This is the third of three winning blog posts, from our Eureka blog writing competition, written by Louisa Burford.
sentirse arropado/a [idiom] – to feel blanketed in love, comforted, supported, accompanied, protected
I got a phone call out of the blue one morning a couple of months ago, which changed my world forever. It was my younger brother calling to tell me our dad had collapsed due to a suspected heart attack and been rushed to hospital, but the ambulance workers hadn’t been able to resuscitate him. Our dear dad had died that morning.
I managed to grab a flight to Heathrow the same day, and my brother picked me up from the airport. We spent that first night at our childhood home, with my mum and our older brother, the four of us united in our grief and closer than ever before. I’m so grateful I was able to get home the same day.
The last couple of months since then have been a whirlwind of flights to and from the UK and Madrid, and a succession of tsunamis of all the emotions, from deep sorrow and grief to massive amounts of love and gratitude, and even glimpses of great joy at times.
There’s a wonderful expression in Spanish “sentirse arropado/a” that sums up beautifully the love, support and connection I’ve felt during this time, united in grief with all the people that loved and appreciated my dad. The literal meaning of arropado is “clothed,” from the word “ropa” [clothes]. It’s difficult to translate it into one equivalent word or phrase in English, but basically it means “blanketed in love,” “cocooned,” “accompanied,” “protected,” “supported” or “wrapped in love.” Or a little bit of all of the above.
Isn’t it wonderful the power that words can have, to bring us solace in times of difficulty?
One of the most enduring poems in Spanish literature is Jorge Manrique’s “Coplas por la muerte de su padre.” I always thought it was a brilliant poem, but the week after Dad died, my 14-year-old son happened to be studying it at school and I experienced it on a whole new level. I was stunned at how, writing more than five centuries ago about the death of his own father, this fifteenth century poet so succinctly and accurately put into words the exact same thoughts and feelings I was experiencing now.
A good friend of mine, here in Madrid, is recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumour, and she has been sharing daily posts of poetry, which have brought her (and me) great comfort this past month or two. Being confronted with our mortality somehow makes us feel more alive and more attuned to the beauty all around us. And it’s a magical feeling when the words of a poet from centuries gone by touch your heart and illuminate your way in the dark.
Difficult though it may be sometimes, we always have the power to choose our reaction to life’s challenges. And the words we choose to allow into our thoughts and into our experience can either help or hinder us on the path to healing and growth, and living our best lives.
The waves of grief and sorrow come and go. So, when the next one comes along to knock me off my feet, I will remember to focus on the feeling of being “arropada,” cocooned in love, and perhaps read a few lines of poetry or whisper a few positive affirmations for good measure, trusting that the right words will come, to bring me the grace, strength and composure I need to get me through.
Tell me, dear reader, have you experienced the power of words to heal, strengthen and console you in challenging times? I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts.
I got a phone call – recibí una llamada telefónica
I managed to grab a flight – conseguí pillar un vuelo [rápidamente]
united in our grief – unidos en el duelo
sums up beautifully – resume de manera magnífica
Ways to say “I’m so sorry for your loss” in Spanish:
Te acompaño en el sentimiento (Spain) [Lit: I accompany you in sentiment]
Lo lamento (Latin America) [lit: I lament it]
Mi más sentido pésame (my deepest condolences) [Lit: my most [heart]felt condolences]
Siento mucho el fallecimiento de tu padre – I’m so sorry to hear your father passed away
Louisa has her own podcast called The Heartful Spanish podcast offering a new approach to learning a language, especially for those who have struggled to learn the traditional way. Along with this blog post she also published a podcast episode called “Self-compassion in Times of Difficulty”, here’s the bilingual version on Apple Podcasts. It’s also available in Spanish only and English only versions, and on other podcast platforms.