However, I was floored by a few other signs that two of the closest people in my life shared with me.
First, my significant other sent me a text on Friday, the day Chervony (he called him “Bonner”) died,
Marshall was on my mind all day today from the minute I got up. I am truly sorry Bonner is gone.
The next day, I visited my daughter who lives out of town. We talked about the sad events surrounding my son’s cat that had transpired the day before. She said that on that day before Chervony was put to his final rest, upon awakening, and throughout the day, she felt a strong sense of her brother’s presence.
Unaware of the cat’s fate, both she and my significant other felt Marshall nearby. The mirror messages sent goosebumps down my spine.
I interpreted both instances as signs and it helped me feel the faith and realize that we can survive the vicissitudes of life as well as death. The first step is to reconcile with faith. Only then can one weave a web of hope.
Prior to my son Marshall’s untimely departure in 2019, messages from the other side were daily concurrences. For instance, my mom, who passed in 2015, sent me vast amounts of pennies from heaven. During those child-like faith years when miracles also arrived in multitudes, many nights were spent in happy dreams that included my father and brother who died, subsequently, in 2000 and 2002. Now, since our family tragedy, signs, like a cityscape of evacuated concrete, are scarce.
Unlike many other grieving mothers whom I’ve met and read about, I have not felt my son’s omnipresence in my life either. One exception, however, was sensing my son next to me this past March during the pre-pandemic days while I was searching through Party City’s aisles for decor for a surprise birthday celebration for my dear friend. Granted, perhaps, it was just a throwback from when he was a child and we paraded together through the aisles searching for signature decor for his birthday celebration.
Now, as far as signs go, admittedly, I can think up two. One was a four-pack toilet paper package. You see, most of his personal belongings we left dispersed among his friends and co-workers in Kentucky where he relocated, the place of his final demise. Interestingly, one of the few things we brought back home with us to Connecticut was a four-pack toilet paper bundle from the Dollar Store. I stored it away upon arrival and forgot about it.
During the height of the pandemic when we were experiencing a toilet paper shortage, what do you think I found quite accidentally? Yep. Is it a sign my son is taking care of me, or, maybe wishful thinking?
The second sign was a sole sunflower that grew from a flower mix that we planted in a garden in the back of the house. Of course, I googled to research if sunflowers have any connection to the departed and found the following excerpt (#4) from “IS YOUR DECEASED LOVED ONE TRYING TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOU? 11 SIGNS THEY ARE SENDING,” from the Jolly Widow.
Seeing your favorite flowers, his/her favorite flowers, or other symbolic flowers bloom in your garden, or bloom out of season, are all signs of comfort from your deceased loved one.
Sunflowers are one of the most common flowers. Spirit likes to send us. Our deceased loved ones encourage us to cheer up, to live more joyfully by sending us sunflowers.
My pragmatic (and beloved) therapist Louis insists signs and symbols and the like are ways we attempt to connect ourselves on a physical plane with our departed love ones. He also says that as humans we are constantly searching for solid answers in an area where there are only valid questions. In other words, it is a way to channel my vast emptiness and loneliness with faith and in this way I never feel alone.
Have your loved ones sent you “signs” to help you keep the faith and/or have you felt their lifelike presence in your lives?
As promised from my last blog, there’s more to the Where’s George story. After I replied to my fellow Georgers’ email, she wrote a subsequent email with the subject “your son + forum post”
Here is her email:
“Dear Stacy, My heart is so sad for you and for your son. I have lost people very close to me, so I know what that’s like, but I’ve heard people say nothing compares to losing one’s child. And to have the added effects of knowing he took his own life…I can understand why you say it’s unbearable. I hope you’re being patient with yourself and kind to yourself.”
It was another Georger who posted your hit to the forums. There’s not much to the post, but the fact that he posted it says to me that he was as touched as I was. I’m glad our thoughts and my note were helpful to you. Please take care of you. Delta“
I replied to Delta:
“Dear Delta, And I will forever be touched by your kindness. In fact, though most times it feels impossible to “take care of me,” encouragement from folks like you help me inch forward. Again, I can’t thank you enough.” Sincerely, Stacy
After I replied to Delta’s email, I signed into the Where’s George forum and found the original post that Delta referred to in her email. The other Georger calls himself “snagmolion” in the forums. His post about my wheresgeorge.com bill that I posted, and commented about, on the tracker is below:
“. . . not “fun” in the usual way, but poignant enough to share, I thought . . . you never know how folks will respond when they find our bills.”
Imagine that! Snagmolion is not only a cool guy, but a compassionate guy. Goes to show, acts of kindness can derive from a simple smile at a stranger, bringing a neighbor fresh garden produce “just because” or spreading love through cash.
As a matter of fact, after doing a bit of research, I found that Snagmolion has been a member of the Where’s George community since 2013. He has circulated 21,249 bills and has posted 3,855 times!
My reply? “Thanks so much Snagmolion for your act of empathy. In a flash of kindness, you have infused faith into my dark world. Keep helping brighten the world, one bill at a time.”Sincerely, Stacy
All I can say, at this point, is faith can be found in the strangest of places. Sometimes no GPS required. It’s right inside your pocket.
