My Turkish was extremely limited, but I still had to try to converse with my mother in law. One day I came home and told her, in my fragmentary language, that my friend had lost her baby as soon as he was born.
Anne, as I called her, (it means mother in Turkish), looked at me with profound sympathy, and said something that crossed the troublesome boundaries between the two vastly different languages, travelling straight from her heart to mine.
"Allah buyukdir." Literal translation: God is large. The words were simple, but they struck deep. With this short sentence, my mother-in-law commented on the mystery of life, the inexplicability of loss, and the possibility of comfort and consolation.
On a much happier occasion, she said something else that touched me profoundly. I was still nursing my daughter, but Anne and I decided to go together to London Drugs for a half hour's shopping. For the first time since the arrival of her grandparents, both her granny and I left Yasemin at the same time. Her Dad wasn't home either, so the baby was left in the sole care of her granddad.
In the drugstore, I turned to my mother in law suddenly. "I hope the baby is all right." Her answer was short and simple. "Kalbim temmiz," she said, literally, my heart is clean. She was telling me that if the child was in distress, she would know, even at a distance. I felt assuaged by a great expansion of trust and understanding. At that time, we had known each other only a few weeks.
The powerful memory of this exchange gave me the confidence and courage I needed soon after to leave the baby in her grandmother's care while I returned to work.