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Signs of Spring Signal Season of Remembrance

Lately my heart has been heavy with the weight of the anniversary of my husband’s death less than a month away. Even though it’s been 13 years since he so suddenly left us with a fatal heart attack while playing basketball with our son Andy, the budding blossoms of trees, shrubs, and flowers usher in my melancholy and deep yearning for the life we shared as a couple. That fated morning started like any other warm spring day with white pedals bursting forth on the dogwood trees surrounding our home, birds singing, mowers humming in the neighborhood, coffee brewing, newspaper spreading out on the kitchen counter, kids rushing to get showers and dress for school, bees buzzing, dogs barking in the distance, flag flapping in the breeze over the front door, white puffy clouds darting across the blue sky…. but ended in the deafening sounds of emergency vehicles summoned to the gym where David collapsed to the brown rubbery floor with young sweaty boys including Andy watching hopelessly for signs of movement in his lifeless body. It’s a day forever etched in our memories filled with echoes of sirens signaling in a shift in our view of this season of spring!

The hours, days, weeks, months, and years have expanded my acceptance of life after the death of my best friend and first love of my life, the one and only David Butterworth. It’s strange how much you take for granted when you are married and just trying to keep up with the daily pressures of working, parenting, and everyday ordinary living! Instead of relishing the pure joys of a new golden retriever puppy wagging her tail like a stick beating a drum with the paper in her mouth, you notice the muddy paw prints trailing from the kitchen to dining room rug. Rather than thanking your husband for giving you a new king-size rice craved mahogany bed for mother’s day, you express your displeasure with the enormous gesture on his part on a day where a simple card would have sufficed. It’s too bad that we are unable to look into our future and see what lies ahead. If we knew what would be arriving next, we could more fully appreciate the simple pleasures and extravagant signs of love in this precious journey of life!

In hindsight, I hear the words of the angel character of Clarence Oddbody from David’s favorite movie It’s a Wonderful life saying, “Strange isn’t it? Each man life touches so many lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” That hole that Clarence describes seems larger this time of year. Each spring I desire to be given a second chance like George Bailey from this great film and get to redo those final days before David left us. This only happens in the movies. But, I do believe that messengers like Clarence show up in such moments to urge us to live with hope in spite of adversity.

Yesterday, I saw a friend’s Facebook post with a picture of large gray clouds overshadowed by the bright rays of sun sparkling above and through them.  This post on a dreary rainy Sunday afternoon seemed to capture my heartfelt sadness and shine rays of brightness into the heaviness that I had been feeling since the white petals of dogwoods began to unfold over the week-end.  In looking more closely at the image, I saw the outline of an angel in the silver edges of those clouds.  I commented to my friend Pendle that it looked somewhat like an angel in those clouds. She sent me a response saying, “When I was little, my grandmother and my mom told me that when the sun streamed through the clouds like this, it was my father looking down on me from heaven. It’s stayed with me all these years.”  My friend and I both know of the pain of the “awful hole” of losing someone so dear to us.  However, we recognize the grace extended to us by our families, friends, and even strangers giving us the means to feel whole again.  Even though we don’t get to change our past history like George Bailey from the film, we do have messengers like Clarence to shine a light into the hope of living with joy in spite of the clouds, which threaten to block the path along the way.

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