Olivia had lost her only son, and everything, including Thanksgiving, had lost meaning. That was until she suddenly heard her son’s voice playing on her phone, two years after he had gone.
It’s not that Olivia didn’t have things to be thankful for. She had a home, though it was small. She had a few good friends who would wave and smile when they met on the street. And it was a fascinating, vibrant, exciting world outside the walls of her house.
It’s just that one big loss had shattered her world overnight, and nothing felt like a blessing anymore.
Her son, the center of her universe, the life in her eyes, had died two years ago.
“Time is so strange,” Olivia thought, sitting by the window. “Sometimes, two years feel like an eternity. And other times, it feels like my Daryl had kissed me goodbye just yesterday, promising to visit again for Thanksgiving.”
She pictured Daryl’s smile, that joy that had never aged on his childlike face, and it made her cry.
“It’s Thanksgiving today, son,” Olivia whispered to her visualization of her son. “There’s no turkey on the table, but your spot at the table is still untouched. Come running back, won’t you? For a meal…a hug…or a proper goodbye!”
Olivia knew it was going to be a tearful evening, like every other evening these days.
By now, she knew how to negotiate her way out of the pain, at least for a few hours.
Olivia picked up the phone and started swiping through old pictures of happier times with her only son.
“Can you imagine, it had been lying there, undetected for two years…”
Her walk down memory lane was interrupted by a short buzzing of the phone. It was a message from an unknown number. “Who is this person?” The profile picture on the number looked familiar. Olivia put on her glasses and leaned closer, and her heart went quiet for a second.
It was her son Daryl’s picture, looking handsome in his dark sunglasses, and wearing that same smile…
“I must be dreaming,” Olivia thought. If it was a dream, she wasn’t going to ruin it by questioning and rationalizing.
She went straight to the message. It looked like an audio clip, so Olivia tapped the play button, not knowing what to expect.
“Hey, mom!” The voice she heard made Olivia jump out of her skin. There were goosebumps all over. It was too much for her old heart to bear, so she quickly hit the pause button.
It was Daryl’s voice.
Olivia clutched the phone hard, trying to stop her hands from trembling.
This was some version of a blessing from the universe, but Olivia was too afraid to claim it. What if she was about to hear something heartbreaking? Could she brave through her grief this time?
“I have to. It’s Daryl! Somehow, it’s Daryl!” Olivia told herself and played the audio again.
“Hey, mom! I had the weirdest waking dream this morning.
I was floating in this…paradise-like place, surrounded by this glowing white light in all directions.
There was just me and the light, mom. And I remember trying to find the source of it. I looked up as far as I could see, but there was no end or beginning in sight.
I was bothered by this somehow until I heard faint singing in the background. Like I was in a huge room, and someone was singing from the outside.
And when I recognized that tune, it was the most amazing feeling ever! It was that lullaby that you would sing to me, Ma. The one grandma sang to you when you were a kid.
And I felt your presence in that dream. I felt your hug, your voice, your warmth. I missed you so much that I woke up looking for you.
That’s when I realized: That was what it must’ve felt like when I was a tiny little being in your belly!
Did you sing that lullaby to me when I was in your belly, mom?”
Olivia nodded, wiping her tears. She was listening to her son talk to her. It was like he was having a conversation with her from another world.
“I never really thanked you in the last several years, did I, mom?
That’s a shame. Because there’s so much to thank you for. And so this is a 2 a.m. thank you message for you, mom,” Daryl chuckled clumsily.
“Thank you for being there for me–through thick and thin. I know I haven’t exactly been an ideal son.
I made a lot of wrong choices in my life: I dropped out, got married too young, got divorced, lost my job…
But thanks to your support, I also picked myself up, went back to college, got my business degree, found love again, started my own business, got recognized for my work…
None of it would’ve happened without you,” Daryl said, his smile sweetening his voice.
Thank you for trying to take my pain away – big and small – whether it was lending me your hard-earned money when I hit rock bottom or rubbing my head when I couldn’t sleep from stress.
And thank you for caring about my health, my happiness, and well-being all these years, just as much as you cared for me when I was a tiny baby in your tummy.
I love you. And now that I’m doing well in life, I’m going to spoil you with everything you could ever wish for. I am a part of you and will be forever, mom. Just like I once was!
I love you, mom. No matter how far I am. I can’t wait to see you on Thanksgiving!”
The audio ended, and there was pin-drop silence in the room again.
Olivia was so immersed in Daryl’s voice that she had forgotten he wasn’t in the same room.
She let the rest of her tears flow and got ready to feel alone again.
That’s when the doorbell rang. She looked through the keyhole. It was a vaguely familiar face, a young man holding a bouquet of flowers.
“Can I help you, young man?” Olivia’s voice was shaky from crying.
“Hello, ma’am. I’m Steve,” the young man smiled subtly.
“Steve…?” the name sounded vaguely familiar, too.
“I was a friend of Daryl’s. I had known him only a year before he passed, but it felt like we were childhood friends,” Steve spoke, clearing his throat to keep himself from getting emotional.
Olivia felt sorry for her guest, and invited him in. “Come, have a seat. Drink some coffee,” she said, hurrying enthusiastically to brew a fresh pot.
“I just happened to find his phone in my garage last week,” Steve revealed. “Can you imagine, it had been lying there, undetected for two years…”
Steve went on to explain that Daryl had spent his last night at his house. They had enjoyed a hearty meal, endless conversation, and a few rounds of drinks.
“He couldn’t stop talking about you that night. I think that’s what prompted him to record a message that night. He must have forgotten to send it…” Steve explained.
Thank goodness he made that recording. Because the very next morning, on his way to work, Daryl met with a senseless accident and breathed his last, miles away from his mother’s arms.
“I shared this on Thanksgiving because I knew it would soothe your pain on this difficult day,” Steve said with tenderness in his voice.
“Thank you, son. You did, indeed. I never got to say goodbye to my son, and this…this was something!” Olivia sobbed.
That conversation was only the beginning of Olivia and Steve’s friendship. For years to come, Olivia would never spend a single Thanksgiving or Christmas alone.
Daryl’s spot remained empty on the table, but there was now a third spot next to it that was always occupied once a week. It was Steve’s spot.
What can we learn from this story?
- A mother’s love knows no bounds. Like Olivia, we’ve all had mothers and mother figures who have bent over backwards to raise us and be there for us through our best and worst.
- Don’t miss a chance to call your mom. Daryl picked up the phone and left a message for his mom when he couldn’t stop thinking about her. And that ended up providing at least a small sense of closure and relief for his mother two years later.