What Are The Chances?

 

It was December 13, 2015, and I was spending my afternoon in Riverview like most I had spent for the last five months.  Two weeks prior, I had spent Thanksgiving alone.  Now Christmas was less than two weeks away, and I would spend the holiday alone.

 

Later in the afternoon, I sat on my patio listening to music, watching the sandhill cranes graze in the yard and cardinals enjoying black sunflower seed in the bird feeders.  I was enjoying a bottle of wine when the thunderstorm rolled in.  I love thunderstorms, and the rain is always so cleansing to experience.

I don’t remember how long the thunderstorm lasted, but as the storm clouds rolled away, the sun began to shine again.  It was still raining lightly, and I just knew there would be a rainbow in the sky.  I walked to the patio door and looked towards the north, and what I saw took my breath away.  Not only was there a rainbow, but a double rainbow – something I had seen in pictures but never witnessed myself.

Image 22 Double Rainbow 600DPI

Riverview, FL

 

I ran back to the table and grabbed my cell phone and took several photos.  I captured both rainbows in full color with blue sky and white puffy clouds under the primary rainbow.  And if you look closely at the top rainbow, you can see a heart shape within the wispy clouds.  It was the highlight of my afternoon and would take another seven months to understand how significant the double rainbow sighting truly was.

Roger's double rainbow

Leesburg, FL

 

On December 13, 2015, he was spending his afternoon in Leesburg like most he had spent for months.  He, too, had spent Thanksgiving alone and would be spending Christmas alone.  He sat in his man-cave, “The Shed”, listening to music.  It was mid-afternoon, and he was enjoying the beer when the thunderstorm rolled in.

 

As the storm subsided, he looked to the south.  To his wonder, he saw a double rainbow.  He grabbed his phone and took a photo capturing two brilliant rainbows shining against a gray sky.  And if you look closely, there is a wispy cloud in the primary rainbow on the left-side as if it was hugging the rainbow.  Just like me, it would be seven months before the true meaning presented itself.

A double rainbow occurs about 1 in 10 times a normal rainbow is seen.  In Asian culture, red is symbolic of the feet and violet is the head.  So in the primary rainbow, the human is reaching upward while the secondary rainbow is reaching downward.  The double rainbow is a symbol of transformation.  It has also been said that if you witness a double rainbow, blessings will fall into your lap . . . one good thing will lead to another.

It’s been seven months since December 13, 2015.  Last weekend, we shared our love of rainbows and our photos.  We looked at each other in awe and amazement when we discovered our cell phone pictures of a double rainbow were taken within an hour of each other – from the same storm, destiny smiled upon us in the form of a double rainbow.

When I look at the photos now, I see that the heart-shape hole in the cloud in Riverview is him reaching out from Leesburg with his heart.  From Leesburg, he sees me reaching out with open arms via a wispy cloud in the primary rainbow. What are the chances that two people who have never met photograph the same double rainbow 100+ miles apart from each other and on the same day, just an hour apart?  We know it’s probably 1 in a million . . . but it happened to us.

“We Love You Guys” But . . .

My husband, John, was a master with people. His philosophy about people was “it doesn’t matter if they drive the truck or pick up the cans.” He motivated others by making them feel extraordinary thereby bringing out their best. He sincerely cared for others and had a giving spirit.

I especially enjoyed watching him “work his magic” with service people, people who would fill a need we had, people we would only meet one or two times. One important lesson that I learned from John is that “people love to hear their name.” No matter who crossed our path, he greeted each person asking their names. Whether it was a crew to help us move, paint our house, pave our patio, maintain our yard, he knew them by name. He always provided a cooler of water and Gatorade for the workers. For the guys who moved us to FL, we bought lunchmeat, bread and chips for a “take-out lunch” before they left. He never failed to thank them by name when they were done.

Two weeks ago, construction started on our dream home with an opportunity for me to put John’s lessons into action. On the first day, I drove out to meet the crew and watch the process of building a log cabin. I met Glen, the crew chief and head carpenter. When they took a much-needed break, I met the other three: Charlie, Ray and Roger. They are definitely a “motley crew”, and my initial thoughts were “I hope they don’t cut off an arm or leg or get stuck under a pile of logs!”

