Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Power of Signs

The post I planned to write was very different.

But then I received a photo in the mail - a photo from 1982 I had long forgotten.

And I knew this particular photo - received through curious circumstances - was a sign that he was alright. As was she...and her mother.

The photo was one of my parents, taken by my grandmother, Irene "Rena" Fortin, on their 25th wedding anniversary.

Of several similar photos snapped that day, I knew this was hers by the familiar handwriting on it.

After my grandmother died in 1985, many of her photos were given to my mother and her siblings.

This photo was given to me when my siblings and I had to do the same with my mother's possessions. It somehow ended up in a large manilla envelope among my home office supplies.

Last week, I had to deliver a package to one of our health system's orthopedic practices. Working from home, I grabbed the only envelope I could find, one that seemed empty and unused.

Late this afternoon, a coworker handed me a photo with a sticky note attached. It had come through interoffice mail and, strangely enough, was the one my grandmother took.

The story could have ended there - a minor blip on life's radar - but there is more to it.

Yesterday was March 2nd, the day my father would have turned 78. He died of colorectal cancer 15 years ago, eight days after his 63rd birthday.

These two dates, therefore, weigh heavily each year once the calendar flips from February to March.

March 2nd also was my grandmother's birthday, one of the many visible bonds that existed between two special people.

Memere Fortin waged the final days of her battle with cancer in March before dying on April 1st.

The memories of them I cherish most are those in which they are healthy, full of life and smiling.

Other memories are much darker - gaunt faces, sunken eyes, yellowed skin, faith-filled souls clinging to life in cancer-ravaged bodies.

Even after all these years, I try to make peace with these conflicting images.

I am a spiritual person and believe our Earthly journeys are not our final destinations. Still, my human side longs for confirmation that some of the people I loved most in the world - those whose voices I long to hear and embraces I long to feel - are okay.

I look for signs confirming there is life after life. That there is no more sickness and pain, no more grief and loss.

Today was a day for signs. And the power and love I felt in holding a forgotten photo from nearly 30 years ago was just what I needed.

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