Lucca’s Mother




Monday at five, dinner is on the stove, homework is being done at the table, I’m in sweats, Grace is having a fit about something, the house is in a state of post school disaster.  And then some Italians come to my door. Claudio, a man who speaks pretty good English, Carmen, a woman who speaks no English, and a girl who looks to be about thirteen and doesn’t speak at all. 

The man explains that this woman had a son, Lucca, who came to live here in this house a little over two years ago.  Her son was going to flight school, training to be a pilot, and while he was here, his plane crashed and he died. Carmen, the mother, would like to come in and walk through the house where her son lived before he so tragically died.  All of this is explained to me while the kids are running around, asking when dinner will be ready, throwing things and, well, just doing what kids do.  I ask the three lovely Italians if they can wait five minutes while I attempt to get my home in some semblance of order.  They nod and smile and I close the door and scramble around throwing piles of things into closets and begging my children to please, please calm down and behave. 

As I open the door again I notice how incredibly beautiful Carmen is.   She is tiny with olive skin, in her fifties maybe.  Her hair is black, long, silky, movie star hair.  Her eyes are dark as dark can be and already wet with tears.   She glances up at me in between stretches of floor gazing and a lump forms in my throat.  Claudio is talking, explaining still, but I don’t take my eyes off of her.  Her sadness is heavy and kind of hangs in the air.  If I can take some of it, even for a little while, I will, because I can’t imagine going through what she’s been through.  I can't imagine losing a child, can’t imagine my son going to another country for school and never coming home. 

Claudio is not her husband or the boy’s father, he is the lawyer who handled getting all of her sons things settled when all of this happened, he is here to translate for her, but really she has little to say as I walk her through the house.  She grasps my hand and we walk back to the bedrooms, a tear or two falling along the way.  The translator does not follow, so when she does ask me a question or two, I have to stumble through my broken Spanish vocabulary, figure out what she is asking in Italian and attempt to answer her as best I can.  The whole time I’m whispering “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry, I’m sorry…”

“The bunk beds are the only thing left that was here when Lucca lived here.” I somehow manage to communicate.  She slowly walks over to them one hand cupped over her mouth and runs her fingers down the wood.  She says something in Italian that I gather to mean “Where were the beds before?” and I explain that they were in my bedroom originally.  She clutches my hand again and we walk to my room where again she places a hand on her mouth and a few more silent tears fall.  We stand there for a few minutes while she scans the room and takes in what she can of the place where her son last lived.  The man and the girl are still in the living room where my kiddos are tuned in to PBS and all too impatiently awaiting dinner time. 

As Carmen and I walk in to meet them, Claudio thanks me and we begin to say our goodbyes.  He tells me they will be visiting the crash site the next day and thanks me again.  Carmen looks up from the floor once more and utters her thank yous.   Her shoulders shrug hard with the shudder of holding back sobs.  I hug her, hard.  She hugs me back and weeps into my shoulder.  We stand in my kitchen and cry together.  A few minutes pass and we dry our eyes, look at each other and begin to say our goodbyes again. 

I ask Claudio if I can pray before they leave, they agree.  I stare at the floor, mumble a quiet little prayer for peace for them all, and grace, and of thanks for Lucca and this encounter that we’ve had.  She holds my hand, looks at me with her glassy eyes and says something I don’t understand.  “She would like to pray for you as well” he says.  And then she strokes my hand and stares straight into my face and delivers a graceful few lines in Italian that he translates to “Thank you for these beautiful children and what a wonderful mother you are.  May God never allow you to be separated from them.” 

Tears in my eyes again, I say “Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Thank you for bringing her.  Thank you for coming here.”  I hug them all, the girl last, the girl who did not make a sound the whole time.  I ask if she was his sister, she softly replies “No, a friend” and I hug her again.  As I walk them to the door, passed my children with their very bewildered looks, the girl stammers “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you…” all the way out she mumbled it and as I went to close the door she pushed it open a little, looked me in the eyes and said it three more times.

And they were gone.  And I stood stunned for a few minutes at our profound encounter.  I hope never to forget it, the beauty, and sorrow, and pain, and love that passed through my house that evening.  I let it wash over me for a bit, the emotion, the intensity, the incomprehensible grace that surrounded us.  Thank You, thank You, thank You.


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