crazy love: gifts from a dead husband

At lunch with friends in Scottsdale last week, I shared something I’d not revealed to anyone else: I took off my wedding rings in early January. Mike died almost 6 1/2 years ago. I don’t have any interest in trying to re-create the magic we had with anyone else and I’ve worn my rings since the day after his funeral thanks to a leering man I encountered in one of my grief-induced book store runs.

But I’ve been aware of those rings for months now in a way I had not been in the previous years, and so I took them off. Then I felt bad and put them on. One of them spins around on my finger and I’m always hitting things with the lump on the palm of my hand. I took them off again. I heard his voice: “We are forever, baby, rings or not.” So I took them off yet again.

It crossed my mind this might be time for a tattoo. Maybe one in white, so subtle: the initials JMC, and on the other side of my ring finger, always. Because he and I are for always and whatever way our shiny little aspects of the Whole show up together in human life — whether husband and wife, mother and daughter, sister and brother, friend and friend — our souls are connected always by big Love. We are one soul (hint: we all are).

I ultimately discarded the idea of a tattoo though I am certain Mike would have loved it. He’d tattooed a colorful parrot in a sunset on the left side of his chest after we bought our Mexico house. It was a celebration and also a cover-up for a post-divorce crying rose inked by a one-legged biker named Lefty.

And then late one night I saw something that caught my eye. It was actually called a “lovebirds” ring. What? Mike and I laughingly called ourselves lovebirds. We had a history of comparing ourselves to mourning doves. For years a pair of doves nested on the window ledge of our back room. Their solicitousness with one another was so sweet to watch. They fed each other, built their nest as a team, shared care of the hatchlings. They mate for life. If we’d ever envisioned spirit birds for our relationship, it would have been those doves.

So there it was at midnight, a silver ring with etched birds. It was perfect, with a back large enough for an inscription. I felt led to that ring and it jumped out at me, so as I was sharing this ring-related off-on-off-should-I-shouldn’t-I dilemma with my friends, talking about the complexity of the decision to take off my rings, there was Mike with a musical message.

I had just finished telling the story — literally last word, just closed my mouth — when the music at Pita Jungle switched to “Crazy Love.” It was one of our very special songs. Van Morrison’s version was a favorite. Lisa said, “do you hear that?” And I could suddenly hear it with a clarity which had been missing in the previous hour’s background noise. That’s how they work in spirit, drawing our attention to the messages they send.

I can hear her heart beat for a thousand miles

And the heavens open every time she smiles

And when I come to her that’s where I belong

Of course. It was perfect. Just the confirmation I needed that rings/no rings, we are inseparable.

As I sat in my car before leaving the restaurant, I wanted to hear that song again, so I found it on Spotify, listened closely to the words, and remembered my sweet husband. It was a strong connection with him, heart to heart.

And so what next? On the heels of Crazy Love, just to be sure I was paying attention, and because Mike always made me laugh, a hilarious John Prine song called “In Spite of Ourselves.“ Though we were John Prine maniacs, Mike and I, I’d not heard this song in two decades. There’s no John Prine on my Spotify list.

As is the case with spirit, the words could not have been more perfect.

In spite of ourselves we’ll end up a-sittin’ on a rainbow

Against all odds, honey, we’re the big door-prize

There won’t be nothin’ but big ol’ hearts dancin’ in our eyes…

Our loved ones are constantly trying to get through to us, to let us know that we are not alone in a life which often seems long and sometimes lonely. There are messages all around us, messages out of the Crazy Love that makes separation impossible.

They are, truly, still right here. We can’t always feel their presence while we’re wearing these human suits, but we can be on the alert for and welcome the messages that they send. In Spite of Ourselves — and the obtuseness that’s inherent in wearing a human suit — they’ll continue to send gifts to us like breadcrumbs dropped in a forest; little markers leading us back to them, back to our true Home.

I know my baby was delighted for me that afternoon. I imagine he made that lovebirds ring jump out at me. I know he maneuvered things so I’d hear those two songs which had such meaning. And just to be sure I didn’t miss it, a few minutes after leaving the parking lot, Crazy Love played again on a random playlist not my own, by an artist I never listen to. Well done, Michael.

What I’ve received from Mike so often in the last year or two has been a sense of delight, his joy in my getting better. I can’t forget his laughter last April as I scattered his ashes on a beach in Mexico. “This is great honey, but you know that’s not me.” All of our people rejoice when we begin to recover because they know the truth: “In spite of ourselves we’ll end up a-sittin’ on a rainbow.”

Mike-O, my sweetest heart. Thank you.

brenda, mike, and an angel

In May, at a gathering in Sedona, my friend Brenda held court as she’d always done when we came together, though it would only be a matter of days before she would take her last breath. After a year of chemotherapy and radiation, the bile duct cancer with which she’d been diagnosed had spread to the lungs, liver, and a space behind the heart.

