smith rock state park

Gifts Amid the Grief

This might come off as a little “woo woo,” but I don’t care. As I stated in my last post, I’m making up my own rules, and I was given a gift Monday morning that I want to share.

As many of you know by now, my husband, Bob, passed on 1/11. And, as some of you know, I’m all about “signs” and numbers. Once I realized the date, it was not lost on me that I kept seeing 1:11 on our recent trip to Florida. I had even remarked that it was cool our flight home was flight 111 on January 1st. Long flight delays and lost luggage had made the trip less than ideal, and I took it as a good sign we’d get home on time, which we did.

I’m used to paying attention to angel numbers, but most often see 11:11 or 4:44, so seeing 1:11 stood out. When I looked up the meaning of 111, one of the main messages it emphasizes is to be aware of the link between heaven and earth and the bridge between spiritual and physical.

(Don’t worry; the numbers portion of this post is now complete. I’ll move on and talk about birds for a minute, then I’ll get to Monday morning. Stay with me.)

I’ve talked before about the significance of birds and how they show up for me when I need them. Here is a link to a post I wrote a couple years ago, Rainbows, Birds, and Messages from the Sea, if you’re interested in reading more.

A few days after Bob passed, I was driving up near our old neighborhood, having just dropped off my girls at our friend’s house. They were having a Harry Potter marathon with a few of their besties and taking a much-needed break from all the grown-ups. I was out of my head with grief, in disbelief of my new reality, and I began talking to him in the car. I said out loud that I was going to need him to send me some sort of a sign. It only took him eight days to send it.

The following weekend, I was driving in the same neighborhood, going to pick up my girls this time, with my best-friend-since-sixth-grade, Kelly, sitting beside me. (It was one of the few times she let me drive during her stay. I miss my driver and coffee buddy since she went home.). I noticed I was approaching some huge birds to the right of my car. I slowed way down and came to a stop as five wild turkeys crossed the street in front of us.

Now, maybe it’s not that uncommon, but I have lived in Bend for twenty years and have never seen a wild turkey. I checked with my sister, who’s lived here closer to thirty years, and she’s never seen one either. And, I know Bob never saw one in Central Oregon because, if he had, he never would have stopped talking about it. He had a thing for them, loved hunting them, and every time we visited Southern Oregon, where he grew up, he was on the lookout for wild turkeys. So there it was. I felt a glimmer of relief for a sign that gave me hope of a peaceful passage for him.

Before we get to Monday, I need to take you back to when I was a teenager in the ’80s. It’s a long trip, I know.

There was a shocking loss in our community when the father of a family we knew passed away. I don’t remember too many details, and I didn’t personally know the family well, but my mom and dad did, and they were pretty shaken and sad. Memories can be tricky, so I may not have my facts straight, and I don’t recall how old I was, but I remember it was a very emotional funeral, more than most. He was young, with teenage kids, I think, and I remember my mom telling me he took his life. It was clear he was a very kind and charismatic man, a great friend, father, and husband. The thing I most remember, though, and the thing that has stuck with me all these years, was the song played at his funeral. It was “That’s My Job” by Conway Twitty.

I was not a country music fan back then and certainly not a fan of an old-timer with super weird hair and a name like Conway Twitty. That song had such a huge effect on me, though, and every time I heard it over the years (because now I know better and love country music, especially the old-timers), I would burst into tears. To me, the song’s message conveyed that his kids knew his love for them was unconditional. I now understand why that family, their tragic loss, and that song were burned into my memory.

Gifts amid the grief
Bob with Hailey and Ella at the Action Village office

Monday morning this week, I decided it was time for me to go to our business, Trailer’s Unlimited, for the first time since Bob was found there in his truck. There were some checks to sign and someone there I needed to meet regarding the future of the place. Though I built our last business, Action Village, alongside Bob, Trailer’s came along when our girls did, and I never got very involved. My brother Michael has literally been a Godsend taking over that part of life for me (that’s a whole other blog post).

Needless to say, I was nervous and emotional, but determined to stay strong. After we dropped the girls off at school, Davy and I stopped for a coffee, then headed straight there. I was glad to have the company of my sweet dog, and I said to him, “Dad’s got our back.”, all the while repeating in my head, “You can do this”.

I was driving past Drake Park downtown, thinking about the direction we had decided for the business, when a new song came on the radio station. I heard, “I woke up crying late at night…” and in seconds, was in a full-on sob. Before the chorus, “That’s my job, that’s what I do, everything I do is because of you…”, came on, I said, “Holy shit. Um, okay, thanks. I get the message, but I can’t listen to this right now!” I needed to pull myself together, and I managed that by changing the station, taking deep breaths, and feeling supported in my morning mission because of the gift I had just received. Of course, when I turned into the parking lot at Trailer’s, a song by Bob’s favorite band, The Smith’s, came on the radio. I turned the damn thing off, fought another round of tears, chuckled, and said, “Dude, seriously.” He always was an overachiever.

I parked the car, glanced at the truck on the far side of the lot, and made my way into the building. I wasn’t there long, but I was very glad I went. Bob built a great business, but it didn’t come easily. He worked so hard when he was there and continued to work on it when he got home every night. I feel like it will be valued and well cared for moving forward. That’s really important to me because it was really important to him.

Gifts amid the grief
Bob and Scout on the Trailer’s lot, 2017

Today is the 11th. It’s been one month since we lost Bob, but that seems impossible. Time is so weird when it comes to grief. I miss him every minute of every day. I still expect to see him in his spot on the couch with his computer on his lap at night and to be able to call him on the phone to check in during the day. I especially miss our evening walks with Davy. I’m so sad to know he was in such pain and wish so badly I had known the depth. I’ll never know if it was something that could have been fixed or if I could have helped. The most important thing to me is that he be remembered for how he lived, not for how he died.

Gifts amid the grief
I hesitate to share this picture because it’s terrible of me. It’s such a great pic of Bob, though, and I call it my gift from our Florida trip because it captures a happy moment where he looks like himself.

The gift of the signs, the birds, and the songs don’t make the pain and sadness go away. They do give me comfort, though. They reinforce my belief that there is a thin veil between what we might call heaven and earth and that when we lose a loved one, our souls remain connected. I suppose I feel compelled to share all of this with you for a couple reasons. First, I want everyone to trust the messages and signs they receive but might brush off as coincidence, and find solace in the gift. Life is heavy, and we need to believe in something beyond our daily reality. Second, it’s helpful to me and allows me to process and work through grief. I guess I feel like that’s my job.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstien

I choose the latter way to live. Some days are more difficult than others to believe in miracles. The photo above the title was taken a few hours after my visit to Trailer’s on Monday. My friend, Sarah, and I hiked at Smith Rock State Park to celebrate her birthday. The stunning, miraculous beauty of nature and the ear of a great friend were the perfect additions to the day.