Throughout the afternoon, I sat on their trailer and observed. I couldn’t tell if they were amused or intimidated with my presence. They took breaks for Mountain Dew and water, but they never ate a bite. Around 4:00 p.m., they started cleaning up and packing their tools for the 2-hr drive home. Before they left, I asked, “don’t you guys eat lunch?” Glen said, “we grab breakfast at McDonald’s; we don’t have time for lunch.” Charlie could see the surprise on my face and said, “she doesn’t believe him!” Ray and Roger just smiled and kept packing up.

I walked to the car and grabbed some cash. I handed it to Glen and said “have breakfast tomorrow on me.” He shook his head and said, “no ma’am, that’s ok”, but I was insistent. All of them thanked me, and they drove off.

The next day, I grabbed four Cuban sandwiches from the Publix deli. When I got to the property, Charlie, Ray and a new guy were taking a break. I handed them the bag and said, “I brought you lunch.” They looked surprised but gladly ate the sandwiches. I watched the slow manual progress of stacking logs for the detached garage. When the new guy walked to the trailer, I introduced myself. He shook my hand and said, “I’m Jason, Glen’s son-in-law.”

Again, around 4:00 p.m., they packed up and headed home. I told Glen that I wouldn’t make it Thursday but would be back on Friday. Charlie thanked me again for lunch, and said “you’re the best.” It felt good to hear “thank you”, like I was appreciated. I drove home fighting back tears.

On Friday, I grabbed chicken tenders and a 12-pk of Mountain Dew. Luckily, I arrived before 2:00 p.m. because I learned something new. On Fridays, they leave earlier to give them time to stop by the shop office. The blue-collar construction world is new to me. It’s very humbling to watch these guys work in the hot sun, hauling logs with sweaty hands for an hourly wage. They left early so they could get paid.

Week two, a rainy Monday postponed construction. On Tuesday afternoon, I showed up with Mountain Dew and water. Now, there were six guys on the crew to build the house: Glen, Charlie, Ray, Roger, Jason and Glen’s son, Kyle. I was glad I didn’t bring food because I would have been two short!

But over the weekend, I had a brainstorm. I could achieve two important needs: clean out the freezer and pantry and provide lunch a couple of days a week. On Wednesday, I showed up with BBQ crockpot pork sandwiches. When they took a break, they couldn’t help but peek into the bag. They eagerly grabbed a sandwich as I walked around taking pictures of the work-in-progress. When I returned, one of the guys called out, “hey, you can cook for me any time you want!” I said, “I want to make sure our cabin is built right.” They were all smiling and said the sandwiches were fantastic. They went back to work, and I sat on the trailer fighting back more tears.

By Thursday, they had grown accustomed to my daily visits. They also know I’m the General Contractor and have figured out I ask a lot of questions. (John’s nickname for me was “Perry Mason” because of my never-ending barrage of questions.) And, they reluctantly try my suggestions for process improvement. Glen found out quickly that I can read a house-plan and will point out anything that doesn’t look right.

Snack crackers on Thursday and more sandwiches on Friday. Charlie, Jason, Ray and Kyle were taking a break together. Jason, was the first to peek into the bag, and say “what do we have today?” Charlie said, “you’re the best; you know how to motivate us through our stomachs.” After a couple of bites, Ray asked, “are these home-made?” to which I replied, “yes”. He smiled and said, “I can tell because they are made with love.” And then Jason said the most profound thing: “You know, the lady from the last job told us every day ‘we love you guys’.” And then came the BUT . . . “But she never once gave us something to drink let alone feed us. You bring us drinks and feed us. You wouldn’t believe how most people treat us.”

The guys worked until around 2:30 p.m. and packed up. I turned away to take more photos, and I heard Charlie say, “see you Monday.” I waved as they drove off wiping away tears.

They say “actions speak louder than words”. Greeting the crew by their names . . . providing water, Mountain Dew, and homemade sandwiches don’t seem like big “actions”. But to these guys, who typically aren’t recognized, let alone appreciated, they bring a smile to their faces and maybe a small bright spot for the day. For me, they give me a feeling of purpose, if only for a day.

I’m honored to share a couple of John’s simple but positively impactful life-lessons. I hope you will do the same . . . take a moment to speak someone’s name, share a drink or meal, put a smile on someone’s face.

“Polar Bears Should Be Safe . . .”

Mary brought dinner and spent a few hours with me the other night. She handed me the pan, and said, “I’ve got one more thing in the car.” When she walked back in, I saw the red flowers, green pine needles and frosted pinecones, and choked back the tears. She told me, “I know you won’t put anything out, but I wanted you to have something for the season.” And then when she pulled it out of the box, I saw the polar bears.

