I don’t believe in beginnings and endings anymore. I prefer not to be bound by “linear” time because I believe that our lives are defined by moments. It’s why I feel it is critical to allow ourselves to focus on the “present.” I refuse to be bound by certainty because we live in a world where probabilities are often all we have to go on. This is why I believe in “angelic intervention.”
Thursday, March 23, 2017
The memory is still vivid. I walked out of the hospital with my phone in my hand. There was wind. Strong, gusts of cool wind, dark clouds rolling in. Rain. I could smell the rain that would be falling soon. The first thunderstorm of the year was en route. I called my childhood friend, Courtney. Courtney spent a lot of time at our house growing up and held a very special place in my mom’s heart. I knew I could call her in this moment. It had to be someone who knew exactly where I was coming from. Someone who knew what the journey had been like and what was happening at this moment. She had cared for her husband during his battle with cancer and lost him when we were only 30. Between the gusting wind, trying to communicate through the sobs, and the excruciating pain in my heart, I asked her if I was ever going to remember my healthy, smiley, laughing, “living” mom. She talked me through it and assured me that, with time, I would.
After our conversation, I went back to my mom’s hospital room with my dad, brother, and sister where we had been camping by her bedside for five days (she had been completely unresponsive for almost 48 hours). The thunder was rolling, lightening was flashing, rain falling. After an hour or two, as the gusts of wind died down, the thunder and lightening ceased, and the rain became a steady, light rain…my mom took her last breath. I don’t think it was a coincidence that my mom left this world at that moment. My mom LOVED rain and thunderstorms. There had been very little moisture in the area for quite some time, but the rain continued for the next few days after my mom died until the day of her funeral which happened to be a perfect spring day. We received many messages and comments from friends and family regarding how much my mom loved the rain and how ironic it all was. Coincidence? Or angelic intervention?
As I’ve taken time to reflect on moments that I have documented in my life like the one I just described, I find it difficult not to believe many events in my life have been orchestrated by a higher power(s). I know some of you are reading this and thinking I’ve completely lost it, some of you may be rolling your eyes, but I know there are many of you who are reading this and completely connect with what I’m communicating. I believe our guardian angels send us signs to nudge or push us in certain directions, but we have to be open to it.
After my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I did a lot of research. The statistics of surviving five years is less than 10% and that’s after removing the tumor(s). I’m an optimistic person, but I’m also a realistic person. I had always planned to help my family if they needed it, but I didn’t imagine it would be necessary when my mom was only 62-years-old. I knew there was no way my mom would accept me up and leaving my job because she had cancer. I didn’t want my family to think I had given up hope because I hadn’t. I was hoping for the best outcome but preparing for the worst. I prayed and prayed and prayed some more for guidance about what I should do.
It wasn’t long before a google search regarding pancreatic cancer led me to a blog post created by a young woman named, Lindsay (about my age), who had decided to share her personal story of the loss of her mother to pancreatic cancer on her travel blog. At the end of the post, she wrote about how she wished she would have moved home from the East coast to spend more time with her mother. Her mother seemed to be a lot like mine. My mom encouraged my brother, sister, and I to live our lives according to our needs and wants even if it meant moving far away. We all knew that just because we weren’t close in physical proximity didn’t mean it would change how strong our emotional bonds were with each other. Anyway, I saved that blog post and would revisit it often. I often contemplated reaching out to Lindsay, but didn’t until recently.
Within weeks of discovering Lindsay’s blog post, I had a meeting with one of my seasonal radio clients. They weren’t clients I saw weekly or even monthly so I didn’t know them as well as I got to know a lot of my clients, but they were super nice people and I always enjoyed stopping in when the time of year came around to swing by to discuss their commercial schedule. When Jodi asked how things were, I mentioned my mom’s diagnosis and surgery. I would often mention my mom’s diagnosis hoping to discover someone who may have insight on specialists, medications, etc. She shared that she had lost her mom to cancer and expressed how very sorry she was. We got back to discussing business and then I was up and headed out the door to see the next client. As I was just about out the door, she stopped me abruptly. She said, “Lindsay, I don’t know you personally. I don’t know what your financial situation is or where your family lives, but if it’s possible for you, you should spend time with your mom.” There were a lot of people who would say things like, “Ooo…your mom has pancreatic cancer? I’m so sorry. That’s a tough one to beat!” Those comments were annoying. This was so different from the weird, annoying comments. Jodi’s approach was different. There was such deep sincerity in that moment. Those words stayed with me. Lindsay, a stranger whose post I discovered randomly on the internet, her words stayed with me. Coincidence? Or angelic intervention?
In this same time frame, I came across reflective exercises I had been doing from a book called, “The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose.” I learned about this book through a sales course I randomly decided to take the year before. I was at the peak of my career and I had my sights set on making management my next career goal. The premise of the class was to learn tools to identify what our personal “why’s” and “values” were and to continue to revisit what we had documented every couple months. Ever since I had started the reflection a year ago, my top “value” was family and my “why” (as to why it was important for me to be a successful career woman) was so I could save money (to travel) to spend time with my family and to be sure I could help myself, my husband, and my family in case there was ever an emergency. Coincidence? Or angelic intervention?
Since my parents were going to think it was odd if I just left my job out of the blue, I needed a plan. During this time, my husband heard an interview with a therapist on the radio while commuting to work one morning. The woman talked about the new therapy program that was available in Sioux Falls. My husband suggested that I investigate to see if there was an online or hybrid option available since I had always considered continuing my education in psychology. I called right away to inquire. It seemed too good to be true. The program could be completed part-time and the classes were on Mondays. This meant I could go to classes on Monday and then leave Tuesdays to travel to SW Kansas or Denver to spend time with my mom and to be available for doctor appointments and then drive back to South Dakota on Sundays. Coincidence? Or angelic intervention?
