I remember hearing that when you lose someone, they will send you signs. I thought this was a little far fetched. I remember a friend telling me after her dad had passed away, she would see pennies everywhere and in the most random of places. Another friend would talk about how a dear friend she lost would send wafts of lavender every so often and lavender was her favorite scent.
We lost my husband’s mom about eight months ago in December, 2018. Joye was and is one of my best friends. My husband and I are high school sweethearts which means she has been part of my life since I was 15. She was always there for me and always wanted to know what I was up to. She is the biggest cheerleader for every major event I have had; I even struggled if I should write “is” or “was” but I am choosing present tense because I know she is still cheering for me.
In Spring 2017, she got sick with stage four ovarian cancer. Her and I are both obstinate to a fault and don’t go down without a fight, probably why we were such a good pair. And, neither did she as she gave cancer a run for its money. We all lived in the same house together so as her cancer spread and she went through all her treatments, I was there with her. My two girls were her best medicine. We would sit in the backyard and Mimi would have time with her therapy children playing on the water table, blowing bubbles, and doing crafts. I would coach my little ones to be gentle with Mimi because she is a delicate flower. She was delicate because chemo had taken away so much of her strength and any scratch could cause her to bleed profusely. My girls, in their infinite wisdom, decided Mimi was a delicate sunflower because she would migrate outside to wherever the sun was just like a sunflower.
Now that it’s almost 8 months since she left this Earth, we noticed something special in the backyard. The Summer before she passed away we made a paver patio. We made the patio to watch the Colorado sunsets, one of Joye’s most treasured rituals. It’s nothing pretty at this point, a bunch of dirt, beat up chairs, and paver stones. But would you know it, this Summer an entire batch of sunflowers has sprouted all round it. There is no other explanation for sunflowers growing in that exact spot other than her.
I was still a bit skeptical because come on, how realistic is it that she made those sunflowers sprout? Then, we ventured to our family lake, our place where we have made so many memories as a family. This subtle reminder of sunflowers kept popping up. We take the kayaks out, sunflower right next to the paddle, we got to the farmer’s market, giant sunflowers at the entrance. It’s painful to do the things that kept us so close but it’s also therapeutic. Joye lived for fun, the outdoors, and adventure. It was palpable not having her at the lake with us. She would want nothing more than for us to show our kiddos the best time with all the fun lake things so, we did just that.
If you are reading this and have just lost a loved one, please know that they are still with you. I can never decide if that thought brings me comfort or pain. Knowing that Joye is still part of everything and not getting to physically be with her just hurts sometimes. Other times, it’s comforting to know that she’s not missing out on all the things I would want her to see. Grief and loss is this blessing of having lost something that was so wonderful and amazing. It becomes this reminder of what love, happiness, and connection can be. Grief can also feel like a curse because of the deep pain it causes that seems to never go away. There are times I see a sunflower and smile and other times I weep. Either response is perfectly valid. With grief whatever you’re feeling is alright. Working through grief is making the intentional choice to allow yourself to experience the emotions and give yourself the space to heal. Our beloved delicate sunflower, although she is not with us in a physical sense she is absolutely here with us in a spiritual sense. I will continue to live a life that will truly honor all that she taught me.