knew. I gave her my phone so she could call her family. I assumed they were on their way. The short conversation was in Greek so the assumption was all I had to go on. We sat and I waited with her. An ambulance officer entered the store with that “it’s not good news” look on his face. It was not good news. Her son had no heartbeat and was being transported shortly to the hospital, to follow procedure, to make the official announcement of death.

I sat with the mother until her family arrived. I silently slipped out, to give them space, and to also remove myself from the wailing that was hurting my heart. I gave my report to the police and I carefully drove home in a daze. I called my mother, she was with Sage. I needed to know he was safe, indoors, away from cars. My mother assured me he was safe and told me to rest for the night. Sage stayed safe with my mother and I drank wine, a lot of wine. The wine worked to shift me from numbness to distress. I cried and drank more wine.

After that day I thought of the other mother, often. We had not exchanged names. I knew very little about her. All I knew for sure was that she would be in incredible pain and grief. I would send her love when my thoughts or heart turned to her. My mind saw her frozen face clearly.

Months later I was walking to the local store with Sage. It was an ordinary day. In the distance, sitting on a patch of grass I saw a mother delighting in her daughters dancing in front of her. The scene was so inviting to get closer to, laughter was heard and the two young girls were so happy, my focus was on them, watching their dance. As Sage and I crossed paths with the girls I looked sideways to the mother on the patch of grass.

It was her. The frozen mother. Her face was dynamic and she was smiling broadly with her eyes fixed upon her dancing daughters. My heart stopped for a brief moment. She looked up at me and then through me, there was no register on her face. She did not see me as the woman who sat with her in that small shop on that horrible day. I was just another mother. She smiled at me and returned her attention to her daughters.

As Sage and I walked further my heart filled with deep gratitude for the amazing strength and capacity of a mother’s heart. I cannot know what every day and each moment was like for the other mother, but I did know that she had the space in her heart to smile and delight in her daughters. I was in awe of her and from that day beyond I no longer saw her as the frozen mother, but as the mother with the heart that kept loving.


1 comment to " The Other Mother "

  • Sally Sierra Ratigan

    Hello Deb,

    I loved this story. It was beautifully written, and what a wonderful lesson. Thank you.

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