Valentine’s day. A day singles have come to dread, and possibly couples too. Lucky for me, my best friend’s birthday is Valentine’s day so I am happy to celebrate his day instead. This year, I was visiting an Aunt and cousins I did not know growing up because of family squabbling. Due to a near tragic car accident of another Aunt in November 2015, our family came together to support her recovery. It was in the waiting room of the ICU where I met, practically for the first time, my Aunt and cousins. Everything was cordial and light but connections were not made beyond this week in the ICU, until Valentine’s day weekend. That weekend, my other Aunt (who was in the accident) and I went to visit our newly reconnected family members in South Carolina. On Sunday, we all went Tilly Swamp Baptist Church together. I am a spiritual person and believe in an energy greater than myself that I am made of (aka God), but I do not typically attend church or subscribe to a specific religion. In any case, I went along to church with mixed emotions.
The last time I stepped foot in a church was with my Mom a year prior, after a long trip returning home from France. I was exhausted after hauling a 50 lb suitcase along with an 11 lb cat on the metro, bus, through the airport and lastly through customs. My Mom wanted to attend Wednesday night bible study at her Baptist church and insisted I go with her. I was reluctant but ultimately decided to go because it would mean so much to her. She was dying of cancer, losing her ability to drive and I came home to spend time with her.
As you can imagine, being back in a Baptist church when a year ago I was with my Mom who was now no longer alive, caused my already open wound to be re-injured. I held it together initially until the congregation called out their prayer requests: stage 4 cancer here, child died there. Each prayer request was like a dagger twisting in my heart, opening up my own pain of losing my Mom to cancer and also feeling the pain associated with all of those prayer requests. A few stifled tears later and a clearing of my throat, I managed through the never ending requests to end suffering. Ok phew…I can do this. It’s only 1 hour, some singing, some listening, some handshakes and I’ll be out. That’s when little vibrant Bella, my cousin’s 5 year old beautiful soul, came to sit next to me. She had been given a lovely Valentine’s day gift which was a glass sunflower, with a mirror backdrop base to reflect light and an engraving of “You Are My Sunshine” on the glass. In an already fragile state, seeing this little one full of so much hope and joy with this sunflower, was enough to fully break me down. Sunflowers were my Mom’s favorite flower. My Mom was already all over my mind and now here was her favorite flower in her favorite place (church). I told Miss Bella that sunflowers were my Mom’s favorite to which Bella asked “Where is she now?” Choking up, I replied that she is in Heaven. Bella was very sad for a moment while looking down at her sunflower and asked what happened. I said, “She got sick.” Another look at her sunflower and then to me, saying “When you go to heaven, you can take this sunflower to her. And then you can send a flower back to me.”
As angry and sad I was to be in that church missing my Mom more profoundly than ever, the beautiful words of Bella were enough to both break me down and lift me up. It was a bittersweet reminder that while my Mom is not here physically with me now, it is not the end. I will see her again. When I do, I will send Bella a tulip filled with so much love and comfort. It was an invaluable healing moment that added 1 more stitch, helping to stitch my heart back together.