11 Balloons ~ Love in the SkyPosted: June 20, 2011
My family had a big party on June 18th. I come from seven kids so we were celebrating a nephew’s 19th birthday, a niece’s Sweet 16, another nephew’s high school graduation & 18th birthday and Father’s Day. These events cascade over two weeks but we combined them into one big celebration for out-of-towners like me:) My sisters had it catered and there was sun, blue skies, lots of great food, and people everywhere; inside, outside, downstairs, in the pool, in the garage … eating, drinking, talking, catching up, playing Wii bowling in one room and Call of Duty in another, watching movies and swimming.
After the buffet and a princess cake, cookie-brownie-star cake, a chocolate cream pie, and lots of ice cream, the 19 yr old opened his gifts. He & his girlfriend were headed to a concert, so we took a break from gift opening to release balloons in memory of his grandpa and my brother-in-law. Known as Pa to some and Dudley to others (after Dudley Do-Right), he died from glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain cancer on 6/18/00; my nephew’s 8th birthday and Father’s Day. The man who loved family, golf, a beautiful home, a fine wine, a gourmet meal, who was an awesome cook whom I credit as one my best teachers (he called me his ‘kitchen nudge’), who was the cornerstone of my sister’s life and a father figure to me, passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. We released balloons at his memorial service and have every year since.
My sister handed out the balloons, said her memorial, cried and I cried too. After, I said softly, “We love you Dudley. Please provide (my sister, your daughter and grandsons) with guidance and love.” We released eleven helium filled balloons, one for each year since he passed, and C let his birthday balloon go too. We watched as they ascended into the sky; I took some pictures and after they were fairly high, went into the house to get a Kleenex. When I came out, people were saying, “Look, they’re in the shape of a heart!” I thought, ‘What? No they’re not.’ They were so high in the sky I was having difficulty finding them. My sister said, “They’re right there.” Once I saw them, I said, “OMG, they really are in the shape of a heart!” I couldn’t believe it. As I was registering it, someone said, “Look, now it’s a ‘D!'” I looked up to see the balloons in a “D” formation. It was if he was saying, “Heart (I Love You), D (Dudley).” I was shocked. Me, the one who says that we can talk to our loved ones who’ve passed over and that they can still hear us; that they still love and guide us. I kept looking up at the sky and then at everyone else, as if it were proof we were all seeing the same thing. It seemed like, well, like a miracle. Those balloons in the shape of a heart and then in a D renewed my faith in love. We were sending our love up to him from my sister’s yard via balloons, and he was beaming his love back down to us. As we went back inside for the kids to open more gifts, everything seemed right. I knew Dudley felt our love and I felt his. It was an incredible highlight to a great week at home where I visited lots of family, old friends and work peeps; each one reminding me how we touch each others’ lives in truly amazing ways.
I spent the entire plane ride back to Tampa yesterday morning thinking about the week, balloons, love and grief. If we love people and they die, but they still love us and we still love them, then what has changed spiritually? Why are we so sad … for years sometimes? Here’s where I landed: No matter if you lose a spouse/partner, parent, child, sibling, friend ~ anyone you love (or even a marriage or a job), stop wishing it never happened or thinking there’s something you could have done to change it or ‘done better.’ The cure for grief is to be compassionate and share love now; with family, friends, co-workers, a new partner, whomever seems right. What we really miss is the connection, so we have to keep forging new connections. A friend’s mom used to say, “All you need to be happy is something to do, someone to love and something to look forward to.” But God doesn’t promise it will always be the same person to love or the same thing to do. Such is life. So we go on loving and supporting the people we care about the best we can, because in the end, all we take with us is the love we’ve shared.