We sat down and chatted for a while. I shared some of John’s poetry with her and more of our story. She remembered “My Precious Flower” from the memorial service. As she read the poems, she revealed her perspective to me and what she sees in his words.  She read a few lines from several poems out loud and urged me to listen, “I must have you by my side before I can be whole”, “nature’s picture of you and I, love’s bouquet ‘til time does end”, “let me love you for all time”, “arm-in-arm together for all eternity”.  She said, “don’t you see, you and John are one — forever.”

After a while, we decided to eat. As we walked into the kitchen, I said, “after we eat, I want to show you something.” She told me about how she and Zach rummaged through her pantry as they improvised the smoked turkey stuffed shells, making red sauce with diced tomatoes and pizza sauce! They were delicious and much appreciated.

After dinner, we returned to the great room. I went to the back bedroom and grabbed the polar bear. As soon as she saw it, she was completely dumbfounded. Again, I choked back tears. She told me about her trip to the florist shop. She said she was very deliberate and measured as she looked for a gift trying to avoid emotional triggers.

Mary told me how she didn’t want to get a “live” plant so there was no chance for it to wither and die. She steered away from angels, hawks, Christmas trees, little dogs, anything that she knew would probably evoke tearful memories. She picked up the polar bears and put them back down several times. She laughed and said the people in the shop probably thought she was nuts. After much hesitancy, she picked up the polar bears one last time. She thought to herself, “polar bears should be safe.”

John bought a little red rocking chair for the polar bear. We had it sitting in his office next to his desk. She apologized and then said, “for whatever reason, John chooses me to connect him with you.” She looked at me and added, “he even has a scarf around his neck.”

She stayed for a bit longer. Before leaving, she took a picture of the arrangement and my polar bear. Later that evening, she sent a text “love you . . . enjoy your arrangement from John!” She added that it “blew Zach’s mind” when she shared the picture and story.

Once again, John, my dearest angel, spoke to me through Mary . . . this time through little polar bears.

The Dance

Enjoying nature was one of many activities that John and I enjoyed sharing. We visited many botanical gardens, beaches and parks wherever we lived. On one of our first vacations together, we travelled to Fort Myers and stayed in a resort right on the beach. One of our days was spent on Sanibel Island, home of several wildlife refuges. We devoted an entire day at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

There is a four-mile scenic drive around Sanibel Island which is home to hundreds species of birds, reptiles, palms, seagrapes, myrtles and other native vegetation. John loved watching me enjoy my passion – photography. He drove along the dike so that I could snap away. Whenever we saw something that caught our attention, especially a flock of wading birds, we stopped to get a closer look.

As we drove slowly along the dike, I saw a lone Little Blue Heron off in the distance in the bay. He caught my eye, and I asked John to stop. We got out of the car and walked up to the edge of the water. The heron was the only bird in sight, but he put on what we later called a “happy dance” through the shallow water. We were thrilled to watch and I captured the show in several still, sequential photos.

The Little Blue Heron stood in the “knee-deep” bay, and my first photo was one where he appeared to be looking at himself in the water like it was a mirror. We imagined to ourselves that he wanted to make sure his feathers were all in place, and he looked handsome and presentable.

Gazing Into The Water

After a few seconds, all of a sudden he spread out his wings and stood on one leg. And then he started running through the water towards us. As he ran, he held his head high and held his wings out like angel wings.

Dancing Dancing

He glided across the shallow water flapping his wings up and then down and turned making a semi-circle wake in the water. Then, as suddenly as he had started his “dance”, he stopped. I caught him in this beautiful, graceful stance. His wings were held out as he stood on one leg, as if in a “Karate Kid” pose gazing into the water again.

Karate Kid Pose

He stood there staring into the water for several seconds, and we were sure he was pleased with what he saw. He stood up once more, raised his wings and continued sprinting and splashing back towards where he started.

Look At Me

All the while, he danced solo as if he was wooing a mate to join him in his tango, “look at me, look at me, I’m here waiting for you!” It was a lovely sight to behold; while we stood there, he never enticed a lady bird to join him.

