This week has flown by like a flash of lightning. Yet it feels like an eternity since we arrived in Ohio on Monday night. We turned into in my sister’s driveway at 9:15 pm and carried our luggage into the house. We embraced and chatted about plans for our visit…not ready to acknowledge what we were both thinking. This would be a bittersweet gathering. We were happy to all be together at Grandma’s but felt a deep anguish knowing this would be our first Thanksgiving without my Mother.
As we returned to the kitchen, the illuminated screen of my sister’s phone caught her eye. The notifications revealed a missed call from our step-father. The text message that had just arrived demanded her attention. The smile on her face was replaced with knitted brow and her eyes conveyed an air of confusion. Her voice quivered as she shared the brief message that had arrived at 9:30 pm “Mom passed”. His Mother, our Grandmother, was gone.
We rushed to the hospital to join our family. Everyone was in shock. Our sister Elli (who lives in Georgia) had visited with Grandma earlier in the day and had talked with her briefly over the phone during dinner. Grandma had been home from the hospital for three weeks and was doing good. She was excited to have everyone home this year for Thanksgiving.
We embraced one another and shared our tears…our pain…for yet another loss. My heart was breaking for my step-father. Exactly eleven weeks ago, Mom…his wife of 30 years, was welcomed to Heaven. And now, his lightly scabbed wound ripped open by the passing of his Mother. I lost the battle to hold back my tears the second I saw the pain in his eyes. When we embraced, I was overwhelmed by the intensity of my pain. It felt as if a carnival strongman was pounding my bruised heart with a sledgehammer. I managed to choke out a faint “I’m so sorry” between the sobs. We took turns visiting with Grandma while waiting for her transport. I was eerily comforted to see the familiar faces of the gentlemen from the Laubenthal-Mercado Funeral Home.
After deciding on a game plan for the next day, we split company with hugs. Elli was tentative about returning our Grandparent’s house (where they were staying) with her young boys. I’m sure her apprehension was growing as they navigated the train tracks and drove the last mile on the snow-covered road. The headlights on their Acura pierced the darkness to reveal a 10 point buck waiting for her in the front yard. She was shocked that the buck didn’t run away when they pulled into the driveway. Elli’s jaw dropped in disbelief as the buck continued to stand in the grass and look back at them…even when they poured out of the car.
At that moment, God spoke to Elli’s heart and comforted her soul. His still voice confirmed what she had believed to be true. Grandpa and Grandma were no longer separated by the temporary and eternal worlds. After 12 years of being apart, they were now together in Heaven. To Elli, and to me, The buck symbolized Grandpa welcoming Grandma to their eternal home.
Elli’s heart overflowed with peace…with an immense joy…knowing that God provided a vision to satisfy her need for confirmation…a need that she didn’t realize she had until it was fulfilled.
With this realization, the buck walked across the road to the edge of the vacant field. He paused for a moment…as if saying “good-bye”. Then, emerging out of the shadows, a doe stepped into the glow of the street light. A tearful smile spread across Elli’s face as she watched the pair disappear into the night.
My heart leapt in my chest when Elli shared her experience with me. I thought back to the beautiful sunset that God sent to us with Mom’s passing. Both were very different imagery but spoke to us the same way. And although we miss our loved ones desperately, we are humbled that God cares enough to deliver specific signs that speak to us in ways that others may not understand or embrace.