Donna Jones Book Site

A Strangers Words

Looking out my car window, I saw her there yet again.  So small and frail in stature, kneeling there in the grass, with her blond hair blowing in the wind.  She couldn’t have been more than seven years old.  Slowing down, I strained to see her face.

There was something about this child that drew me to her, something inexplicable that tugged heavily at my heart.  Could it be that for nearly everyday over the past week that I would see her there at the church, sitting alone in the cemetery?  Or was it how diminutive she seemed sitting next to the charcoal gray headstone in the shape of a cross?  Maybe it was, that to me, she looked like a tiny angel there in the sunlight.  Whatever it was, I could not put my finger on it.

Not wanting to stare or disrupt her, I drove on past today, just as I had on days before.

That evening though, I couldn’t seem to get this small child out of my thoughts.  She lingered there in my mind, and I wondered if I would see her there again tomorrow.

The next day, as I neared the church, I immediately noticed that she was not there kneeling next to the cross.  Without hesitation, I quickly veered to my left and drove my car down the path to where she normally sat.  Still not seeing her, my curiosity took over.  Bringing my car to a stop, I got out and walked toward the cross-shaped headstone.

Upon my arrival, my eyes had plenty to take in.  For beneath the cross, the young girl had placed multiple items, varying anywhere from small trinkets to photos, and what even appeared to be a gently folded note.  Glancing upward I read the engraved stone:

Rebecca Ann Singleton

Beloved Mother, Wife and Daughter

Born April 16, 1980

Died January 12, 2012

It was then that I realized that Rebecca was most likely the child’s mother, and according to the stone, she had only passed a mere three weeks prior.  I couldn’t help but to think of my own children at a time like this.  My heart burned with an emptiness that physically brought me to my knees.  Knowing the love that I felt for my own children, I could not imagine leaving them or knowing that they would have to go on living without me.

A tear rolled down my cheek, and the brisk bitter wind caused it to sting my face with cold until it dropped into my lap.  Looking down at that single tear, I thought of how many tears this child must shed as she sits here in this very same place.

Taking a deep breath, I looked up towards the heavens as I tried to gather my emotions.  Each cold breath nearly burning my lungs as I prayed there for that little girl.

“Dear Lord, please watch over this child.  She has suffered what I feel must be a great loss and she needs your love, strength and passion as she faces the days ahead of her.  Please be with both her and her family.  Hold her in your arms as I wish that I could do each time I see her here.  She has touched me dear lord, and yet we have never met.  I beg of you, keep her safe and show her the way when the road gets bumpy.  In God I trust, Amen.”

Slowly I rose to my feet and placed my hand on the cross.  Just as my fingers made contact, I heard the sweetest voice ask, “Did you know my mama?”

Without turning around, I knew who was standing there behind me.  Panic ran through me as I tried to think of how I could explain my presence at the grave of a total stranger.

Turning to her and finally laying my eyes upon her face, I said “No sweetheart, I did not know your mother.”

Disappointment filled her eyes as she lowered her head.

It was everything I could do not to reach out to her.  Then, without much thought, I knelt down before this small child.  She shuffled her feet and gently wiped her eyes, never once raising her head.  My heart poured out to her, for I could feel her deep pain.  She needed her mother like she needed air.  Without her, she was struggling to survive and each breath was a strain.  I reached into my coat pocket, pulled out a tissue and tried to hand it to her.  With that, she lifted her head and looked at me with an empty stare, never retrieving the tissue.  Her small face was covered with streams of tears, her heart so heavy that I felt as though she may collapse there into my arms. Not knowing what to do, I gently took the tissue and patted her tears away.  Beneath my touch, I felt her body relax.  Between her breaths she sighed, “I am sorry.”

“There isn’t any need for you to be sorry, sweetie,” I told her.  “It’s alright to cry and it’s alright to be sad, but there is no need to be sorry.”

“You don’t understand, no one does.”

“Help me then, help me to understand.” I said.

“I can’t.  I can’t tell you.  No one can know.”

“Know what, sweetie?”

I could tell that she needed someone to confide in, and a total stranger may just be an answer to her prayers.

She stepped past me, bent over and picked up the folded piece of paper that she had placed on her mother’s grave.  I suspected that the contents would enlighten me to the burdens that were on her soul.

I stood there expecting her to hand me the note, but instead, she sat down and then she motioned for me to do the same.  While I did so, she reached in to her coat and pulled out a clear plastic Ziploc bag.  Inside the bag were dozens of folded notes identical to the one that she had just pick up from the grass.  Waiting for her to guide me as to what she wished for me to do, I prepared myself for whatever those letters may contain.

Without a word, she handed me the first note.  Not wanting to overstep my boundaries, I cautiously asked, “Do you want me to look inside?”  She simply nodded, “Yes.”

Peeling back the folds, I was astonished at what I saw and tried quickly to understand.  However, the child did not give me time to grasp what I was looking at before handing me another note from the bag.  As fast as I opened that note, she would hand me another,and then yet another.  With each note, her tears returned and her sobs grew louder and louder.  Thoughts swirled through my head.  Then, without notice she began to throw the remaining notes into my lap, multiples at a time.  Her breathing heavy as she emptied the bag and then threw it into my lap as well.

Screaming out in pain, she shouted, “There aren’t any words!  There just aren’t any words!”

Immediately, I knew what she meant.  There were “no words” to describe how lost she was without her mother.  There were no words that could describe the comfort she had once felt as her mother had wiped away her tears.  There were no words that could describe the pain that enveloped her.  Mostly though, there were “no words” that would bring her mother back.

With an intensity that I have no words for, this child looked into my eyes.  Her stare pleaded for something only her mother could give her, but in an attempt to soothe her, I simply said, “I understand.  Sometimes there just aren’t ‘any words’ that can tell someone just how much you love them.”  Her breathing slowed and her face began to soften as she listened to my words.  “The love you have for your mama is there in your heart.  It is something you know, something you feel, but it is far too big for words.”

Without a word, she reached back in to her coat and pulled out a pencil.  I sat silently watching as she began to gather up the notes.  Then, firmly holding the pencil in her hand, she looked up at me once again, before drawing a single, simple heart on the blank piece of paper.  Her tiny hands then re-folding it and setting it aside.  I continued to watch as she drew a heart on every single sheet of paper.  Upon completion, she put all of the notes back into her clear bag, walked over to her mother’s gravestone and placed the bag down next to the other trinkets.

As she turned to face me, I could see a strength about her now.  Her stride towards me was done with intent, her head held high and her shoulders back, her blond hair there blowing in the wind.  She stopped only feet from me, reaching for my hand and turning it palm up.  Again, I watched in amazement at her each deliberate move.  Reaching in to her pocket, she pulled out a gently folded piece of paper, placed it in my hand, smiled, then turned and walked away.  I watched as she faded from my sight; somehow knowing that she would be fine, I opened my note.

Inside …there was a single heart.



  1. Anonymous

    A strangers words was very touching. I fought back my tears reading this and choked up a couple of times imaging this pain the child feels because it is familiar to me.

    • I appreciate your kind words and I have to tell you, as I read your words, I had to fight back my own emotions. It is very emotional for me to hear that others are effected by my work and it truly touches my heart. As I read your comment, I couldn’t help but to wonder what your journey has been like and what story you hold with in your heart. To you…my unknown friend, I send my heartfelt appreciation and sincere wishes that you have a happy and love-filled life! Donna

  2. What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it! Connie

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