Today is Sunday. One more day of vacation left. Ernie Jackson is a board member of Helping Parents Heal. He and his wife Kristine have invited us to attend church with them and to have brunch afterwards. Coincidentally, they attend a Unity church. We have been going to Unity since last July or August.
I wake up and do my usual Facebook, Clash of Clans and journaling ritual. I’m missing Shayna even more than when we are at home. I decide to make our Grand Canyon pictures my cover photo and my profile picture on Facebook. We got some specular shots and I want to use them.
I am hesitant though. Since Shayna passed I have kept her in my cover photo on Facebook. My current cover is an orb I got a shot of early one morning when I felt her on a walk with me. Putting up a cover photo without her in it feels like letting go and I don’t want to do that. I choose a photo, a selfie, of Tywana, Kayla and me. The weird thing is that with Kayla standing to my right, Tywana should naturally stand to my left. Instead, she inserts her head between Kayla and me like she is photo bombing the shot. It allowed a gap on my left which I thought was pretty cool when I was framing the shot because it would allow the Grand Canyon to show. It wasn’t until later I realized instead of the Canyon filling that spot it’s a random woman with her back turned to the camera taking her own photo of the Canyon.
I put the shot up and I think of how that blank space would be perfect for Shayna. I had thought of trying to Photoshop that woman out. Even better, I think, I’ll Photoshop Shayna in. Then is when it hits me. There is a tattoo on the woman’s right should blade which is just inside the frame of the photo. What is that? I zoom in. There on her shoulder is a tattoo of an angel. Shayna is right there in the photo as she should be.
I am overwhelmed with emotion. It might as well have been Shayna’s face in the picture. I start crying uncontrollably. I look again. It’s clearly there. The engineer in me starts calculating. What are the odds this is random? Lots of people have tattoos. Lots of people have tattoos on their shoulders. Lots of people have angel tattoos. But it wasn’t lots of people standing in the background of my shot, with her back turned, just in frame, as Tywana decides to leave a space for Shayna at the exact moment I took that picture. The odds against that are astronomical.
I go upstairs to change for church. I start crying again, but I don’t share why with Tywana because we need to go and I dont know how this might impact her emotionally. I know I was looking for a sign on this trip. We are reading about amazing signs. When you do, you want one or those. Hearing other’s is helpful. Having your own is life affirming. I’m not sure how I’m going to make it through church, but we have committed, so I’m going.
We get to the church. It’s amazing. We are to meet the Jacksons by the fountain which we assumed was in the foyer. It’s outdoors along with the Welcome table, the coffee and water stations, etc. When you’re from the Midwest stuff like being able to have all of this outdoor accommodations is pretty amazing. The Jacksons arrive and we head into the sanctuary. The service is familiar as it is a Unity church. Here comes the sermon, “Hell in the Hallway”. It’s based on the saying when one door closes, another opens. We all like the open doors, but we hate when one closes. And when that door closes and we are in the hallway between doors it can seem like an eternity. This sermon was tailor made for Tywana and me. It’s as if he wrote it for us. Tywana is crying. I am squirming. I’m somewhere in between really enjoying this and wanting to sprint from the room. This is hitting too close to home. And while I believe what the pastor said “This isn’t happening to you, it’s happening for you.” I want to say “No more.”
After church we head back to pick up Kayla to take her to brunch with us. She has been so patient on this trip. She is going with us to meet more “old people” (everyone over 30 is old to her). The Jacksons welcome us into their beautiful home. I have to admit I’m envious of that house. This is my paradise. A pool with a fountain in the backyard, Southwest style (ironically, I grew up in a Southwest kinda house in Columbus), fruit trees in the yard.
We meet Kristine’s Mom and sit down to a meal and fellowship. It’s apparent Ernie and Kristine are very special people. Their dedication to their family comes through in our conversation. Quinton, their son who passed at age 9, 7 years ago, is 28 days older than Shayna- born December 15, 1999. We talk about their similarities. It’s good to see them keeping him alive and part of their family 7 years later. Ernie has written two books in his honor and serves on the board of HPH. They have taken this tragedy and done with it the best anyone could hope to do. I want to be like Ernie when I grow up. In the couple of hours I have spent with him the commitment to his family comes through so strong. I wish we lived closer so we could spend time together.
I could stay all day, but I’m sure they have things to do and Kayla has been more than patient. We say our goodbyes and head back to the condo so Kayla and Tywana can do some shopping.
As I go to bed I reflect on Shayna showing up in that picture. These synchronistic events baffle me. The engineer in me wants to figure out how this works. Modern science would deny it works at all since it can’t explain it. I don’t have the foggiest notion how it works. Someone from the 19th century would have no idea how a television works or a cell phone, yet they do. These things keep happening and not just to our family. If we are open to it, we will see it happens all the time.
It’s been a good day, as good as they get right now. Thanks for showing up Shayna. That was freaking amazing.