One year ago today I was painting the album cover for a homemade gift for Eric’s 40th. I was trying to get the wordage colored before 12pm so I could pop to my friend Maria’s yoga class.
Mum Facetimed, and something made me answer it, despite my hurry. Mum told me with a steadied voice, as if she was trying to steer her vocal cords, that dad had died that morning. All my operating systems shut down for the next few moments. My mind and body felt blank. I couldn’t process the information being spoken, nor believe it, even though daddy had been very poorly. Then the tears erupted, and the groans of pain, which were foreign to me. Two days later I was in a bubble of grief, flying home to the UK to mourn among family whose worlds had equally shut down.
I can’t say the grief has gotten much easier, but it is heightened at certain times more than others. What I can say is that the butterflies and herons that act strangely around me are signs from him. That the lights flickering at moments when we’re laughing as a family or chatting about dad have his comic timing all over them. So I know he thrives on, behind the veil that presently separates us.
Yet even these uplifting signs can seem such a poor substitute for the physical presence of our departed loved-ones, but what they do provide is moments to marvel over, because they encourage us death is not the end, that our loved-ones aren’t lost but, rather, have just expanded into everything around us; the sun, the wind, the synchronizations of life. They are all of it. They may evade our physical senses but we have to learn to access them another way. We find them in the quiet moments, manifesting as lyrics on the radio, a car bumper sticker or an overheard conversation that is seemingly meant for us. Our departed loved-ones depend now on our intuition, our sensitivity and connection to Life.
One of my favorite signs from dad happened this July when I was visiting mum. We were out in Poole, eating lunch at the Loch Fyne fish restaurant. Dad had loved this place and every trip I’d come home, we’d eat there.
On this particular July day, Bonnie, mum’s new puppy, was with us so we had to sit outside. Luckily for us our favorite Argentinean waiter was working, who dad and I had warmed to very much. We had a glorious meal, sitting in the sunshine and sharing dad- memories.
After returning home, I absentmindedly checked the Timehop app on my iPhone for that day. Mum and I were floored by what we saw: Seven years ago dad, mum and I were at that very restaurant, sitting at the exact same table outside. The photo I’d taken of Bonnie and I was the same background as dad and I sat in front of, seven years earlier. Dad always disliked eating outside, joking that he had to tack with the wind to keep the few strands of hair he had left across the top of his head to stay put:-) This served to increase mums and my astonishment at this incredible ‘coincidence.’
How awe-inspiring is that?! And only today I was cleaning the kids’ toilet-all glam- and flushed the toilet after cleaning the bowl. When I went back to wipe down the bowl there, lying in the water, was a quarter dollar coin. It was American Eagle face up, with its wings spread wide. A physic friend had told me repetitively to take comfort in the fact that dad was now “free as a bird.” The other side of the coin bore the words ‘Liberty’ and ‘In God we trust.’ Marvelous. Simply brilliant. Thank you for the inventiveness of your signs, Dad.
If you have lost a loved-one, I hope you too recognize the signs your loved-ones sends to you. I’d love to hear your favorites in the comment box below.
Today is about honoring my grief, and setting aside all else. It’s also about celebrating an extraordinary man whose soul decided to aptly depart on All Soul’s Day. So, dad, I’ll be raising a glass of your beloved Chardonnay to you today, as well photographing back through all our years of happiness together. Cheers Daddy:-)
PS. There is a lady who I do not know personally but has helped in my grief journey tremendously. I recommend her two books to all I meet who are navigating fresh grief or who’ve lost a loved-one. If this is you, or if you or a loved-one have been diagnosed with a terminal illness I encourage you heartily to read these books Anita Moorjani, ‘Dying To Be Me’ and ‘What If This Is Heaven?’