In 2013, I was waiting to turn right at the traffic lights when I suddenly became aware of a young man standing at the pedestrian crossing on the opposite side of the road. I looked again at the handsome face. The blonde hair cut in a style I remember so well. He was wearing blue jeans and a denim jacket. My heart skipped a beat. Once again, the universe had found a way to bring him back to me for a few moments. My son, Nicholas. My son who, in November 2000, had died in the psychiatric ward of a public hospital in Adelaide. He was 26 years old.
I'd visited Nicholas in hospital shortly before he died. We went for a walk in the grounds of the hospital that day, and I noticed one of the other patients, an elderly woman, was following us. We sat down on a bench and the woman came and stood close by. After a while Nicholas got up and walked over to the woman. He put his hand on her arm very gently and in a quiet voice I heard him say, ‘My mother and I are having some time together, would you mind very much moving further away?’ The woman nodded and without speaking moved away a little. We started to talk but we were interrupted again; this time the woman had started to sing. Looking over at Nicholas she sang to him. The words of the song were: ‘A certain smile, a certain place can lead an unsuspecting heart on a merry chase.’ It was an unlikely serenade but he listened attentively to her until she finished singing, then he turned back to me, and we continued our conversation.
At that moment I knew that despite the illness, his essential kindness hadn't left him. That despite the illness, the essence of Nicholas had not changed. I knew, too, that he'd let her know that she mattered. Was valued. He did it by listening to her story. A story that she had sung to him with the words of an old love story.