Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The sign

The telephone rang late that Thursday night and an unfamiliar woman’s voice asked for a name I didn’t recognize.  When it rang again less than ten minutes later, I guessed that she had again misdialed, so this time, I asked Darren to answer it.  I knew immediately, however, that this was not another wrong number.  As soon as he picked up the phone, I realized that it was my mom calling.  A phone call from her so late at night could only mean one thing.  “I’m so sorry,” I heard Darren say, confirming my unspoken fear.  Trembling, I took the receiver from him, my heart breaking at the sound of my mom’s voice crying, “He didn’t wait for me!”.  I felt so utterly helpless.  I knew how desperately my mom desired to be there with Grandpa when he left for his final journey home.  But how could he really be gone?  I had been sitting with him just an hour before!  Unsure of how best to help him at the time, I had pulled my chair close to his bed and held his hand in mine.  Softly, I sang the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to him, hoping that somewhere deep within that frail corporeal frame of his body, his soul would hear my voice.

Eternal Father,
I offer you the Body and Blood,
Soul and Divinity,
of Your Dearly Beloved Son,
Our Lord, Jesus Christ,
in atonement for our sins
and those of the whole world.

For the sake of His sorrowful Passion,
have mercy on us and on the whole world…

That a man once so vibrant and alive could be so suddenly gone just didn’t seem possible.  My faith assures me that he is only gone from this world, but how I longed for the certainty that he was safely home.  “Oh, Grandpa!” my heart cried out in silence as I lay awake in bed that night.  “I wish there was some way you could just give us a sign that you’ve made it, that you are where you’re meant to be!” 

The next morning, while getting the kids ready for their last day of school before Spring Break, I gently shared the news that Great-Grandpa had passed away during the night.  They were sad, of course, but we agreed that Grandpa must have been overjoyed to wake up and find himself in heaven!  Still, a little part of me kept wishing for that sign.  I spent most of that day with mom, visiting Nana with her and helping in whatever small ways I could.

Arriving home shortly before school let out, I told Darren that I wanted us both to be there to greet the kids upon dismissal.  It was the start of Spring Break, after all, and I wanted to share their excitement.  We buckled Kristen and Austin into their car seats and drove down the street.  We weren’t gone very long—thirty minutes, maybe—and when we arrived home, Dylan was the first one of us to enter the house.  Pushing open the door from the garage into our kitchen, he stopped and called out, “Mom, come look!”  Peering over his shoulder, I saw spread out before me, in pretty much a straight line and for the most part standing upright, a small collection of the roosters I keep displayed above my tall kitchen cabinets. 

What in the world…?” I wondered aloud as I gathered them up and set them aside.  We thought at first that perhaps one of the cats had knocked them down en route to the clerestory window high above that particular shelf, but that possibility just didn’t seem likely, as they were arranged so orderly across the threshold.  It should also be noted that not once in the ten years that we’ve lived here has a cat ever knocked down all the roosters at once.  Every once in a great while—a handful of times ever, at most—we’ll hear a loud crash in the night and wake the next morning to find a rooster on the tile floor.  This just didn’t make sense!

I puzzled over our strange discovery while putting away kids’ backpacks, fixing snacks, and continuing afternoon chores.  And then all at once, I was struck as if by lightning with the thought:  “Grandpa loved roosters!”  Their strong association with Grandpa, in fact, was one of the reasons I loved my rooster collection so much.  He had begun collecting them many years earlier, and his famous rooster crow, heard often during my adolescence, was one of his many unique traits we had affectionately remembered while reminiscing together in the preceding days.  How did I not see it sooner?!  The roosters on my floor were no accident or coincidence.  Their placement was intentional.  I could almost hear the sound of Grandpa’s rooster crow echoing through time and place as the realization came to me:  I had received my sign.

Beautiful sky on the morning after my Grandpa's death

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