Driving through the hills of Northeast Connecticut on Wednesday with my windows open, I inhale the delicious scent of country. My sadness at leaving my daughter for her Junior year at college is dwarfed by the comfort of knowing she is safe and happy. This world feels right for her, she thrives here – so my ache is sweet. As the road turns into a highway, I step on the gas and a huge bird swoops toward and then alongside my car, keeping pace with for a few seconds. I struggle to keep my eyes on the road while watching this incredible creature. I think with a loaded heart: this is Molly’s father checking in with me as our beautiful girl begins another chapter. I smile through a blur of tears.
Friday morning, I arbitrarily decide to take the highway to work. This is a crazy stretch of I-95 but I go in the opposite direction of most commuters so the drive is usually a breeze, shaving a few minutes off my easy 15 minute trip. I speed up on the entrance ramp, behind the car ahead of me ready to join the river of heavier-than-usual traffic. A car crazily brakes to almost a full stop on the highway – blocking us in. With a screech and a groan a tractor trailer slams on its brakes as does the car on the ramp ahead of me. I pull over to the right and for a moment, we are all stopped, stunned there is no crash of metal. Hearts pounding, through a cloud of burnt rubber from the truck’s brakes, we all move again, continuing our journey. Trembling as I picked up speed, I see a hawk sitting on a post beside me and let out a sob.
Last night I met up with a friend of more than 40 years. A rare visit because tonight, it is just J and her dear mother. As a teenager, this house and family provided comfort and warmth from my own angst filled home. Later, J and I drive to the beach to look at the full moon, to watch the light of it dance across the Long Island Sound. I shared with J, like me – a widow too young – how 11 years after his death, I sometimes miss my husband. The fury I long felt about the torment caused by his addiction, his suicide have faded. J responded how this is a beautiful sign of healing. Driving away from the beach, my eyes on the road with the horizon dark beyond the trees, I tell her about my hawk encounters and as I do, a shooting star drops like a huge firework above the tree line.
This morning, I sat outside in the early sun, legs tucked beneath me, phone to my ear sharing with my beloved sister these mysterious moments and JUST as I am am telling her, a hawk (yes, really) flew low through the branches, flapping wings audible as it passed over. Okay — I get it! I am not alone.
I’ve been thinking about faith recently, marveling how many people stick with the beliefs of their childhoods, or perhaps they have a faith renewed or maybe they discover it for the first time. I claim none of that. I wonder a lot. I was moved recently, by the certainty of believers I witnessed in a church last week, their belief such comfort to them, so huge it burst through song – in wails of grief, shouts of joy belted out in full confidence and better pipes than I’ll ever have. I am silent when prayers are recited by rote on cue, not moved to join in, the words sounding hollow to me.
I feel something bigger than me in this universe but I can’t name it. I search for and sometimes find my own words, my own prayers – or no words at all spoken to…? Maybe it is these spirits of the dead who have loved me, who I have loved. Molly’s father keeping an eye on my daughter, on me? My Grandfather – perhaps the dearest man I ever knew? There is certainly mystery, wonder – and I am reminded this week by a hawk, a star. Alert to and grateful for all signs of comfort, of love, of reassurance that I am not alone.