By Ophealia deRoze
How do I fill this empty nest of mine once again with laughter and joy now that my son has flown off and my husband is no more? Where is my life headed? How do I find a way out of this terrible loneliness? How do I prevent myself from sinking further? Whom should I connect with?
Myriad questions knocked in my mind like a woodpecker as I walked towards the church on that summer morning, oblivious to my surroundings. I entered the church from the side and walked to the central pew in a trance.
Blank was the world outside, numb was the feeling inside, faint was the singing of the choir in the background, but loud was the cry within me, and it was deafening: “Have you heard me, my Lord? I need to know, please give me a sign!”
In the midst of all this self-talk with the Lord, I faintly heard the bells of elevation ring. I bent my head down in prayer, and in that very moment I felt a light touch on the broad of my back, which I ignored.
A second later, I felt another touch, but this time I questioned myself: “Is this real or is my imagination running wild?” and whilst I was trying to decipher it, there was a third touch – a stronger one that sent a shiver down my spine.
I immediately turned and what I witnessed amazed me. In the seat just behind me was a baby in his mother’s arms, desperately trying to touch me, but was being held back by her. Undeterred, he continued to bend forward and looked me in the eye without a blink.
Big beautiful ebony eyes and those curly locks falling on his face!
The mother whispered apologetically, “Sorry, my son has disturbed you.”
I nodded, mesmerised by her baby’s eyes and curly locks. I also noticed his small baby palm that had sent enormous shivers down my spine. I instantaneously knew that my Lord had heard me. This touch of the baby: my angel, the sign, the gift.
Overwhelmed, eyes welling up with tears, I turned to the altar to thank my Lord. My eyes fell on the word ‘COME’ at the feet of this huge statue of Jesus that adorned the back of the altar. I felt a tug at my soul and heard the words: “Come, lay your worries at my feet, and I will take care of them.”
Closing my eyes, I experienced a strange calmness settle within me.
Mass ended. I rushed out to meet the mother and baby, they too were waiting. On seeing me, the baby jumped unexpectedly into my arms and I struggled to hold on to him. He cradled his head into the nape of my neck once he settled down.
Bewildered, the mother said to me, “My son has really surprised me today with his action. He is not a friendly child, he shuns strangers… But look at him lovingly resting his head on your shoulder.”
The baby’s actions and his mother’s comments reconfirmed my insight: this was the sign, the gift from the Lord through this baby – my angel.
I opened up to the mother, shared the pain of my empty nest and my long monologues with the Lord and finally the insight of her baby’s touch and its significance. She looked at me with tender eyes and touched my arm gently, saying, “Yes indeed, the Lord has heard you. My baby is your sign. Until all settles down, you have me, Miral, and my son Treverio!”
Her words were a soothing balm. Her unconditional offer to co-travel on this uncertain journey lit the dark lonely tunnel that I had traversed so far with hope of companionship and new beginnings.
Our daily meets after Mass began to heal me slowly but surely. I would pick the nine-month-old baby from his mother and spend time with him and enjoy him before I left for work. He would point to the holy water font at the church exit, dip his baby fingers in it and then place them sloppily on my forehead, blessing me. He would then wait for me to do the same to him. This was our exclusive time: he, me and the Lord. Not even his mother was permitted into this space. If anyone did enter accidentally, he would hit out with his baby hands.
My loneliness became bearable. My angel filled that once-gaping void in me with his joie de vie, as I watched him take his wobbly steps, fall, get up and walk, his baby talk, his first bite into a chocolate, almost all his firsts. Our bond strengthened and my healing too with each passing day. My life changed quietly and gently, like the unfolding of a flower. I savoured each joyous moment with Treverio and re-lived them when sadness reared its head.
Many a lesson have I learnt as I watched Treverio from the sidelines interacting with different people to fulfil his needs. The indulgent priest who filled his pockets with daily doses of chocolates, the destitute old man who humoured him with his stories and rhymes whilst walking him to the gate, the football coach who gave him a taste of excitement on the field, the stray animals whom he shared his biscuits with, fearlessly, and many more.
Treverio had etched a special place in my heart, and I in his. A connect that no human could fathom. Incidents that happened continued to indicate and affirm that Treverio was God’s gift to me.
One such incident happened when Treverio had just begun his kindergarten. Miral was returning from school with Treverio and his brother. On seeing me, Treverio ran towards me, hugged me and began sharing all that he had done that day, his drawings, the climb on the slide, his action song. His older brother looked at me and asked, “Who are you?”
I responded with a smile, “I am your mama Miral’s friend.”
Prompt came Treverio’s response: “No! Aunty is my friend and only mine!” He hugged me tight with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face. Miral looked at me and said, “You both are deeply connected.”
My life now had a new purpose! I discovered and experienced along the way new meanings to non-traditional relationships, which have now been etched with colourful crayons in my heart and mind, and are indelible.
This gift that I gifted unto myself unknowingly was trusting and opening myself to a relationship ordained and blessed by the Divine, rather than waiting and looking at the empty nest to be filled with traditional relationships. In doing so, I experienced untold joy, healing and abundance of unconditional love in my relationship with my angel and his mother.
Signs and symbols are all surround us, but we fail to notice and understand their significance as we are too caught up in old patterns, meanings, logic and reasoning that have a way of binding us to the past, thereby denying us the opportunities to experience new ways of relating and engaging.
Thank you my Miral and my angel Treverio.
Ophealia deRoze is a Mumbai-based former HR professional and a storyteller at heart. She deeply rooted in spirituality, and believes it takes a village to raise a child.