Is It a Sign?

Alise and I will send each other random text messages about many things. Sometimes it’s when we are remembering Jim or we are just missing him. The other day she texted me that while making spaghetti she was remembering her dad and it made her sad. I wrote back how the day before when I heard “Fly Me to the Moon” I danced with his photo. She thought that was cute. This was the week Alise was moving to New York. The plan was for her to spend her last night in East Nashville at a local bed and breakfast, stay one night at my place, and then hit the road. Moving to New York is something she’s wanted to do for almost 15 years. Now, the time has come, her opportunities have been presented and she’s taking them. I for sure am going to miss her. While at the bed and breakfast Alise calls me. She asks if I want to hear something incredible. Of course I do. She tells me that there is a parlor room with various musical instruments including an old piano. On the piano is one sheet of music.

Alise, “What do you think it is?”

Me, “Fly Me to the Moon”!?!

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That is incredible I tell her. She doesn’t seem to get the significance. I proceed to explain that when I hear that song it’s a message that I’ve made the right decision, I doing okay, everything will be all right. It’s a sign, if not for her, then for me about her moving to New York.

Our son Brandon died when he was 13 ½ years old, six months after being diagnosed with osteosarcoma cancer. He was a big basketball fan. A few hours before his passing when he was floating in and out of consciousness he exclaimed, “Portland!” We didn’t know to what he was referring, but assumed it was related to basketball. We knew one of his favorite teams was Portland’s Trailblazers so we asked him about it, but he wasn’t able to tell us.

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Days later I was going through Brandon’s things and I came upon a trophy he had received a couple of years back when he played basketball in a community league. I had forgotten all about it and even the name of his team, Trailblazers. I freaked. Not sure, but I think this was one of the first heaven-signs I had been given. Alise was at school and Jim at work. My parents lived next door and I ran over bringing the trophy trying to explain what I thought was a miraculous event.

I think sometimes power is lost in the storytelling, but the power of that moment kept me going for a long time.

Six days after Brandon’s passing Jim’s sister was due to delivery her third child. They lived in Scottsdale, Arizona and we lived in San Diego, California. We drove out wanting to be there to welcome our newest niece into the world and needing a break from the recent events of Brandon’s passing and his memorial. At the hospital in Scottsdale we gathered with other family members in front of the window looking onto the newborns. It was extremely emotional. We were looking for our niece among all the babies and I flashed back to when Brandon was born and we did the same thing with him. It was only 13 ½ years ago – my firstborn – the memory still sharp.

I was overwhelmed and had to look away before losing it. I turned around and on the wall behind us was a framed print, a watercolor I think. There was nothing spectacular about it. It was the typical kind of wall art you’d find in a hotel or a hospital. This one was southwestern in style with pastel colors of turquoise, peach and yellow. Nothing about it related to its title, “Portland.” Shivers went through me. I couldn’t speak but I got Jim’s attention and made him turn around to see what I was seeing. We both cried. It was like heaven had tapped us on the shoulder to let us know that Brandon was not far from us.

When a dear friend of mine’s mother passed hummingbirds became her heaven’s tap on the shoulder. I follow another widow’s blog that bluebirds are her taps. On one of her posts “Signs From Heaven,” she has a graphic saying, “Keep calm, it’s a sign from heaven.” I love that. Sometimes I wonder if I’m forcing a sign. You know, like maybe they aren’t really signs. I’m just twisting circumstances to fit my desire for one.

After I wrote about the significance of the song “Fly Me to the Moon,” Jim’s youngest sister told me about her experience with red cardinals. One time, she was late for work and driving a little too fast on the winding road out of her neighborhood. As she came around a bend she saw a big red cardinal planted in the middle of the road – bigger and redder than normal – sure to get her attention. She waited for him to move on. As she slowly proceeded she immediately came to a spot in the road that had been washed out due to recent rains. She knew at that moment the cardinal was a sign from heaven and a message from Jim to make her slow down and to keep her safe.

The appearance of cardinals doesn’t speak to me in that way, nor do hummingbirds or bluebirds, but I appreciate how they touch others. After hearing my sister-in-law’s story I started noticing cardinals. I saw one once outside my window and it seemed to be staring at me. I sent her a text message with a picture and told her I was sure the bird even winked at me.

Last Saturday it rained all day. It was the kind of day to stay home and get the mundane and over due chores done. I needed to go over my finances and map out the next few months. Knowing how depressing this can be I set up my laptop on the dining table to face the window so I can watch the rain. Then I put on my favorite faith-building album, CeCe Winans’s Let Them Fall in Love. After three rounds of Cece (yes, it took that long) I finish looking over the past few months of bills and spending and I stop to consider my budget and pray where do I go from here. As usual I have a lot of questions due to a lot of unknowns. And, as usual I start with what I do know – God is with me and for me.

I look at my bank balance and the number stands out to me. Sometimes numbers do that. It’s kind of like when you check out at the grocery story and the total is in even dollars with no cents or it’s the same as your year of birth. It really isn’t a big deal. But this number in my checking account speaks to me. It’s Jim’s number. Jim had a favorite number based on a couple of events. When it showed up he would always make notice of it. Seeing his number wasn’t a sign to him of anything in particular. It was just a Jimmyism. (A Jimmyism is a unique quirky thing from the mind of Jim Alicardi.) When I recognized my balance as Jim’s number it felt like a message telling me everything is going to be okay, don’t worry. I sat there for a few minutes noticing the rain streaks on the window and the silvery silhouettes of the trees. I wondered if I was forcing a sign with Jim’s number. Perhaps I was, but it didn’t matter. I felt encouraged.

Moving on to my next chore I head upstairs to look for a ring I had misplaced, hoping it was not lost. I change the music to Pandora wondering if I’ll hear “Fly Me to the Moon,” because I do want a sign, forced or not. The ring is one we had designed and made for me from a large gold and diamond ring that Jim was given when he reached a million dollars in sales. After searching handbags and suitcases with no luck, I was hoping I would find it in my messy jewelry box, so I set myself up to organize it while listening and waiting for “Fly Me to the Moon.” The first song was Sinatra and that meant it would be awhile before another one of his songs came on. When the second song was ending I thought to myself that I probably won’t hear “Fly Me to the Moon,” but I sure wish it would play. Just then I begin to hear the subtle drum beat of its intro. This makes me burst out laughing. This was not a forced sign. I walk around singing with Frank and looking at pictures of Jim and me that I have framed and keep nearby.

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I’m laughing, singing, talking to Jim and thanking God for the personal graces He gives me. I look out the back window and there’s a big-fat-red cardinal perched in the tree. I smile and go back to organizing my jewelry box.

I find my ring with relief, finish the job and go downstairs. I look out the side window and see the cardinal again. I laugh. He winks.

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