I looked at every house, every yard, every pothole in the road on my walk to my husband’s old house. In my mind, I predicted how the dramatic event would ultimately go down. Somewhere nearby, a violin would be playing a slow, sad melody. I would be sobbing, forcing each leg to move in front of the other just to make it up the road. “Oh, no!” I noticed I had forgotten to bring tissues to wipe the tears off of my wet face! I would have to use my shirt. I imagined the violin’s tragic tune, deeper, slower. Oh, Brother! LOL Ranch style houses lined up the streets like dominoes. Some of them looked like time had stood still. One house had a twenty-something year old basketball goal that was still cemented next to the driveway, the net looking ragged and forgotten. Mailboxes needed painting or replacing. Huge, neglected bushes needed trimming and flowerbeds needed weeding. Weathered decking and slightly tattered shutters made me wonder if the inhabitants were elderly and not able to manage the upkeep of an aging house.
For every dated, unattended house, there were ones that were loved and cared for. One home proudly showcased their new above ground swimming pool with newly stained deck. Bicycles and toys of little ones littered yards and cul-de-sacs. Newly washed and waxed SUV’s and motorcycles dotted driveways.
I finally see my husband’s old house. I walked up to it and stood in the road staring at it, my eyes pouring over ever brick, every door and window. After a few minutes, I turned and walked back the way I had come. I noticed that my face was dry. I hadn’t cried a single tear. I wasn’t upset! Weird! I didn’t at all feel the way I predicted I would. Even as my mind recalled the events, the running, the screaming… I felt nothing more than a stir of familiarity. I was only a spectator, a visitor. That was all. No violins had played. Just silence.
I took my time walking back to my car, making sure I soaked up every image my eyes rested on. Finally I made it up the hill to my old house. I stood at my car for a minute or so and took one last look at my family’s old house, old neighborhood. Then I opened the door, shoved my balloons out of my way so I could sit down, and drove the hour drive to the cemetery.
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, a hymn, blared from my car’s speakers as I sped down the interstate. I vividly recall my mother at the front of the church, hovering over the piano, her long, beautiful hands and fingers moving masterfully over the black and white keys. I remember her proudly saying that I had “piano fingers…long and slim. An ear for music,” she said. Only, I did what a lot of kids did when forced to take piano lessons. I bitched and moaned until she let me quit. I also regret quitting. I have a dream to learn that song and do a duet with the organist at my old church. Bucket list item number 12.
I pulled into my usual parking space at the cemetery. I had my three balloons (extra one in case one popped. Wise decision), two bluebirds with note under wings, and a bouquet of pink roses from Kroger. I slipped out the little pieces of paper and on one piece I wrote in teeny, tiny letters, “Dad, I love you. Until we meet again. Goodbye.” Slipping the note under the little bird’s wings seemed so sweet and fitting. I tied the bird to the balloon’s string, and not surprisingly, it was too freaking heavy, and fell like a rock onto the floorboard. Dammit! Ok, no bluebirds.
If you were at the cemetery on this particularly windy day, you would see a woman walking across the grass, with two balloons beating the hell out of her. I carefully shoved the large bouquet of roses into the grave’s weathered vase. Both of their names were etched in gold on each side of the bronze marker. The same year of death, 1988, never failed to grab my attention. I wondered if other cemetery goers noticed and wondered, “Hey, look! They died at the same time. Wonder what happened. So young, too.”
I grabbed the two balloons close to their tops so they wouldn’t fly away. I was careful not to tear the two, tiny notes tied at the strings’ end, and sat down on the grass. I began to cry, then sob. Huge tears covered my face and ran down my neck. Grief washed over my heart like a tidal wave. Images of my beautiful mother and father swirled around in my mind. My heart intertwined with theirs. “I have to let them go…I have to say goodbye.” Time stopped as I sat in the grass that day. Who knows how long I sat there, pouring my grief out into the universe, letting it release its’ hold on my soul.
Finally my tears slowed and I felt a stillness overcome me. I let the gusty wind dry my face. I began to become aware of my surroundings again, as if I was awakening from a dream. All of a sudden, I noticed the pit of my stomach didn’t hurt anymore. My heart always felt tight, as if held tightly by a strong fist. Only, now my body felt relaxed. I enjoyed this state until I was ready to stand up and let my balloons float into the sky.
The first balloon was Dad’s. Thankfully, I wasn’t very upset when I let it go and it hooked a sharp right and headed to the car lot next door. I figured the other balloon would be for both of them. I just prayed it would fly up and not sideways.
I pried the little piece of paper open inside the little bow, careful not to untie its’ knot. “Until me meet again.” it said. “Goodbye.” My arm was held high and finally, finally, I released it from my fingers. It soared straight up despite the erratic autumn wind. My eyes never left the blue ball as it traveled towards the clouds. It was amazing how far I could see it go upwards…up, up, further still it went as I watched it climb toward Heaven.
The blue ball finally became a dot, so I averted my gaze from the cloudy sky. It almost looked like it could rain, and I was grateful that I didn’t get wet that day. My vision was spotty when my eyes left the sky, and I waited for them to adjust back to normal. I waited. Still spotty. “Hmmm…” I thought. “There’s no sun in the sky at all today. That’s weird. Just a little bit longer, the spots will clear up.”
The spots didn’t disappear. I began to look at them one by one as they came into focus. There were, I don’t know, twenty to thirty little spots, some smaller than others, hovering around my face. But they weren’t really spots, they were more like little lights. I calmly stood there and watched them. They seemed to float and blink, almost twinkle. I wasn’t alarmed or scared. Whatever this was, I knew without a doubt, it was God’s way of telling me that this wasn’t truly “Goodbye.” We would meet again! I didn’t get the sense it was actually my parents exactly, or even God himself. The best word I can think of to describe the little lights is angels.
I’ve never in my life experienced anything like this and I doubt I ever will again. But this showed me that these angels, my parents, and God we’re always with me, no matter where I was. It also let me know that I was doing the right thing that day….the little angels were saying, “Yay! We’re so proud of you! You did it! Now you can move on with your life, and we will ALWAYS be with you!” It makes me smile to think that the blinking was like little clapping and cheering.”
I marveled at the little lights for a while and finally decided it was time to go. I literally turned away from the heavenly show and headed back to my car. I was so sure they were always with me, that I wasn’t afraid to leave it behind. I got in my little black car and drove home in silent wonder.
Side note – This was the most profound, most intimate, and private event in my entire life. It feels weird to share my story with complete strangers, especially knowing that many will think I’m crazy. But, my hope is, someone will read it and find comfort in my experience, and know that their loved ones are with them too.
I believe my EMDR therapy helped reveal to me that a lot of my PTSD episodes happened because I was holding on to all the ugly parts of my parents death. It was a way to keep them close to me. I could still feel them, even though it was pain. I learned that I didn’t have to do that.
If this gives one person comfort about their loved ones, or helps one person try EMDR, it will be worth putting my crazy but true story out there.