Empathy is the same in every language.

The sirens wailed in the wet mountain air and stopped.  They are close, too close.  I put down my book and surveyed the damp valley below.  But I can’t see them.  The sirens start again.  I see the ambulance turn … up … my street.  M’s cousin is on the street directing them to the house.  It couldn’t be, no, it can’t be, NO!  I hear M. drop his tools in the garage and I run to the bedroom window and see him running to the house.

This house, this house is the home of my Sardinian Mother. ( Later to be known as SM.)  She’s a wonderful human being who bakes us cakes and local sweets.  She is also an avid canvas painter and her house is a museum with island idyllic portraits filled with colour and animation.

Like all Sardinian women she has it in her blood to clean.  That’s all the women seem to do here, clean the house everyday!  And spotless.  And today my SM was cleaning the brightly white tiled bathroom; buckets of soapy water strewn about, laundry hanging out of the machine and a plastic chair in the shower.  My SM sat down for a little rest but the old plastic chair did not hold her and down she went.  Smashing her face on the side of the toilet.

The blood was everywhere.  Contrasted against the whiteness of the room it was intoxicating.  My blood rushed, I felt faint.  I walked outside and grabbed a broom and started to clean up the blood on the white tiled (yes, again) veranda.  SM was in the hands of the paramedics and she was whisked away to the hospital.

I didn’t really know what to do. I was lost in a space of wanting to show empathy and showing my concern, and I wanted it to be genuinely felt.  I asked SM’s sister-in-law: ” Posso fare qualcosa?”  Which translates into: “Can I do something?”  She asked me to go and sit with SM’s father or as I would like to call him:  My Sardinian Grandpa ( later known as SG.)

I walked around the corner to find my SG at his usual spot (any time of the year) the fireplace.  Bent over crying into the hot fire.  I said buongiorno and took his hand as I sat beside him.  My SG is a fragile 97-year-old man with caring nice eyes and a few fingers missing on his left hand from a freak farming accident 40 years ago.  He also once commented on my new-found Italian skills.  Saying I speak better Italian then his own daughter ( my SM.)  Such a nice complement, such a nice family.  He cried and told me that my SM had fallen and that there was blood everywhere, and he just cried and I continued to hold his hand.  I sat with him in silence until he settled down and I excused myself.

M’s at the hospital with my SM and I’m just sitting here stunned and looking out the rain drenched windows.  The skies are heavy and grey, too grey.  And I’ve realized that we don’t need words to express ourselves (all of the time) but that simple silent empathy, in every language is appreciated. I’ve lit my candle and told my story, my blood settled.  My hands are clean.

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