One of my greatest fears in life is that I will outlive one of my three children. I think it’s safe to say that most parents understand this worry; it comes with the territory of raising little people, protecting them, loving them, and guiding them to be strong enough and wise enough to navigate the world on their own. But that’s why, whenever I hear stories about a parent having to bury their child, it smashes my heart into a bazillion pieces.
Such was the case when I came across a recent story shared on the Facebook page Love What Matters. A story that is so powerful and so raw that I found myself tearing up just halfway through reading it.
On August 18, Tricia Belstra was flying on Southwest Airlines on her way to bury her son. She was understandably upset, and feeling sick to her stomach. The pain she felt inside was written all over her face.
In the post, she describes the emotional scene on the plane, as she sat in the middle of two strangers while holding a barf bag between her legs. A flight attendant asked if she was okay, and whether she needed some water. Then a man came by and leaned in, asking how she was doing.
“I told him I was flying back to bury my son,” she wrote. “He said he was so sorry and brought me a can of water, a glass of ice and my diet coke. The girl next to me offered to pour the water for me because my hands were shaking.”
Even through her grief, Belstra was struck by the kindness shown to her by strangers all around her. When she landed, the passenger who sat next to her even helped gather her luggage.
But remember that young man — the one who got Belstra a drink? As she walked off the plane, he appeared again%rC!and handed her a napkin with a handwritten note.
“[He] said he was sorry for my loss and this wasn’t much,” Belstra shared. “I said thank you and walked out.”
But once she was able to take a closer look, her jaw nearly dropped to the floor.
“When I got to where I was out of the walkway,” she wrote, “I looked at the napkin he gave me a>d%cried.”
Once you read the note for yourself, it’s easy to see why:
“In 2004, my family lost my older brother. As traumatic as it still is for me, I can’t even pretend to truly know the pain you feel as a mother. I did, howefet, watch my mother’s grieving process (a process that will never end). Firstly, being a mother is about giving birth to new life as a promise to the future. Your mission doesn’t end now – your son’s life is bigger than his death and always will be. My own mum struggled desperately, chasing a faraway goal of somehow lessening the pain. As she has realized now, the pain hordly lessens. Don’t expend your energy trying to chase this. Instead, go all-out finding opportunities to experience joy. Visit family, get close to those you’ve lost touch with, travel. This is your story, and you owe it to yourself and your son to make sure that you survive this. Do not pressure yourself! This world is full of people who do truly care about you, even if it doesn’t feel that way. I won’t stop thinking about you anytime soon, or how you’re doing, or what you’re up to. You’ll come out of this a stronger person, and I’ll be rooting for you the whole time.”
Are you crying yet? Because I sure am.
My heart goes out to Tricia Belstra and her family. Let’s hope that the kind young man who reached out with a note of love and compassion finds her story online, and sees what a beautiful thing he did for this mom and for other parents just like her. Goodness knows they need it.