My son Dan was sick for 16 years and in those 16 years he got to know me as a human not just as his mom. From his hospital bed perch he spent a lot of time watching me running, doing, planning, phoning and he’d say with that grin of his, slow down, turbo.
Four years ago when he was dying, I sat by his side sobbing and said I know you’re leaving me. But I can’t imagine this is the end of us. Is it too weird to think you’re merely going from form to spirit. And if that’s true can we make a deal that every time I see a golden retriever it’s you? Then I thought, no, I see a million golden retrievers. I can’t expect to see you all the time. How about an exotic butterfly? And then I thought, no, that would be too unusual and I’ll never see you. While I was thinking of a third possible option somehow Dan communicated (don’t ask me how because my answer would be some variation of telepathy). What he said in my head was even in my death you’re trying to control me. It was true. He had been a sick kid with diabetes and then MS and I did try with every fiber of my being to control him and everything around him. And then he smiled. I hadn’t seen my son smile for weeks as he slipped in and out of consciousness.
We never made our “deal” but since his death there have been moments, mostly in nature, where I have had the distinct feeling that Dan is there reminding me to slow down to stop to look and to just be.
Saturday my husband and I were taking a walk when all of a sudden a flock of about 2,000 birds flew in that way they do, circling, dipping, rising, falling and then landing on the telephone wires one by one as if Michael Bennet himself had done the choreography on A Chorus Line for Starlings. The two of us gasped and watched as they swooped and danced. How do they do that my husband said as they flew off, one by one on cue. One of them must say, okay dudes, brunch at the Aronies, hit it. We laughed and then I said is there any part of you that can imagine that Dan has something to do with this?
Do you see how close the three phase wires are, he countered. That’s probably 240 volts, maybe even 480. If those birds were bigger and they hit two wires at the same time they’d fry.
I said, so do you think there is a way for Dan to use energy from another place and have created this event for us? My husband is a scientist. He doesn’t shake his head or roll his eyes at me anymore. This marriage is 46 years old. He requires empirical proof to experience truth. And not of the woo woo kind.
The birds continue their perfect performance and my husband repeats: how do they do that?
And I hear from somewhere deep inside, tell him not to be so hung up on how it happened. Tell him better he should be blown away that it happened.
No goldens in sight. No exotic butterflies. Just dancing birds.
Nancy Slonim Aronie is a commentator for NPR and the author of Writing from the Heart; Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice. She teaches the Chilmark Writing Workshop.