I wanted to spend this week holding space for my beautiful brother and his memory. For the powerful imprint he has left on our hearts.
I wanted to raise awareness about the illness that claimed him.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to write as much as I did last year, but I do still feel I have accomplished all of those things.
There is one more story that I wanted to share, though. One that makes you think about what you really know and believe. One that will hopefully remind you about how awesome this crazy journey can be.
It’s a story about love knowing no bounds and crossing the lines of time and space.
If you look hard enough and listen long enough, you will find overwhelmingly credible accounts of people who remain connected to their departed loved ones in a real and physical way.
I have always wanted to believe these stories, and never more so than when I lost my own brother, but my brain likes to outsmart my heart. It was hard for me to truly embrace the idea of life after death or paranormal communication with those who have passed on.
Just within our own family’s experience, there are dozens of examples of these small and strange phenomena occurring in our house and among family members.
From belongings of Andy’s being there one minute and then gone the next…and then back somewhere else a few weeks later. There were also moments we swore we could smell him. Or hear him. There were even times in the early months when lights that were on in the house went off, and vice -versa. As creepy as this might seem, it never felt scary or intimidating. (I could actually recount each and every incident for you, all of which might enhance the credibility of my story…but it would also become very long and maybe a little tedious. We don’t want that=-)
However, even though our broken hearts wanted to believe these things “true”, I guess there could have been some other explanation for them as well.
Andy knew we needed something bigger. Something beyond what our brains could explain away.
The first “meatball encounter” was during the summer of last year: July 2012. It was a bizarre, but fairly isolated incident (though now I see it set the stage for what was to come). Who knows…maybe there were more signs and I just wasn’t “tuned in” enough. Regardless, this was a very big DOT on the pathway of connections I needed to make.
One day, upon arriving for a visit to my dad’s house, I immediately checked the refrigerator to see what was there (a common “homecoming” habit, I believe). It was mostly empty, but I saw a package of Trader Joe’s Turkey meatballs in the freezer and made a mental note that those could be a quick and easy snack for Aidan later. I then went to put Lainey down for a nap and also fell asleep. Mike was with Aidan when I came back upstairs awhile later. When I opened the freezer again, the meatballs were gone. The empty package was sitting on top of the trash.
No biggie, I thought. Mike must have prepared them. When I asked, he said he knew nothing of said meatballs. Aidan also didn’t know and couldn’t have prepared them.
I was so weirded out that I called BOTH of my parents to see if either of them had stopped by the house during my nap to have a meatball snack. No dice.
Insert musical clip of Twilight Zone music here.
It was weird, but just out of context enough for me to forget about it.
In November, we took a family vacation in Hawaii. It was wonderful and difficult, stressful and relaxing all at once. We did send some of Andy’s ashes off to sea and I found a particular cove where I felt Andy very powerfully. But nothing out-of-this-world (except maybe this photo of the cove which is kind of amazing).
The only truly strange part in all of this was that after we returned, my dad got a call from the owner of the condo we had rented while we were there. She asked if one of us had left a leather journal. Not really knowing, but realizing it could have been any of us, my dad said “yes” and asked her to mail it back to us.
He was absolutely blown away when he opened the package to find the journal he had given Andy around the time be was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. My dad had not seen that journal since he gave it to Andy 3 years ago. None of us even knew it existed and certainly hadn’t brought it along. All the way to Hawaii.
Do you have goosebumps yet?
Furthermore, it didn’t have much written in it, but what was there added to our understanding of Andy’s journey. Wow, right? I know!
So now fast forward a few months to early 2013. I had just started my job at the church and our schedule became so packed that I began doing bulk cooking on the weekends to save time during the week. One of our favorite go-to meals is very simple turkey meatballs.
Initially, I kept noticing that when it came time to eat them, there seemed to be fewer than what I had made, but I wasn’t keeping track and couldn’t be sure. After this happened for a few weeks in a row, I became slightly irritated/curious and questioned each family member to see if they had taken any meatballs. I was met with an overwhelming NO.
So then I actually started counting. And sure enough, about 3 meatballs started disappearing each week. Some tiny part of my brain wondered, “Could it be…?” and KNEW that indeed it could. But then another part said, “Noooo…it couldn’t be…could it?” And the two parts wrestled back and forth.
Then I hit a busy spell and didn’t make meatballs for awhile. Around that time, I was feeling sort of far away from Andy. I wrote this post at the 18 month mark. Later that night, I was in bed reading when I heard a huge crash upstairs in the kitchen above me. I quickly ran upstairs to find the cover of our blue (Andy’s color) ceramic/cast iron Dutch oven lying upside down (and chipped from the fall) in the middle of the floor. Mike had been working in his office and heard the crash too. He came rushing in to see if I was okay and I told him I thought HE had gotten hurt. Mike explained that he had actually finished washing dishes about a half hour before and placed the Dutch oven upside down on the stove to dry–far back enough that it would have taken quite a force of nature to throw the lid across the room like that. Force of nature indeed!
In that moment, I realized what was going on. I also felt this supernatural wave of familiarity and recognition wash over me. Goosebumps. Hair standing on end. I had never felt Andy so close–I knew he was right there. I immediately burst into tears and just stood there, trying to soak in the feeling of having two dimensions collide. I was a little bit sad, but mostly SO very happy. I then got his joke, started laughing and said, “Okay, okay. I’ll start making meatballs again!”
In case you are wondering…Yes, Andy loved turkey meatballs.
I will say that the noticeable disappearing meatball incidences dwindled after that. But I understood already; that invisible line had been crossed and he had made his point. And I am so grateful Andy knows me well enough to have done it in a gentle, funny, yet undeniable way. To let us know he is here, always. And that he is more than okay. Gone to our immediate, physical senses, but never really far if we take the time to connect.
Every now and then, I will notice some rotisserie chicken missing (one of his favorites), and just the other day, I was taking out a couple slices of uncured turkey bacon (Andy LOVED bacon) to make for the kids’ breakfast. I knew I had used two slices the day before when I had opened the package. And what do you know? That day there were only 3 pieces left. I turned over the package to check the number of servings, 8, and quickly did the math. Just to be sure, I asked the family if they had eaten any. They had NOT.
So I stopped for a moment against the stove, enjoying the goosebumps. I shook my head a bit, smiled big and long and said,
“Hi Andykins. Love you too.”