I opened the front door of our home and started walking. A new subdivision was under construction behind our home. Beyond the construction zone, it opened into a field marked with a tall wooden post that was spray painted with orange numbers. Honestly, it wasn’t the walk that I desired but rather some time alone. I needed to write. I needed inspiration. Words were hard to come by lately.
There was a small bench in the middle of the field. As I made my way to the wooden seat, I found it odd that someone would have taken the time to place it in such an isolated location. Perhaps it was left behind from a previous park? My curiosity vanished as I sat down and let my body slide into the curved backrest. I exhaled and closed my eyes as a brief but pleasant breeze blew by.
While my eyes were closed, I felt the wooden panels of the bench shift and bend as the weight of someone else moved beside me. Startled, I opened my eyes. A brown-haired girl was climbing onto the bench. I let out a gasp, then felt embarrassed that a child would be able to get such a reaction from me.
Her neatly brushed hair was long, flowing, and full of life. I watched her struggle to climb up beside me. The long dress she was wearing made it difficult. She finally made her way up on her knees, turned quickly and sat with a thump. She giggled. Silence set in as we both sat there pretending to be unaware of the other. I looked in both directions for a searching parent, but found none. I began gently scooting away from her as I planned to make a gradual and silent exit. Then she spoke.
“I’ve been to Brazil!” her squeaky voice nearly shouted.
I forced a nervous smile. Was there a reason to be nervous?
“Brazil?” I asked, unintentionally, pushing the conversation.
She turned to me as the question left my mouth. Her round-eyes were dark brown and sparkled. She looked like a cartoon – adorable, inviting, and perfect. Her round cheeks were bright peach and her red lips reminded me of my own daughters. I wondered if my daughter knew her. She blinked with her long eye-lashes and spoke again.
“Yes, it is beautiful!” she was ecstatic. She continued, “I love parades! I love carnivals! In Brazil, they have both at the same time!” By this time, she was nearly yelling.
“There are so many colors, so many floats, so many people – oh and the food,” she licked her lips and rubbed her stomach – “oh, the food is delicious!”
This caused me to smile.
I spoke, “Wow, Brazil sounds amazing.”
“Oh it is!” she laid her head back on the seat. “They have the most beautiful statue of Jesus on this big mountain.”
“Yea, I’ve seen that in movies.” I felt silly with the reference.
“In a movie is one thing, but ‘Christ the Redeemer’, that’s what it’s called” – she leaned over informing me – “it’s stunning!”
“Sounds like it.” I spoke, clearly out-experienced.
“I’ve also been to Germany.” She pulled her legs up and crossed them. Her hands clasped onto her knees as she rocked with excitement.
“Germany is amazing! People drive so fast!” She held her hand in the air and made a vroom sound as she moved it quickly in front of my face.
“Netherlands! Have you heard of that?” She blinked begging for an answer.
“Yes, I have.” I hesitated having to make sure I had.
“I’ve been there too! There are beautiful museums with so much amazing artwork. The hillside is covered with windmills, tulips and wonderfully clear canals.”
I suddenly began to realize that this little girl was well spoken, intensely wise and completely captivating — but how?
She continued talking about the cafés and something called Gouda cheese. I smiled at her. I felt like I knew her.
“Sweden is one of my favorites though.” She spoke without waiting for my input. “I even learned to speak the language. Then there is Argentina! The cities were so amazingly beautiful. They have breath-taking waterfalls. Sometimes I would just stand there and stare for hours.” She laughed at her recollection.
“Have you been anywhere else?” I asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yes.” She seemed to shift her mood as the word came out with heaviness. I didn’t know why.
“I’ve been to Finland, Thailand, New Zealand, Spain, Colombia, Poland, Bulgaria, Israel, Romania, and Italy…” She continued naming country after country for the next several minutes.
I finally interrupted her.
“How have you been to so many places?”
Her smile grew brighter as a tear finally dropped from her eyes.
“You sent me there daddy.”
I felt myself losing my breath.
She looked at me, climbed up on her knees and took my face in her hands. “My story has been everywhere. It has helped so many. It has touched so many people. I have met so many friends in Heaven because of it. We have helped so many mommies and daddies across the whole wide world.”
Suddenly I opened my eyes and sat up, catching my breath. I looked around and found I was alone on the bench. The faint image of the little girl trailed in my mind. Why she was gone, I struggle with still, then and as I did now. But I realized why she had come to visit me that day. I had begun to feel like all the words I had been writing for the last 19 months were meaningless. What was the purpose? “I’ve been to Brazil!” I smiled as her words echoed in my mind. I picked up the notebook and pen I had reluctantly brought along with me. If my writing about my own loss helps one more grieving parent — it’s worth it.
This story was inspired by actual events. My own blog, which has transitioned into a place to write about my still-born daughter, has been visited and read by people in over 60 different countries. People that I otherwise would never have spoken to or had a chance to meet and encourage, have been reached. I don’t know the extent of each situation, but I do know Bella’s story has gone farther than I ever would have dreamed.