Receiving Signs

It was the Fourth of July, 2018 and my wife, Allison, and I were at our home in Bethany Beach, Delaware celebrating the holiday. Bethany Beach is a beautiful little beach town and though we don’t live there year round it has been our summer home for the last fourteen years. All three of our children, Jocelyn, Davey, and Julia have spent their high school and college summers there, mostly working for the seaside restaurant Mangos, which overlooks the beach.

The owners, managers and staff of Mangos are like a family to us, especially after Davey’s accident in 2016. Every one of them stepped up and supported us emotionally and the family that owns the restaurant made it the base for our annual Davey Day celebration. which raises money in Davey’s name for the Surf Rider Foundation.

Every Fourth of July the town of Bethany puts on a fireworks show and this year was no exception. Allison and I enjoyed a day at the beach with friends, then went up to Mangos and sat at the bar, chatting with everyone. As it grew increasingly dark outside we debated going out on the boardwalk to watch the fireworks when one of the staff members said “Hey, you guys want to go on the roof?” 

Usually reserved only for employees of the restaurant, we jumped at the chance to see the fireworks from the best location in town. For years our kids had described how awesome it was to see the show from that vantage point. We climbed up on the roof with Julia and her boyfriend Alex, just as the pyrotechnics started. As we stood up there Allison turned to me and said “I can hear Davey! He just said ‘Mom! You’re on the roof!’”

Allison had a huge smile on her face and I immediately felt as though Davey was right there with me as well. Alex offered to take a picture of Allison, Julia and me with the fireworks in the background. We stood next to each other and Alex took a picture from my iPhone just as a firework exploded behind us.

He handed the phone back and said “You’re going to want to look at that picture.” I quickly unlocked my phone and saw it:


Right above our heads was a giant heart shaped firework, the only one of the evening. Allison, Julia and I got chills looking at that picture. Having a heart appear when Allison and I are with our kids is something important to us.

Years ago Allison asked each of us make Christmas ornaments for our tree. We all put a lot of effort into carefully painting the ornaments Allison had selected for us to paint with one exception: Davey quickly painted the plaster cast heart with hastily applied red marker. On it he wrote something that years later would become a mantra for Allison and I after he passed in a car accident: Love is All.

I remember at the time thinking “Come on buddy, you can at least try a little harder,” yet it’s that little plaster trinket and the three profound words he wrote on it that has become one of our most treasured ornaments.

The heart theme would stick with us, so much so that it became the foundation for the family tattoo we all got on the anniversary of his transition.

Seeing that appear over our heads in a picture moments after feeling Davey was with us created a wonderful moment of connection.

My personal belief on these signs, on why my wife and I seem to get so many of them, is that we acknowledge them and offer silent gratitude when they occur. When they first started to appear I would simply wonder if indeed it was a sign. I felt the need to judge everything and signs fell into that category, often with the word doubt associated. I frequently found myself asking “Is that a sign?” and the response was “Of course it is!” and “It’s just a random event, move on.” That little battle would become the focus of my thoughts.

I learned that a doubt is created when two belief systems collide and create a call to action: to make a decision. Once I decided that these events were my son and others across the veil sending me messages, the floodgates opened.

What I found was that if I’m thinking about my son and then see what I consider a sign and begin to feel a connection with him, expressing gratitude for the sign seems to solidify that connection and make it stronger.

Asking for Signs
Some of the signs I receive don’t happen the way I expect them to. In the case of Davey, he often sends butterflies to me. It’s not just during the summer this happens; I’ve been walking in the woods thinking about my son on a chilly February afternoon in Virginia and somehow a butterfly will find me. Many times they will fly in circles around me before moving on and several times they landed on me or crawled on my finger to hang out. When this happens I feel a tremendous loving connection to Davey.

The Brookbank family has been a big part of our lives for a long time now. As I wrote in Finding Davey, John, Spencer (Davey’s best friend) and I have done a number of backpacking trips since Davey transitioned. In June of 2018 John and I flew out to Colorado to visit Spencer and engage in some backpacking with other friends of Davey and mine.

We visited a beautiful park outside of Denver for a little day hike. As soon as we exited the car a huge Swallowtail butterfly flew right between Spencer and me, circled, then took off. Spencer often gets signs from Davey and we both smiled at each other, feeling that Davey was hanging out with us. Dozens of butterflies visited us during that walk, which was not uncommon for that time of the year.

Once the hike was complete John, Spencer and I visited a nice brewery located right next to a fast moving highway. We sat on a table outside and I kept thinking how cool it would be if a butterfly came over and visited us while we sat at the table. Alas, no butterfly visited us.

As we sat in each others company, laughing and talking about life, a woman sitting by herself at the table next to us asked if we would like her to take our picture for us. People in Colorado are so nice! I quickly handed her my iPhone and sat back down.


The smile on my face in that picture was amplified by the tattoo on the inside of her left forearm, only visible when she raised my phone to take the picture. Her tattoo featured three Monarch butterflies, one for each of the three of us sitting at the table.

I thanked her for her kind gesture, retrieved my phone and sat back down with my friends. It was nice to get a confirmation that Davey was indeed with us on that trip.

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