We decided to return to the car and continue along the dike. Before John started the car, he grabbed my hand and looked into my eyes. He told me how much he loved me, and I said the same back to him.  As we drove away, I told John, “that heron’s soul mate is just sitting back waiting for us to leave.  They just want some privacy.”  And we smiled . . .

John and I lived Richard Bach’s quote everyday: “Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life.” We made each other’s life come to life; we were blessed with a once-in-a-lifetime bond.  He didn’t have to dance to woo me; he had me at “hello”.

He Smiled At Me

The gymnasium was set up for a career fair at the high school for the Great American Teach-In. There were tables set up for participating companies, disciplines and even the U.S. Air Force from MacDill AF Base. I reluctantly signed up to help with the career fair since they said it would be 1-on-1 with students vs. classroom.

I don’t like crowds  and quickly became claustrophobic, especially with all of the chatter in the gym. Science/Technical isn’t a popular subject matter to the vast majority of students, so not many stopped by. Those who did were grabbed up by the other two at my table.  I sat quietly, tuned out the noise and watched the students mill about the gym. It was very apparent to me that the students were more interested in being out of the classroom than careers. Most students did “drive by’s” each table, picked up freebies, hung out with their friends until the bell rang.

Two and half hours was an eternity to me. A new group of students entered the gym. My two table-mates quickly found someone else to talk to. I saw the young man standing in front of our table. He was all alone and holding a U.S. history book almost as big as him. He looked uncomfortable and almost frozen in front of our table, unsure of what to do.

It pained me to see him all alone and uneasy. I saw his name tag, and said, “hello Michael”. He looked up, and said hello back, surprised that I spoke to him. I asked him how he was doing, and he said “ok”. I continued speaking and asked him if he was interested in the science/technical field. He told me he didn’t really know what he wanted to do. He told me he was a sophomore. He was shorter than me with a slight build; I surmised that he was one of the smaller boys, if not the smallest, in his class. I told him he has a lot of time to figure out what he wants to do.

Then I asked him if he liked history, and he nodded “yes” and relaxed a bit. So I asked him, “what are you studying?” to which he replied, “World War I”. I asked him to tell me what started the war, and he was eager to share. He told me that U.K., France and Russia opposed Germany and Austria-Hungary. I said that I didn’t remember the details but “why did the U.S. get involved?” He told me that we remained neutral until Germany invited Mexico to fight against the U.S. and would help them recover TX, NM and AZ.

Curious if he was abreast of current events, I asked him, “what do you think about what’s going in our world today?” He was very thoughtful and said that we need to look back on history and understand what lessons we learned. We need to think long-term and hopefully make a good decision for our country. I asked if World War II is next, and he told me the Great Depression is next. I told him, “as bad as our economy is now, it’s nothing compared to the Great Depression.”

Just then, the bell rang and it was time for him to return to class. I said, “you’re a very sharp young man. Thank you for talking to me and good luck to you.” And that’s when he broke into a full, tooth-filled smile. He held out his hand to me which I shook. He said, “thank you, thank you for coming today.”

It was an emotional drive home, mostly because I wouldn’t be able to share my experience with John. All afternoon, Michael’s smile kept coming back to my mind. Then, it dawned on me – John loved history, especially U.S. history. He always told me how he was a scrawny kid growing up, a loner, uncomfortable in crowds like me, like Michael. It was less than 10 minutes in the three hours I spent at the career fair, but it’s as if Michael stopped in front of me on purpose. He needed me to speak to him, and I needed to speak to him. It was as if John, my guardian angel, smiled at me through Michael’s smile, a tiny little God-wink for me.

Kalik Konnection

My friend, Stacey, is helping me write a book about the love story between me and my husband.  One of the chapters in the book describes our all-expenses paid trip to the Atlantis on Paradise Island, Bahamas.  An excerpt of the chapter is below.

We slept in late on our first morning, enjoying coffee and brunch.  As we did on most of our day trips and vacations, we kept the day low-key.  It was the two of us and my camera experiencing the beach surrounding The Atlantis.  It was overcast, so the sun wasn’t scorching.  We walked the beach hand-in-hand letting our feet be tickled by the waves.  We walked away from the hotel and found a private area with chairs and an umbrella.  We sat away from others, just listening to the waves roll onto the shore, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

We spent a few leisurely hours at the beach, and then headed back towards the hotel.  The Island Pool looked inviting.  We found a couple of lounge chairs and kicked back with a Kalik beer, the local favorite.  The pool was fairly quiet, however, you could hear the laughter and shouts coming from the Mayan Temple water slides.  John and I were perfectly content to sit in the corner taking pictures of each other and planning a romantic dinner for the evening.