Though she was dying, she’d been filled with sufficient energy to take that long-planned five day trip to Sedona. None of us knew to a certainty that it was her last journey ~ there was always the possibility of healing ~ but it didn’t matter. We were together and we immersed ourselves in the presence of love, all of us in a beautiful place, celebrating our friend and one another.

I had not been back to Sedona since Brenda died, but as I traveled there yesterday morning, my GPS directed me to take what I will forever think of as “the angel trail.” It’s a winding road south of Sedona which neither of us had driven before May. It’s where, in a terrifying ride back to Phoenix the Monday after our get together, Brenda and I both felt the presence of an angel in the car with us.

For non-woo-woo folks, I know that sounds like madness. To make it just a tad woo-woo-ier, though, I’d set a playlist for the trip which was, at the very instant I felt the angel, playing a gorgeous tune called Angel Dreams. Make of that what you will. It happened.

The ride was terrifying because I was certain I’d be hauling her out of the car on the way down, performing CPR. We had one tank of oxygen which, at the rate she was using it, would last 25-30 minutes at most. Sedona is almost two hours from Phoenix. A pulse oximeter showed a blood oxygen level in the low 80s, even with oxygen. I’d suggested to Brenda that trying to get her home was lunacy and a sane, responsible adult would take her to the ER. She refused to go. In retrospect, she was so oxygen-deprived I could have wrestled her into anything but instead, we took off. One dying woman, one small tank of oxygen, and me.

I held her hand and sang to her as we sped down the road, and then an angel was with us. I don’t feel the presence of spirit in the casual way of many of my friends who are mediums. “Oh, your husband/mother/father/son is standing right beside you” will never come out of my mouth. Unless it’s strong and intense, I mostly miss it.

And there it was. Strong. Intense. Unmissable. An angel. I do know that sounds insane, but yes, really, an angel was in the car with us. I said “Brenda, there’s an angel here.” And my friend, who was becoming quite an accomplished medium when she died, said “Yes, I know. I feel it too.”

In my imagination, there was an angelic hand on the tank of oxygen, ensuring we’d make it. We did. An angel was there. We both felt it, but who knows for certain? Whether or not you believe, though, this is a fact: the impossible happened. Thirty minutes of oxygen lasted for two hours. That’s indisputable.

At the same time, a group of friends in two other cars were texting each other about what to do for lunch. Getting Brenda on the road had been a frightening experience for all of us. One of our dear ones texted another about lunch plans, “ask her if she wants hummus with no seasoning,” but what was received was a promise for Brenda and for all of us: “a spring day, she wants Home, sweet nothings.” A message: Brenda was leaving, but she was ready. Angels again.

Returning to the scene of that near disaster this morning, I passed the point where the angel joined us (yes it did), and just around a curve on the angel trail was the Arizona state trout hatchery. When we’d passed it last May going to Sedona, I’d gotten all excited about stopping. I find hatcheries irresistible, but for all of her brilliance, Brenda had little interest in the natural world. She snorted at the prospect of a fish-oriented outing, laughingly played the cancer card, and suggested we stop on the way back instead. On the way back, of course, little fishes were the last thing on my mind. Keeping my friend alive was paramount.

But I do love a good hatchery. All those little slippery babies swarming around? They’re adorable, and if you can get your hands in the water, they feel like silk. I have fond memories of a childhood spent splashing around ponds and lakes, chasing tadpoles, scooping up handsful of baby catfish only to feel their wee silky bodies slipping between my fingers. No access to the water at the hatchery, though, so I contented myself with throwing feed, watching them swarm, and admiring their silvery sides shining in the sunlight.

dragonfly

And then, magic. Suddenly, a red dragonfly (red!) buzzed by me. Once, then again. Then over and over, back and forth. It was dancing above the surface of the water. I got the intense full body shiver that’s my indicator of spirit’s strong presence and I knew Brenda was standing there with me.

As I watched, I remembered my sweet little husband having mentioned a red dragonfly in a development session I attended with some practicing mediums just a week before, and I thought “Mike? Where are you, honey?”

And in a flash, there were two. Two brilliant red dragonflies putting on a show in this enchanted part of Arizona where I’ve spent such happy times with Mike, with Brenda, and with so many of our spiritual friends. (And with an angel.)

Leaving, I got an image in my mind of the old school switchboard operators, an endless row of busy folk plugging in one line after another. In this vision, all of our loved ones in spirit stand behind, watching the board and the efforts to make contact. When a connection is made, when a sign is received and affirmed by someone in this world, the switchboard lights up and everyone applauds. All of our misty folk ~ those who love us and the ones we love ~ celebrate. Joy fills the room, and then the task continues.

Every day we are shown in small ways and large how much we are cherished by those we’ve lost. Watch for those signs. They’re everywhere if we’re willing to look with our hearts open to love. We are so intensely, deeply loved by those in spirit. I am overwhelmed with gratitude even writing that. I hope you know it ~ and feel it ~ too.