I’m writing today because it is the anniversary of our son Martín’s death. He died just shy of his 5th birthday from complications from his third liver transplant. But this year the date is overshadowed by another tragic connection.
I am compelled to share it because there were so many little synchronicities surrounding Martín’s life and even now, sixteen years after his death, they continue.
Two days ago, we went to a going away party for a young couple who were leaving California and moving to Virginia. The gathering was relatively small and mostly people from our parish. However, they had invited one woman whom they knew through their involvement in rescuing and fostering cats and kittens. I was introduced to the woman because we are both teachers. Little did I know that our lives were far more intimately connected.
K. as I will call her, was a special education pre-school teacher at an elementary school not far from us. Martín was supposed to have gone to that school when he was 3, but he could not attend because he was immune suppressed and several students there had not been vaccinated. So, the school district had assigned one of the teachers, M.B., to come and homeschool our son at home in the afternoons after her regular teaching day.
So naturally when I heard where K. taught, I asked her if she knew M.B. Turns out they worked so closely that K. said they were teaching partners. I asked if Miss M. had retired yet and how she was doing. K. stunned me when she said Miss M. had died a few years earlier. Turns out she had been struck by a car and killed!
The news through me and I became emotional as you can imagine. So instead of asking for specifics other than how long ago, I began pouring out details about how wonderful Miss M. had been for both our sons – reminiscing about how she had created a full-on preschool experience right there in our kitchen. As I gave the details, K. realized that she remembered both our sons because Miss M. had talked about them so much. She told me that Martín and Tomas had been very special to Miss M.
It was important for me that K. know how special Miss M. had been to us. After all, they had been close friends and colleagues. I explained to K. that Miss M. had been the hardest phone call to make after Martín died. I remembered that we were driving past Camp Pendleton on our way home after three and half months at the university medical center when I got up the courage to call. Miss M. had started screaming. I couldn’t console her.
Miss M. had missed the funeral but showed up near the end of the burial service with a dozen white balloons. Everyone else was leaving to give our small family some private time before they lowered Martín’s small white rose-covered casket, but we kept Miss M. at our side. When we were alone, we took turns kissing each balloon and then releasing them into the sky – a tradition that continued for every birthday and anniversary at the cemetery for at least the next 10 years.
Martín had been the first medically fragile student Miss M. had worked with after school, but she had continued from then on taking on all kinds of other kiddos who were too sick to go to school. It was a difficult addition to her teaching life because often her students didn’t make it. K. shared that she too had started to homeschool these extra special little ones. So even Martín had touched her life.
When my husband and I got home that evening after the party, we broke the news to our son Tomas. He also had many fond memories of Miss M like doing spin art with paints and such.
It made me recall the time I had bought multi-colored goldfish crackers across the street from the hospital and worried that Martín wouldn’t eat them because they were different. But when he saw them, he said, “Oh, just like Miss M.” and happily popped them into his mouth. I had shared that story with Miss M. on the phone all those years ago trying to demonstrate how she had touched Martín.
Yesterday I couldn’t get Miss M. off my mind as I prayed for her. I was bothered too by the similarity to another death related to Martín.
We had adopted Martín at birth from a homeless couple. His bio dad was an alcoholic and had walked in front of a car just a few months after Martín was born. R.K. had died a few months later in the hospital. I kept thinking about Miss M. also being hit by a car. People just don’t walk that much in our metropolitan area and where Miss M. lived everyone drives. So, I searched the internet.
Sure enough, an article popped up. Miss M. had been hit around 9PM on a mid autumn evening nearly four years ago. The man said she had stepped out in front of his car and he didn’t have time to stop. It apparently was across from a mobile home park. There was no indication that drugs or alcohol were involved. The medical examiner believed she was transient. I broke down. Poor Miss M.!
When I had last seen her, she was living in a beautiful home and driving a Jaguar. I did recall her being single with no family to speak of and she had had some financial problems when she first started coming to our home. But the purchase of the Jaguar had made me assume that that situation had turned around.
The questions!!!! What was Miss M. doing there? Did she live at the mobile home park? She would have had a healthy teacher’s pension so . . . I know that stretch of road. It would have been dark – there would have been headlights!
I don’t even want to give voice to the fears I have.
Was meeting K. and learning of Miss M’s untimely death a mere coincidence or Divine Providence?
I have this strong sense that Martín and Our Sorrowful Mother wanted me to know all this because they know I will faithfully pray for this beautiful loving soul who was apparently so alone at the end.
When we go to the cemetery later today, I think we will take two balloons. One for Martín and one for Miss M. May she rest in peace!