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  • Writer's pictureKathleen Knapp

Connecting with Clara

Updated: Jun 28, 2022

We were recently on a family vacation in Mexico and as I sat by the pool reading my book, the sounds of vacationing people surrounded me. The music, the laughter, the shouts of children playing, the sounds of the pounding ocean surf nearby, the bird noises and the wind in the palm trees. Then I heard it. Softly, below the thrum of all the other noise, was a distinct humming noise that sounded definitely like my son Benjamin.

My heart lurched and a tear threatened. I hadn’t heard that specific sound since Ben died. As a nonverbal child he had a particular humming noise he made to voice his pleasure or displeasure as needed. It was his ‘voice’. Having been tuned to his language for 26 years, it’s not surprising that I could hear the humming within the cacophony of sounds all around me at the resort.

My eyes searched the pool to see where the sound was coming from. I knew there was a non-verbal autistic child there somewhere. I couldn’t just be imagining it, I thought to myself. Eventually, to satisfy my curiosity, I had to swim into the pool to find the child making the subtle, happy humming noise.

Then I saw her, with her father, in the centre of the pool. Seeing her warmed my heart. I stopped and smiled through my tears. She jumped and splashed in the water, humming with glee and a look of pure joy on her face! Memories of swimming with Ben came flooding into my mind and how much he loved the water. My heart was so touched as I felt a connection to Benjamin once again.

Nearby, with a patient gaze was her father, keeping a watchful eye on her. I spoke to him only briefly, his broken English better than my non-existent Spanish. Her name is Clara. She is 14, has a little brother, loves the ocean waves and the swimming pool. I explained her humming reached my ears and touched my heart. I explained reminded me of my son who hummed the exact same way, had autism and also loved the water. I acknowledged their journey is not an easy one and that I wished God to bless their family and for them to enjoy their holiday. I swam away with tears in my eyes but joy in my heart. Later, on the pathway back to the hotel, Clara’s mom stopped me, wrapped me in a deep hug, with tears in her eyes and thanked me.

During that week I saw Clara again several times. I always heard her before I saw her. She loved the ocean waves and bounced joyfully in the surf with mom or dad nearby. Watching her brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye - not in grief but in joyful remembrance of Benjamin.

We don’t know why these special children have a place in our world. They touch our lives and our hearts. Our lives are richer for knowing them. Maybe it’s just to remind us of the sheer joy of the water, the sun and the freedom to splash and play.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16-17

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