American Mom Receives Comfort from Chinese Mom, or vice versa?

Wow!  How about that?  I was actually comforting someone over the death of my son. Who da’ thunk it? What unusual twists and turns life sometimes take. Who would have thought I would have been comforting a Chinese woman over the death of my son?  This China is a crazy place.

So the story for this blog began on a Friday night with a Mandarin lesson where a co-teacher and I studied numbers, coins and how to understand the cashier at the grocery store. I was thrilled I would be able to use some Chinese when discussing fares with the taxi driver, the clerk at the store, and bargaining while at the fake market.

After the lesson, several of my friends and I went to a bag party. This party was to have the best of the fake bags in China, including Louis Vuitton, Prada and many others, or so we were told. There were also silk scarves, and wallets to choose from at reasonable prices. The best of the fakes, right at our fingertips!

Upon finding a couple of fake designer bags and wallets that I liked, I decided to make my purchase. I asked how much they were. She, (Mary) the bag lady told me, “180,” in English.

So I replied, “Yi bai ba shi?”  (180)  Well, at least that’s what I think I said. I got the thumbs up. YES!  My Mandarin lessons were paying off!  I gave her 200 and of course I received “Er shi” in change. That was so much fun I decided I should probably buy another item, so I purchased a Louis Vuitton wallet. I gave her my money and received  “Si shi” in return.  (40rmb)

She could tell I was trying to learn Chinese, and she wanted to practice some English. She kept the conversation going and asked if I was Meiguoren? (American)  Then she asked why I was in Shanghai.  I told her, “Wo shi laoshi,” which means I am a teacher and I was working in Shanghai.

Next came the question about children. She has a ten year old daughter named Sarah and I told her about my three kids.  I told her I have a daughter who is  “Er shir liu” (26).  Her eyes got really big and I immediately liked her because she said I looked too young to have a child that old!  I told her my son was “Er shi er.” (22)

She asked if they lived here too, but no, they don’t. They live in America. After more chit chat, she asked about number two son, as she called him.  I told her that he died when he was little. She shook her head as if she didn’t understand. I repeated, “Died” then “Death,” then “No longer alive.”  She still didn’t seem to understand. She shook her head. I looked around to see if anybody could translate for me.  She seemed interested and I wanted her to know what I was trying to say about my son.

Another teacher was able to translate that my son had died.  They spoke to each other in mandarin for a wee bit, then Mary took my hand and started crying. Tears just fell from her eyes and she kept saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” shaking her head and bowing toward me. I asked my friend why she was crying.  Was it because she understood that my son died?  Or was it because she thought she offended me by asking about my son?

She said it was a little of both.

I gave her a hug. I told her it was ok to talk about my son and not to worry about it.  I told her I missed him greatly, and that it is the worst thing that can happen to a mom.  She said, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  I am mama, you are mama.  I know, I know.” She wiped her tears, gave me a hug and just kept crying. By now, we were both crying and hugging each other as if we were long lost friends.  We weren’t long lost friends, but friends to become.  Friends bonded by that of motherhood.

We are friends who broke through the communication barrier and shared a touching moment, Chinese mother to American mother, over my precious son.  I am blessed to have had my little boy for the nearly two years that I did and I have so many things for which to be thankful.

Life’s disappointments make you better, not bitter.  I read this on a church sign once.  Of course when a child dies, there is quite a bit of anger, bitterness and basically, LIFE SUCKS… if you let it. If you are reading this as a bereaved parent fresh in your grieving, may you know someone, whether it be in America, China or somewhere in between shares your pain and may you be comforted by the friendship they have to offer. Find the good.

About cessley

I am a bereaved parent. I write to give hope to other bereaved parents who are fresh in their grief. I want them to know life begins again. It (life) is forever changed, as are you, but one day, you will smile again. You may travel, you will make new friends, your heart will mend, though never heal and it will be a painful ride. It is one step at a time....sometimes, even one breath to the next is all we can seem to live through each day. But each day will be a new beginning, a different beginning, a different you. I have two surviving children: Amy, who is married to Brandon, and they have one daughter, Avery, and one son, Dylan. and Eric who is a doctor and is Clifton's twin brother. Clifton passed away when he was nearly two years old. As any bereaved parent knows, it is tough, REALLY tough trying to live after the death of a child. I lived in Shanghai, China for three years after the death of my son, and then lived in Beijing for two years. I am discovering life again, one step at a time. I returned to Oklahoma in February , 2020 due to the uncertainty of the virus. Little did I know the uncertainty would follow me across the ocean. This is nothing compared to the death of a child. I will survive! View all posts by cessley

5 responses to “American Mom Receives Comfort from Chinese Mom, or vice versa?

  • Kelli Pate

    Oh my dear Cathy,
    My heart of course goes out to you but even more then that – I am so proud of you! You make me want to just cheer with your bravry as well as your openness with your feelings that comforts us all. All my love and hugs, Kelli Pate

  • cessley


    so great to hear from you!!!
    Thank you : )
    Love sending your way too…would love to see you!

  • Mike Phillips

    Cathy…sounds like you are having a blast! Maddie has applied through government to visit China in July. Should know by April. I was just love it if she gets to go and somehow is able to see you.

    All the best,


    • cessley

      i would love that!!!! let me know where she is going! and of course she is always welcome to come and stay with me. Is she going on a school trip? all of you guys can come and stay with me….need some visitors from home!
      GREAT to hear from you!

  • touinkyou

    Cathy, you have a brave and optimistic heart. We are blessed by LORD. It is right that “Life’s disappointments make you better, not bitter.”

    Take care.


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