Recently my son and I were at the grocery store. He was wearing a Thomas the Tank Engine shirt and was playing with the cart as we waited in line at the deli counter. He turned the cart in a circle and then smiled up at me and the woman ahead of me.
“Is that Thomas on your shirt? Do you like Thomas?” the woman asked with a big smile on her face.
She looked kind and James smiled back at her.
Since James doesn’t speak much I spoke instead. “Do you have a little boy?”
“Yes,” she said with a smile.
And then quick as snap the expression on her face changed. The brightness went away and she said, “I did.” Her whole face frowned and she said, “He died last year. He was twenty-five.” Her eyes brimmed with tears.
I wasn’t embarrassed but felt a deep urge to love her and her son in that moment. Good Lord, I hope that I did.
“I’m so sorry. What was his name?”
“Ralph. He loved Thomas and Pokemon and all that stuff.” She wiped her eyes and apologized for crying.
“No, no. Don’t apologize. You should share him with people. Let me give you a hug.” And we hugged for a long moment, right in front of the cold cuts.
She touched her chest as tears rolled down her cheeks and said, “I treasure him,” as if to say she treasured all the memories of her little boy in her heart. She kept those things, her little boy playing with trains and loving Pokemon and despite the tears she was happy to have those memories.
Even in that moment I felt so appreciative that she would share something so precious with me. Before I could say anything her crab salad was ready. She quickly brushed away her tears, grabbed her food, thanked the delicatessen, and pushed her cart away. I think she suddenly felt embarrassed and I wanted to tell her not to be. I wanted to tell her I’d pray for her son and her. I wanted to thank her for telling me about Ralph.
I didn’t get the chance, but please honor Ralph and his mom with me. Please remember his soul in your prayers and please ask God to bless his mom, who loves and misses him so much.
Eternal rest grant unto Ralph, O Lord.
May perpetual light shine upon him.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.