Well here she is, the year 2015 in full force. With the dawn of this New Year came many mixed emotions. While 2014 approached its end, I watched as my social media sites slowly began to fill with the memories and summaries of how wonderful the year had been for so many people. It was almost heart wrenching to observe. How badly I wished to be a part of the celebrations from a wonderful year. So in attempts to avoid the pain I spent most of December running away. I started out by visiting friends and family members in various parts of California.
California has always been my home away from home. Every time I visit there it feels like the place I am supposed to be. I spent most days there in therapy - retail therapy, nature therapy, and most importantly social therapy. I bought some charming things, saw some stunning places, and had the pleasure of being surrounded by some beautiful souls. All things considered, it was a decent retreat. For the end of my trip I decided to drive back home to Indiana with two of my cousins instead of flying. We had five days to make it home before Christmas and managed to finish the drive in three. Everyone thought we were crazy for driving, but in all honestly it wasn’t bad.
The day after Christmas I left again to visit Nashville, Tennessee. A close friend of mine had invited me to go on a mini vacation with his family. At this point in my life I feel the need to go anywhere and everywhere as often as possible, so I was more than happy to tag-a-long. It was oddly comforting to spend a long weekend with a family other than Brady’s or my own. I felt the warmth of being with family without the constant reminders of my loss. In total I spent December in ten different states. It may not be much for some people, but for me that’s impressive. I believe it was exactly what I needed to get through the home stretch of 2014.
When New Years Eve arrived I was filled with more mixed emotions than I would have ever expected. I never knew how much a single year of time could completely change a life. Part of me wanted to say good riddance to the year that tore my life apart. But… most of me wasn’t ready to see it go. While it seems easy to say 2014 was the worst year of my life, it seems just as easy to forget it was the best year of my life as well. It was the year Brady and I found our own place to live together, the year I got to marry my true love, and the year we began our life together one, as family (in the eyes of the law at least). Not only that, it was also my last year I will ever have to just simply have him.
Over the past couple of months I have accumulated a large number of bazaar and somewhat spectacular moments in my life. Miracles, coincidences, chance, or whatever you would like to call it, these moments have caused me to think and to question the purpose behind them. Some, like the one I am about to present, occurred entirely before the knowledge of my husband’s illness and passing. Looking back it almost seems like a giant warning that was being thrown in my face unbeknownst to me.
I have mentioned before Brady and I had a great, big Catholic wedding. For those who are unfamiliar with the religion getting married in the Catholic Church requires the engaged couple to attend a retreat known as Pre-Cana. Pre-Cana is kind of like the religious version of pre-marital counseling to help couples prepare for marriage. There are retreat options that can be done in one day (what Brady and I chose) or options for an entire weekend. The afternoon consisted of “let’s make sure you actually know your future spouse” activities (which Brady and I rocked with flying colors), a few speeches from married couples about living a Christian married life, and ended as all Catholic functions tend to end, with Mass. This Mass was unexpectedly the most meaningful service I have ever attended in my life. I knew it was something special then, but looking back I treasure it even more now.
After some extensive Internet searching I believe the priest who gave Mass that day was Fr. Kevin Morris. His outgoing and non-traditional approach to the service was unique from the very beginning. He had my complete attention from the moment he began to speak. In his homily, or sermon, he told us about his personal life. For the life of me I can’t remember his story in exact detail but I will try to relay the message the best I can. He told us about he was one of only three Catholic priests in the history of the state of Indiana to have been previously married. Again, for those who are unfamiliar, Catholic priests may not marry which is why this information was both rare and surprising. I couldn’t help but think to myself, who could be better to inspire a group of soon-to-be newlyweds than a previously married priest.
At a young age he met and fell in love with his high school sweetheart. Somewhere along the storyline he proposed. Not long before the two wed, they received the news of his fiancé’s illness. I believe he said it was ovarian cancer. They continued on with wedding anyway. Sometime after the wedding she had to have a surgery done. When she awoke he was the one to inform her that the doctors had to remove her ovaries. She looked up at him with tears in her eyes and said, “No babies?”
“No babies,” he replied. The surgery must not have ended up being enough because she ended up losing her battle with cancer some time after that. I know I do not remember the timeline exactly but I do remember Fr. Kevin saying how the absolute best day of his life and the absolute worst day of his life were in strangely close proximity to one another.
What are the odds of that? That day he stood there and basically told me what my future had in store for me on complete accident, and at my marriage retreat no less. I can’t say I know how to handle that information, but I do know I was supposed to be there that day. I was supposed to hear those words. I was supposed to feel oddly connected his story. Now, if that coincidental event didn’t touch you maybe this one will. When we found out Brady was sick his dad brought him plush cardinal to the hospital. He told me about a story about how Brady’s grandma loved them. Seeing a cardinal is supposed to represent a loved one who had passed on and come to let you know that everything will be okay. I used to be a person who tried not to feed into those sorts of things. Random objects, living or not, representing those who have passed? It always seemed more like a placebo effect to me. However since Brady’s passing I’ve noticed a major factor involving those ideas that I had never considered before; I don’t care. I don’t care if seeing a cardinal is Brady actually telling me everything is okay or not, because it comforts me, even if it is all in my head.
The first and only time I’ve seen a live cardinal since Brady has passed was the day after his funeral. I laid in bed the entire day. Out of boredom I flipped onto my stomach to look out my bedroom window into my back yard. It’s not something I ever do normally. As I hopelessly stared out the window at our garage and Brady’s beloved red truck I noticed a bird moving around in the bushes. It was brown and somewhat looked like a female cardinal but it was too difficult to really see from the distance. I watched it hop around from branch to branch for several minutes. My sad state of mind had me too lazy to investigate whether or not it was actually a cardinal. Then out of the corner of my eye a saw a movement. I looked up to see one bright, red cardinal sitting perched up on a branch, the branch directly behind Brady’s truck. It was only there for a moment. Then before I knew it, he was gone. A moment was all I needed to melt my heart though.
So how are these two stories connected you may wonder? Today on my dedicated search to find the name of the priest who told us his emotionally touching story I found out the same priest is not only a pastor to several parishes, but he is also a chaplain at the Seton Catholic schools located in Richmond, Indiana. The schools’ colors consist of red and blue, Brady’s favorite colors and the schools’ mascot… a cardinal. It isn’t too surprising to find a school with that mascot in Indiana, where a cardinal is the official state bird but it is surprising to find out that information on this particular day; the 2-month mark since my husband’s passing.