After college I was in one of my first full-time jobs when my grandfather passed away. He wasn’t just a grandfather, he was my Dad. He stepped in when mine stepped out.
I flew to Arizona to be with my mom. To meet up with my family and honor this great man. It wasn’t my first brush with death and funerals but my first pass at picking out all the appropriate items for the service.
My mom had to decide on memory cards, the sign in book, the songs, etc and I helped her. I remember having to make all those choices and being amazed at this process of losing someone you loved.
This was my first up-close, be part of the planning for a funeral experience. And it helped me when I would so the same for my own daughter. I was the calm when my husband couldn’t even talk between the tears.
This was death.
After the funeral we went back to my grandparents house. Even in September, Arizona was hot and I went to their back yard to enjoy the sun as it beat down on my face.
Hearing a noise I turned around to see a bunny. He was hopping around the yard, even standing still at times to stare at me. I smiled. I thought of my Grandfather who often was one of the only men in my life to call me beautiful. My sign…he was still here.
Throughout the time I was at their home the bunny would appear around their yard. I’d walk out the front door and find him/her in the front yard. Again, staring but then hopping away to do his thing. The rabbit – was my sign. I figured it was my “Pop” telling me he would always be with me but he had bigger and better things to do.
Four days before Lydia died I had this strange dream. In the dream my grandfather appeared. I hadn’t had a dream about him since he died. We were having breakfast in a diner. As always he was wearing his white t-shirt.
As we sat under low lighting in a booth, I couldn’t help but notice he and especially his t-shirt was glowing brightly. I don’t remember him ever speaking to me…he just sat across from me smiling the whole time as I rambled on about what had happened since he died. My husband, Tom, my 3 beautiful children and all we’d gone through.
He just smiled. No words. Glowing bright. He seemed to be full of pride for all I was sharing. I was extremely happy. I had seen my Pop again and was able to share my life I felt he missed.
As we parted ways I remember literally with leaps and bounds heading out of the diner to get in the car with Tom. It was amazing see him again.
There is more to this dream…the irony of the other part, but I won’t bore you with it. I remember waking up and sharing it with Tom telling him I wondered after all this time why my Pop came to me in a dream and what did it all mean?
After Lydia died someone said to me “don’t you think your dream could have meant your Pop would be welcoming her when she got to heaven?” The more I thought about it, the more I thought they were right. Just one more sign he was taking care of me…and her.
Today, I woke up early. I was feeling a little troubled with a lot on my heart and mind. Not just about Lydia but about life. I figured I would head to church and unload my troubles there. I got ready, threw on an old coat I hadn’t worn in years and jumped in the car.
As I made my short drive to church I was remembering the eulogies my brother and I wrote for Lydia. A random thought for sure. Why this morning, I don’t know.
Those eulogies are extremely sad but yet uplifting all at the same time. I remember so much of my brother’s but not mine. Brian’s was so complimentary of Tom and I – of how much we did for her in her short life. How much we did for her in general. He shared about how we should remember her, what she meant to everyone and how she moved so many.
I think because I often think of myself as a failure in my job to keep her alive I needed to remember that eulogy.
As I got out of the car to head into church I dropped my keys in the right, deep coat pocket of my coat. They easily fell and rested at he bottom. As I was almost near the door I tried putting my phone in my left pocket but unlike the keys it wouldn’t go in.
As I tried jamming it in to no avail I finally decided to see what was stopping it. With my right hand on the door of the church my left hand pulled out Lydia’s pink pacifier. I stopped, I looked, and with my eyes welling up I smiled.
Like the rabbit, she was letting me know she was listening to my thoughts. My thoughts of the eulogy. My thoughts of being this huge failure as a mother to keep her here with us. My deep, deep pains in my heart that don’t often appear on my face.
As I quickly took my seat as the service had started, I looked up to see who singing this morning. I looked up – dumbfounded once again – to see the woman who sang at Lydia’s burial mass. She rarely sings a the early masses, at least the ones I’ve attended anyway. Actually, I probably have seen her twice in the 15 months Lydia has been gone.
Her hair was shorter but still very curly and her voice just as I remembered it the day we said our final goodbyes to Lydia. So beautiful. So soft and full of love. Her eyes weren’t filled as tears as they were at Lydia’s mass but her caring eyes still looking upon the parishioners.
Once again my girl was telling me church was where I needed to be this morning. She was letting me know she heard my troubles. She was there. With me. Always.
I often don’t feel compelled to visit Lydia’s grave. Just a few times after church my car seems to pull out and steer toward the cemetery. As I drove I went back in the left pocket and pulled out both the pacifier and also found a business card from Children’s. It took me back to the many times our life revolved around that institution. How much I loved and hated that place all at the same time.
I wondered if Lydia was trying to tell me that I did what I could to help her. As I often wonder what I missed that weekend I headed out of town to get that call she passed, was she trying to tell me that I, alone, wasn’t the sole person as part of her care. Was she trying to tell me others were also part of her care? I, alone, shouldn’t feel like this huge failure. That I need to stop dwelling on it?
As I arrived by her beautiful headstone, I could see the leaves from the oak tree above her had fallen around her grave. Pink flowers both real and fake still all around her resting place. As I brushed the leaves off the site where her casket lays below I continued to wonder how we got here. 15 months. It is still hard to accept she is gone.
I remembered her pacifier. I remember the nurse at Children’s often telling me how I coordinated Lydia’s outfit and bow with the color of her ‘nuk’. And yes, I often did that.
She used her nuk until she was almost 3 1/2 or 4. I use to get stares from people when she was using it as she got older. Once in JC Penney a woman in an elevator who didn’t know Lydia was special commented on her continued use of the pacifier. I ignored it. I didn’t feel like educating this judgmental person who felt the need to say something to me.
I didn’t care what people thought about her nuk. My thought was this: Lydia, even at 3, had been through so much and I knew much more lie ahead of her as far as battles. I remember telling people “the pacifier is the least of my concerns, I know she won’t use it forever but we have bigger fish to fry than getting rid of a calming pacifier.” Most left me alone after I stated that – even if they didn’t get our journey they knew the road we had paved.
Before I left the grave, I went to the backside of the headstone and read her song. I couldn’t find it in my heart to sing it so I made sure she knew it is and always will be in my thoughts. Then, I went into that left pocket and grabbed her pacifier and I laid that on her stone.
I have received a lot of signs since Lydia died. Some so very obvious and some not.
They usually are very comforting. She’s listening. She is there.
It isn’t the same as holding her, touching her or having her arms wrapped around my neck tight as she buries her head in my hairline.
It isn’t like her grabbing my hands to tickle her stomach another time while she lets out a loud giggle.
It isn’t the same as seeing her smile and hearing her laugh and you remembering your problems you thought you had really didn’t matter.
But, the signs, they help. The signs let me know she’s still here. Watching over us. Letting me know I’ll be ok. Even with the sadness that sometimes creeps into my heart and thoughts – I’ll be ok.
I love you Lyd. I miss you beyond words. Thank you for letting me know your arms are now wrapped around me.