Carlita and Jose were married at the age of fourteen in a small fishing village in Mexico. Over the decades of their beautiful life, their entire family slowly migrated to the United States. In their late eighty’s, it was finally Carlita and Jose’s turn. They had been in the United States twenty-four hours when Jose had a massive stroke in the taxi en route to their family reunion.
Jose was transferred from the hospital to a nursing home to die. I walked into Jose’s room to find about twenty family members surrounding his bed, weeping softly. When Carlita saw me, she rushed everybody out.
There she stood, a gentle woman, all of four feet tall. She was still wearing the white cotton dress she wore on the airplane. She turned to face me and attempted to iron the wrinkles out of her dress with the palms of her hands. She didn’t speak a word of English. I don’t speak Spanish.
We looked at each other in silence, communicating volumes. She stood taller and lifted her quivering chin up. Without losing eye contact, I took a couple steps towards her and slowly offered my hand to her right shoulder, giving her the opportunity to refuse my touch. She moved in closer until our toes were touching. Without saying anything, she slowly placed the left side of her face on my chest, right over my heart. I held her gently and slowly stroked her braided hair as she sobbed. I let my tears flow too. It was a most incredible exchange.
She then wrapped her rosary around Jose’s hand and I took this photo.
I would like to remind you of some of the universal languages we are all fluent in – silent presence, eye contact, touch, and tears.
To learn more about Enduring Love: Inspiring Stories of Love and Wisdom at the End of Life, please visit