A week prior to reading the chapter, Stacey had directed me to Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue to check out potential rescues.  There was a little yorkie who was looking for a home.  When John and I lived in North Carolina, I used to travel to Roanoke, VA on business, and he traveled with me.  Our all-time favorite steakhouse is Frankie Rowland’s in downtown Roanoke where we dined every time we traveled there.  It just so happened, the little yorkie looking for a home is named Frankie, spelled just like the steakhouse.  He’s now part of our family.

On the afternoon of 10/7, Stacey clicked on Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue’s facebook page.  There on the FB cover is a little dog sitting on the beach with a Kalik beer next to him.  Stacey had never heard of Kalik beer before reading our story.  As Stacey shared with me, “Tears in my eyes as I type this . . . I directed you toward lil Frankie at Nate’s Rescue . . . you adopt him . . . I read the story of your trip to the Bahamas . . . this picture shows up on Nate’s FB page.”

Coincidence?  Maybe . . .

Fluke?  Possibly . . .

A wink from God to connect me and John?  Positively . . . that’s what I Bea-lieve.

Instead of hawks or a beautiful rainbow, Stacey provided a connection to John through Frankie, named in honor of our favorite steakhouse, and Nate’s facebook cover page with a little dog enjoying the beach with a Kalik beer . . . thus, the Kalik Konnection.

Kalik Konnection

Spaghetti & Meatballs ?!?!?! Really?

Do you ever wonder why God places certain people in your path? I believe they are there when you need a sign that you are not alone. I believe they are they to provide a necessary connection to a loved one when you are too emotional to feel the tie you so desperately need.

Mary and Brian are two such people that have been placed in my life. John and I started attending Horizon Christian Church on Easter Sunday this year. We never met Mary and Brian, but they knew our beautiful story before they knew us. Since August, they are providing a much-needed connection between me and John without ever having met John themselves.

Over the last couple of months, I have been writing the beautiful love story between me and John. Mary is one of my “editors”. She is supposed to read as I write and provide feedback and input. However, as of last weekend, she hadn’t read a word that I sent her! She and Brian invited me over for dinner last Saturday, and I reluctantly accepted. She texted me that “they were going easy and having spaghetti and meatballs”.

We had dinner around 6:00 p.m. with their son and “Aunt” Connie. Mary had cooked spaghetti and meatballs and dinner included salad and bread. We enjoyed our meal and nice conversation. At some point, Mary asked me what I liked to eat? I said, “if you read our book, you would know the answer.” She rolled her eyes at me. Then she asked if I liked to drink wine. I said “yes” to which she asked, “what is your favorite?” Again, I said, “if you read our book, you would know the answer.  I’m not going to tell you.” At that point, she said, “ok, ok, I get it, I need to read your book!”

I don’t like driving in the dark by myself, so I left around 7:30 p.m. to go home. I thanked them for their kindness and meal. She packed me some pumpkin bread that she had bought for something sweet.

It was Sunday afternoon when I received a text message from Mary.  All it said was “started reading your book . . . spaghetti and meatballs?!?!?! Really? That blew my mind.”

You see, it blew her mind because she read it in our book after I left her house Saturday night.  Had she read the book ahead of time, she would have known that spaghetti and meatballs was one of John’s favorites.  The first Valentine’s lunch with John was at Olive Garden, and he ordered spaghetti and meatballs. On our day trip to Ybor City, we ate at Spaghetti Warehouse, and he ordered spaghetti and meatballs.  It was a meal he would order many more times over the years.

What Mary doesn’t know, because it’s not part of the book yet, is that pumpkin bread was our favorite that we enjoyed with our morning coffee. John always loaded up on canned pumpkin when it was in season, so that I could bake pumpkin bread and pumpkin bars throughout the year. I made sure I had a fresh loaf whenever Jeri came for Superbowl every year. How would she know that if John didn’t nudge her gently, speaking to her heart and soul, knowing I would be there with her?

So, why did God choose Mary and Brian to be my link to John?  I don’t know . . . I just share the story because it really happened.  I hope to provide inspiration to you, too.  Hopefully, I can help you Bea Positive that God’s ways are mysterious and inexplicable . . .you just have to Bea-lieve.

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