No, not the “come back as a dog to pee on all the people I didn’t care for so much in this life” kind. Rather, more of the spiritual sensation, if you will, of keeping loved ones with you in special and meaningful ways long after they’ve passed.
I know everyone has different feelings in this regard and I don’t mean for this to be a strident or “out there” kind of post. But, for what it is worth, I wanted to share some recent experiences….particularly for our family - particularly today.
Bob and I had an absolutely fabulous weekend last week watching our wonderful son, David, graduate from college. Oh, what a day. So proud and excited for him. Beyond the smiles, tears and cabernet for two straight days, the ear-to-ear grin on David’s face as he crossed the commencement stage showed how happy he was and, at the same time, how truly ready he is for this next chapter in his life journey.
While I know all of this is as it should be, as Mother’s Day approached this weekend, I found myself feeling quite blue with the realization that it is quite likely that we won’t share many, if any, Mother’s Day mornings (or, as we like to call it in our house, “Evil Step-Mother’s Day”) together anymore. Granted, “morning” for David typically meant 1 p.m., but nobody anywhere could beat his French toast and I have to tell you I am going to miss those special days.
So, I have been pouting and feeling sorry for myself when all of a sudden yesterday I walked into my office where Thorny sits – and Thorny had quite a message for me.
Thorny, for those of you who may not remember, is what I named the Crown of Thorns brother David gave me as a mere twig many years ago cut away from Mother’s beautiful original plant that adorned our family home for decades. (Yes, perhaps it is a lame name but it is MY plant – so deal with it).
For years after brother David gave me Thorny, it remained nothing more than that skimpy twig. I was certain it was my horrible horticultural skills that was stunting its growth. I watered it and talked to it faithfully for three years with absolutely not one bit of progress. When Bob and I were married and moved it into our house, he thought it was the scariest looking thing he had ever seen and when I insisted it be placed in the front living room, I distinctly remember seriously raised eyebrows.
I hate to say this – but it wasn’t until after Mom died that Thorny really began to grow. Since then, it has had three pot replacements and it is now nearly as big as Mom’s original shrub that we all so cherished. Regardless of your beliefs, no one will ever convince me that part of Mom's spirit is not inside that plant.
So back to yesterday when I entered the office. While Thorny is typically only green in color with a rare bloom on one or two odd ends, I found it covered in beautiful pink blossoms. It literally took my breath away. After just a moment of confusion, the sudden appearance of these blooms became crystal clear. It was Mom – as sure as I am typing on this keyboard – telling me to get over my bad self, stop pouting and be thankful for what lies ahead.
If that weren’t enough to freak me out, along came Louie.
Many of the younger Whitakers will remember Louie the Cardinal (Yes, he is named after the baseball team but Nana McCann named him – not me – thank you very much).
Nana McCann would spend hours upon hours at the kitchen window in the Delavan, Wisconsin house monitoring our back yard bird feeder. From her perch, she would admonish the birds she arbitrarily had decided had eaten enough food by rapping her large rings loudly against the kitchen window. “Go on….get outa there,” she would yell to no one in particular in her New England intonation. When the birds would ignore her, as they regularly did, she would often send me or brothers David and Charlie outside to fetch her small rocks that she would hurl at the feeder…and unbeknownst to many, she had quite an arm.
We had names for many of these birds and other animals (let me tell you Sally the Squirrel knew when to high tail it out of the feeder, if the kitchen window started to open).
Louie the Cardinal was by far the family favorite. And, to my good fortune – or fate – Louie has stayed with me, following me from town to town and state to state throughout my entire life. It seems whenever I am alone or in need, I am regularly surprised to find the presence of my bright red friend. I know I have written to some of you privately about Louie when I thought you may need a pick me up or when I felt he was talking to you through me – so this may not be new news to some.
The presence of the cardinal in my life is difficult to describe. Often, Louie’s purpose is to make me feel better about losing Mom and Dad – or to make me smile, recalling fun family memories. More times than not, he simply makes me feel that everything is going to be ok in the world.
So, I awoke early to do some writing this morning and who should appear on my windowsill looking as dapper as can be? You guessed it.
Again, I don’t want to be super duper gooey. But I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried. I don’t know if Louie was bringing Mom to me for Mother’s Day or what this morning’s message was, but he was there and it was real.
Just like life and time together with those we love, Louie fluttered away all too quickly before I could snap a photo of him on the window’s ledge. I am pleased, however, to share a picture of the beautiful blooming Thorny.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I still hear ya.