Thank you to … the stranger who knew I needed to cry for my mother

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Dear stranger,

I often wonder if you were an angel. The feast of the assumption was upon me again. I was feeling frightened, lost, alone, raw; riddled with the unexpected sucker punch of grief. I was filming far away from home, from my friends and family and the things that grounded me, things that had always helped me cope in the past. At work I was playing a strong, confident woman who didn’t doubt herself or her grasp on reality. But in private I was the opposite.

I was going to church to light a candle for my mother. It was the second anniversary of her death. Somehow the first year went by and I hardly had time to process it. I was lucky enough to be working; what was left was devoted to my family. I knew at some point I had to deal with grief. I had lost my best friend, another close friend, and then my mum.

From her diagnosis of terminal lung cancer to the last month of palliative care, trying to never leave her side, my mother’s dying was itself a long process of grief. She passed away in my arms. I was alone with her and then the priest arrived. I felt blessed; calm she was no longer suffering. I believed she was at peace.

Two years later and boom. I could hardly stand, breathe, eat or communicate properly. I was taking my Passiflora drops for anxiety, and trying to be as mindful and clear as possible, but I no longer recognised the world as I knew it.

We drove to church. It was packed, so I stood at the back in the hallway. I wasn’t able to light a candle. I sat on a bench outside, the crazy Georgia heat burning my head. I felt raw, like a graze, stinging and open to the wind.

A car arrived to collect me and as I stood up to get in, you walked past. I kept my head down and went to step into the car. You stopped and called out to me.

“Hey.”

I looked up.

“Are you all right?”

I nodded yes.

You then rushed over to the car, and said, “Can I hug you? You look like you need a hug.”

I let you hold me and suddenly from the depths of my heart something started to shift. Then I was sobbing, sobbing so deeply on your shoulder and you just held me for what seemed like forever.

I thanked you and you knew I meant it. You said you would keep me in your prayers. I believed you.

I wonder if you thought I was sick, with my bald head. I was sick. Sick with grief. And you, a kind stranger, without being intrusive or odd or weird, somehow knew what I needed at that moment. To cry, to cry for my mummy.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Love, Sam

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