Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs
I adapted the title of this blog from the song, “Signs,” by Five Man Electrical Band. The lyrics popped into my head while I was sitting at the kitchen table paying some bills and saw a cardinal, the first one I’ve seen since Jim passed away. Immediately, I knew I had to write a post about signs.
This whole journey with cancer and then with grief has been filled with looking for signs. In the beginning, when Jim was sick with pneumonia and had just been diagnosed with cancer, we looked for signs of recovery. We looked for signs that he was well enough to come home from the hospital. We looked for signs that he would be able to ditch the oxygen tank and be strong enough to fly back to Pennsylvania. Once we got back home, we looked for signs that we were choosing the right hospital for treatment. Once treatment began, we started looking for signs of shrinkage of the tumors. We waited for blood work, hoping his CEA (cancer marker) number would go down. He had cat scans and we waited for visual signs of shrinkage on those scans. As he crafted this blog, we all started looking for signs of hope. And we found lots of them. Blessings from friends, family, neighbors, church members and strangers were all signs of love and hope. Signs of love and hope also came from our children in the pictures they drew and notes they wrote to their Daddy. As time passed, we started seeing signs of the cancer’s progression. Weight loss, swollen abdomen full of fluid, and fatigue were all ominous signs that the chemo wasn’t working. Then, when he started hospice care, the nurses taught us to look for signs of impending death. They actually gave us a pamphlet about it; a list of things that can signal that death may be within a week, then days, then hours. Those were difficult days that turned into weeks and then months of heartache and decline. Jim and I spent time talking about how he would send me signs after he was gone to let me know he was o.k.
This takes me back to the cardinal. Many people think that seeing a cardinal is seeing a visitor from Heaven. Jim liked that idea and said he would send me cardinals to let me know he was o.k. Do you know, as hard as I looked, I didn’t see a single cardinal. Not one; until today. It was only for a moment. It didn’t linger on my porch like some other birds do. I saw it, nonetheless. So, it was my sign that he is still with me, encouraging me to keep going.
There have been other signs too. Jim always said he liked my hair red. “More red,” was his request every time I would go get it done. Shortly after he passed away, I went to get my hair done. I decided I would go bright red. Why not? Before I had even seen the final results, while the beautician was rinsing my hair, a song came on the radio. It was the song that we had played at his funeral in honor of our marriage. This song, and especially the version that we played, is not one I have ever heard played on the radio before. Chills. He liked my hair.
Butterflies are another symbol of visitors from Heaven. A friend from church painted this lovely sign for us which I have hanging right outside my bedroom door. The kids really love it, and we look for butterflies when we go for walks. We also have a beautiful stained glass butterfly that we got from our family grief counseling group hanging in our window. Both of these butterflies are blue, which is the color of colon cancer awareness and also Jim’s favorite color. Signs.
The kids get signs from Daddy too. One of Madelyn’s dances for her recital this year is “Under the Bridge,” by The Red Hot Chili Peppers. If you knew Jim, you’d know that this was one of his go-to Karaoke songs. I’m sure to be sobbing as I watch my young lady dance to this song on stage in May.
One thing I learned from Jim during his journey is to really pay attention, whether it be signs, songs, birds, butterflies or anything else. I miss him so much, but I know he is here. Am I sure of it? To quote my daughter’s Magic 8 Ball, “all signs point to yes.”
With Fierce Hope,
P.S. The sign at the beginning of this blog post is significant also. If you knew Jim, you know that one of his favorite sayings was, ” Best ________ Ever!” His sister got me this plaque after he passed away, and I smile each morning when I see it on my dresser.