Monday, April 16, 2018

Keep Your Eyes Open and Your Mouth Shut

On Saturday night Jesse and I took the kids out to dinner. As we sat there sipping our drinks and waiting for our food, a familiar song started to play. I pointed up and smiled at Jess, and he winked back at me with understanding. "Knocking on Heaven's Door" was playing. Although Jesse never met my dad, he knows when I have these little moments of recognition, or "woo-wooness" as we like to call it. I'm lucky that over time he has also come to appreciate these little winks almost as much as I do.
"It doesn't surprise me he's playing songs for me" I said. "I feel him around a lot lately... 20 years on Monday". Then Luke mentioned "mom Popeye visited me at school last week". I questioned what he meant. "An eagle flew over during recess, it was pretty cool" he explained. That story lead me to retell how the eagle flew over during our wedding vows. And about the time my best friend Candice and I were visiting my dad's grave. We were talking about my dad and the eagle connection and an eagle flew right over us. We squealed with wonder and nervousness, both covered in goosebumps. This eagle phenomenon has happened a lot over the years, and we always say "hi dad" when we see one. 

I then told another story to Jesse and the kids, a story my brother recently shared with me. It was April 16, 1987 and my brother Kevin had just enlisted in the Army. Upon leaving for basic training my dad wished him well with these wise words...
"Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut."
It was advice that my brother would reference often as his Army career progressed and as he entered adulthood. He still uses my dad's advice to this day.

Fast forward 11 years, on April 16th 1998. Kevin was at work and my dad's wise words popped into his mind. Out loud he said "keep your eyes open and your mouth shut". "Huh?" his coworker looked at him confused. "My dad said that to me 11 years ago today, I need to go see him." He packed up and headed out for the 45 minute drive to my parents house.

When Kevin arrived to my mom and dad's that evening, I was already there. I had just returned from a beach trip with my boyfriend. At 19, the last thing I wanted to do on a Thursday night was see my parents, but my boyfriend insisted. My dad had been battling his second round of cancer and had not been feeling well. To see him this way was difficult for me and my selfish teenage self was not feeling up for a visit. 
That night my dad passed away. He had been sick but looked good, so we were all blindsided by how fast it happened. My brother Kevin and I were there with my mom when he took his last breath. That moment changed me forever. It also instilled a belief that there is more to life than just our time here on earth. I saw his face when my mom told him it was OK to go, and to go be with my Grandma Hattie. His face washed over with peace, and I knew then that heaven exists. He was welcomed with love and we all saw it.
My loving, funny, tough as nails handsome teddy bear dad has now been gone for longer than I knew him. That is hard to quantify in my brain. He is still around us every day, his memory is alive and his essence lives on. I see him in my brothers, and now in my own children.
What his leaving did teach me is that life does go on even after a painful and unimaginable loss. It doesn't mean I don't miss him any less, but the sharp sadness does fade as time goes on.  Life will never be the same without him, but it is still an amazing and happy life.

As I get older and my children grow, I know I'll continue to watch how my dad lives on in them. Will's smart ass wit and cop brain could not have come from anywhere else. My dad wasn't a fabulous artist but his creativity was unlike any other, and Luke's creativity had to come from my dad. His artistic ability is from Jesse though, that's for sure. And Ellie, oh little Ellie. I was told once that she was sent here by my dad to heal my heart. To make that statement even more unbelievable, I have a blog post titled "Ellie's Healing Hearts" that I have yet to share. It's a long and painful story and I hope someday I'll have the courage to hit "publish". 
Ellie is now 5 and she still talks about Popeye. She tells me all kinds of things, how he's at work, or over at Grandma's house. He tends to visit her at night around bedtime. As creepy as this may sound to some, I believe it to be true. All three of my kids did this with him. The boys grew out of it around age 3, but Ellie is still talking to him, blowing him kisses, giving him air hugs and keeping his spirit alive.

Almost every day I receive some sort of gift or sign from my dad. For example as I was driving to work on Thursday I was thinking about him. I looked at the car in front of me and the license plate was 416. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I will take it as a little angel wink. He may not be here in body, but his love is definitely here. My mom believes that when we die, our love stays behind. And this makes sense to me because I believe when you love someone it is on a soul level, and that never goes away.
Do you have a loved one who has passed who you feel is still around?  There are so many little signs from those we love, it could be as simple as a penny left on the ground, a specific animal crosses your path, a special song comes on the radio or the lights flicker when you think about them. People have told me that they don't understand why the woo-woo experiences happen to me, but it's simply because I am always looking. It happens to all of us! It is just a matter of keeping your eyes open :)
As I edited this post Sunday night, I was making dinner, sipping a glass of wine and deleting and rewriting every sentence.. the song "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd came on. You know what is funny? This one reminds me of him too. And when I went to a psychic 3 years ago (no judging!) she told me "your dad loves when you notice he plays songs for you". So there you go. Thanks, dad.
For this post's song, I am choosing "Knocking on Heaven's Door" but the version by Antony and the Johnsons. We love this one because it actually sounds like my big brother Matt's voice. Listen to it, it's pretty awesome.

Knocking On Heaven's Door - Antony and the Johnsons