Another incident that occurred that has since strengthened my faith was the perfect storm of events that occurred that forced my husband and I to close our fitness facility. During ownership of our fitness center, a competitor entered the market that made it hard for our “small” business to compete. At the same time, our landlord had sold the shopping center and the new landlord was going to increase our monthly lease substantially. Our lease was up in six months and it wasn’t going to be lucrative to extend the lease. Two months after we closed the doors, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It would not have been possible to have had the time with her that I did if we had still owned the gym.
A couple weeks before my mom passed away during my mom’s final quality days, my sister had asked my mom to send us signs to let us know she is with us. I truly believe she does. Here are some of the moments that immediately come to mind:
My nephew, Callan, was about 18-months-old when his Gammy passed away. Cal and my mom kept in touch through regular visits and Facetime every day. My sister regularly showed Callan pictures of our family and would ask him to point to different members of the family. A couple days after Gammy passed away, Callan was playing with her phone and the screensaver appeared, which happened to be a picture of Callan and Gammy. My sister asked Callan, “where’s Gammy,” expecting Cal to point to his Gammy in the picture on the phone as he usually did. Callan stopped and stared at her for a moment and then pointed up. They hadn’t talked to him about Gammy going to heaven because he was too little. The next time she asked him where Gammy was (expecting him to point up to Heaven), he pointed to his heart! Yes, angelic intervention. I truly believe it.
Last week I was visiting my nephew in California. We were playing in his room and I was taking a Snap Chat of him and I and he pointed his cute, chubby little finger at my phone and said, “There’s Gammy!” Caught off-guard, I said, “What?” He was still pointing and said again, “There’s Gammy!” I said, “Where?” He was smiling and pointed at my phone and said, “Right there…by Cal!” He may have thought I looked like his Gammy (which I do), but he hasn’t mentioned my mom in months and we all referred to her as “Gammy” but he wasn’t able to say the word, “Gammy” before she passed away.
Just the other day, my sister was getting Callan ready for bed and out of the blue, Callan said to her, “Gammy’s here.” She was shocked because the day he mentioned my mom to me was the first time in a long time. She asked him, “where?” Cal said, “outside the door.” Then he said, “Gammy’s the best chaser! Gammy’s the best hide-n-seeker!” He’s always running laps around their house and he recently has taken a liking to hide-and-seek:)
My sister experienced incredible grief immediately after she returned to her home on the West coast. She wanted to find some books about coping with grief. She was sitting at her computer thinking about whether or not to order a book called, “To Heaven and Back.” At that exact moment, her friend called her to tell her that she had ordered her a book called, “To Heaven and Back.”
Last fall I was struggling with incredible bouts of grief. One day, while mowing the lawn, a butterfly was following me around the yard. It then landed on me and stayed there for several minutes while I drove the riding lawn mower. Is it pure coincidence that a butterfly just decided it was going to hang out with me for several minutes while gliding along on the mower? Maybe…but, maybe not! It brought me a much needed sense of peace regardless.
Thanking My Earthly Angels
I share these stories not to try to convince anyone to be a believer. I share them because I know there are others out there who will find comfort in them just as I found comfort in others’ experiences. Writing is also one of my therapeutic outlets. After a post, many people respond through email, messenger or the comments section and new, lasting connections are made.
I don’t know why I waited so long to reach out to Lindsay (the young woman with the blog post about losing her mom to pancreatic cancer). I read her blog so many times. I wrote to her earlier this week through Messenger and thanked her for sharing her story because it influenced one of the most important decisions of my life. I received a response from her this morning. Her response was incredibly heartfelt and sincere.
A couple weeks after I returned to South Dakota after my mom’s funeral, I wrote a letter and personally delivered it to my former client, Jodi. She was confused to see me when I walked through the door but was super sweet, as usual. I handed her the envelope and told her that I needed to thank her in person for the special gift she gave me that she wasn’t aware of. For some reason, I thought I would be able to keep it together and not cry. I reminded her of the advice she gave me the last time I saw her (over a year before) and how because of her courage that day, I have no regrets. We hugged and shed tears. I consider her one of my Earthly angels and she will forever hold a special place in my heart.
There Are Some Things That Can’t Be Explained
When I found out my mom was terminal, I stopped researching treatments and doctors and started reading everything I could about death. My goal was to help my mom reduce as much fear, loneliness, pain and discomfort as possible. I wanted to help her preserve as much dignity as possible. One of the more informational books I read was called, “Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs and Communications of the Dying.” It’s a book written by hospice nurses who shared their experiences with patients at the end-of-life.
There are a lot of incredible instances that occur at the end of life that can’t be explained. I witnessed a few with my mom. A couple weeks before my mom died, I walked into her room where she was watching tv. I peaked in and asked her if she needed anything. She was very matter-of-fact and said, “I don’t know who all these people are walking around the room.” I had read plenty of material and heard stories from others who spoke about these moments they had also witnessed. It did catch me off guard at first and I said, “What did you say, mom?” Very matter-of-fact and calm, she said, “I don’t know who all these people are walking around.” Then it was conversation as usual.
It would be difficult for me not to believe in “angelic intervention” even if I tried. I’m glad I do though, because without faith, what is there?
Love you, miss you, MOM. Thanks for the signs:)