My son Daniel died when he was 16. He was my firstborn and he’s now been physically absent longer than he was here. You can’t know how strange that is for me even to contemplate, because there is a difference between getting over shock and getting over disbelief.
At the time of his death, I was a police crisis interventionist who, among other duties, did the death notifications for all shifts of a suburban Milwaukee police department. I also wrote a Milwaukee area newspaper column titled “Person to Person” that was a lot like this blog – up close and personal. Two weeks before Daniel died, I had written a column about his new driver’s license, admitting it made me crazy with worry because he was still so young and inexperienced. The fact that he was adamant about organ donation moderated my concern a little, because that was such an adult decision. Maybe, I concluded, I should practice the Serenity Prayer and loosen the apron strings a little.
If I were a superstitious person, I’d be afraid to ever write another word, since he died in a single-car accident two weeks after that column was published (loose gravel on a country road).
But I’m not superstitious. I’m spiritual.
A Miracle? The First Sign… Many years later, my husband Kevin accompanied me on one of my many pilgrimages to Daniel’s burial place. Because Daniel’s favorite color was blue and his favorite flower was a rose, it remains a family custom to leave blue plastic roses in the vase on his grave to mark our visits. We went to a Galesburg Wal-Mart, where we found the expected floral display – a tall, free-standing four-sided vertical box with flowers in the slots up all the sides of it. Unfortunately, what we didn’t find was a blue rose. Ivy was a second choice, but we couldn’t find that, either.
We must have walked around the cluttered display four or five times; I was quite frustrated and dismayed that I couldn’t fulfill the tradition. In a separate aisle, I finally did locate some ivy in a big planter vase, but it wasn’t suitable for my purpose.
Finally, after a little prodding from my husband, I agreed to settle for a handful of blue daisies from the rack. I don’t remember my exact words… probably something like “this really sucks” as I plucked them from the wall. But my husband was his usual kind self as he insisted the type of flower didn’t matter nearly as much as the visit.
“It all matters to me,” I muttered, angry even though I knew it was my own fault for not hunting for the right flower before leaving Madison, where we then lived. Why was I so sure I’d find it in Galesburg? (Because I always had.)
As we turned away from the floral display, something fluttered in my peripheral vision. I felt compelled to look back, and to my amazement, a long sprig of ivy now laid on the floor, seemingly having just fallen there of its own volition.
“That is really weird,” Kevin mused aloud. “But ivy?” He looked up and quipped, “Are you kidding me, Daniel? If you can do that, why not a blue rose?”
“I must have knocked this out when pulling out the other flowers,” I said, bending to retrieve the ivy. “But it is really weird that we didn’t”—
And at that exact, precise moment, a blue rose fell forward above my head, separating itself from all of the red flowers in the same slot. No other blue flowers were on that side of the display, either. For the first time in our marriage, Kevin and I jointly were speechless. It was a moment of breathtaking incredulity that must be akin to winning a lottery. It was simply impossible, yet… it was what it was… a blue rose.
The blue rose was a major omen at the time, but it was only an omen. A first sign. There have been many since.
Thanks for joining me at the watering hole.