I started tracking U.S. currency on Where’s George?, the official currency tracking project, in 2003 when my son was 10 and my daughter 8. By the time my children reached adolescence, the novelty wore off for them. For me, the project captured my full attention. I eagerly watched for bills stamped or written with messages like “currency tracking project” and “Track me at WheresGeorge.com.”
As an official “Georger,” once I find a bill to track, before spending it, I log into my portal on the tracking site and enter the bill’s serial number. From there, I can also view the bill’s history, where the bill traveled and read pertinent comments from other Georgers. In addition, if any of my recorded bills get hits, I receive an email alert.
The Where’s George? website is the brainchild of Hank Eskin, a former tech consultant. He launched the website in 1998 as just “a quirky idea.”
On my “Georging” mission, about 11 years ago when I lived with a child-like faith, once while the bank teller was counting about 50 dollar bills, I happen to see a red streak of color. I convinced the teller to go through each bill. Fortunately, our search proved fruitful, and she located the stamped WheresGeorge.com bill and handed it over before I had to face the line of riled up customers waiting behind me.
Though it was fun, I didn’t take it seriously and certainly didn’t get anywhere near a top bill tracker. Of the 23 bills I recorded in 17 years, only three have had hits across the country. My hit rate is a measly 13.04%.
The last 9 years has been a series of faith tests with each one that feels more unachievable than the next. During this period, it is likely I may have overlooked George bills or they simply haven’t crossed my path, but there have been few and far between. In fact, between 2017 until February 2020, three months after my 26-year-old son died, I did not spot any Where’s George? bills.
This changed in February 2020 when I found a WheresGeorge.com stamped bill. It had been so long that I had to reset my password, but I did manage to get back into my portal. In turn, I simply recorded the serial number and commented, “This bill was part of the mall merchant’s change that I received.”
More recently, on August 15, I found another dollar and this is the comment I left on the tracker:
“I received this bill as part of my change yesterday at the nail salon. Its in fairly good shape; Wheres George.com is written in red all over it! Second Wheres George bill I found since losing my son, and it gave me a sense of familiar comfort.”
On August 18, I received an email alert and the following comment took me by surprise:
“Someone noticed your comment and shared this bill in the Where’s George forums. I’m sad to hear that you lost your son and I wanted you to know some of your fellow Georgers are thinking of you.”
This was my reply:
It was an unexpected, heartfelt surprise to receive your email. In fact, it brought tears to my eyes. I tried to find your post on the forum, but came up dry.
I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to reach out. My son will be gone 9 months tomorrow. He was a compassionate, honest, hardworking 26-year-old who was too good for this hard, cruel world. After a valiant fight, he took his own life.
It’s unbearable to learn to live with grief combined with great remorse and guilt. He was not only the best son a mother could ever ask for, but my best bud too. Some days it is very hard to get through, but today you and my fellow Georgers helped to make it possible. Again, I can’t thank you enough.
Stay well. Stay grounded. STAY.
I wrote my reply quickly. When I reread it, what resonated with me was how I described my son’s “valiant fight.” I thought about his suicide in terms of a cowardly flight, not brave fight, and now the wider perspective softens my feelings of anger, despair, guilt and helplessness.
The state of one’s mental health can be insidious. In my son’s case, he “looked” healthy and “performed” well on the outside. Inside, though, was an entirely different (brain) matter. I now understand he had mentally and spiritually deteriorated.
In fact, the more he worked to “prove” his “normalcy” to the world, particularly in his career and personal life, the internal demons swamped him. Many people may muddle through life, slip on occasional sandy terrain and, perhaps, wrestle with strong water currents, but I believe that, fortunately, most will not be forced to face the impervious rock-hard challenges that my son fought against. He battled against unbeatable enemies until that dark November day when he finally succumbed to depression and anxiety.
Thanks to a Georger, I come to recognize just how dependent we are on our brain wiring. And with the right wiring, we can sense a connection to others in many different ways that can help steer us back on the tracking system of faith.
When our cat Chervony was in his prime, my favorite saying was, “If he were a man, he’d be in jail.”
He championed the role of the alpha male cat. The internet description of this type of cat is perfect:
“Alpha male cats are dominant, natural-born leaders. They may bully other cats or even their owners into getting what they want when they want it. They may act aggressively for attention or to get more food. You might be the owner, but the alpha male cat believes he owns you.”
Needless to say, Chervony did what he wanted to do, and we were at his beck and call or there would be consequences. To illustrate the point, about 12 years ago, my now deceased son Marshall and I dropped him off for a simple procedure at the vet’s office. A few hours later when we picked him up, the vet assistant sported a huge white bandage on her hand.
I looked at my son. My son looked at me. We already knew that no one could mess with Chervony. He was his own best advocate. Sure enough, he had bitten the vet assistant when she attempted to exam him. Lucky thing she didn’t hold a resentment!
Marshall discovered some research stating that orange tabbies are particularly aggressive cats. In our case, research wasn’t necessary. We lived day-to-day life with a raging warrior. Out of all our pets, he was my problem child. The one I worried about and lost sleep over. The one I endured a hate-love relationship with. In fact, when the prospect of relocating presented itself nearly 10 years ago, I was most anxiety-ridden over Chervony. Obviously, he did not fare well with change. Don’t get me wrong. Chervony loved with the force of a bull too. Sometimes he’d jump into your lap and deliver a headbutt that could knock you off your seat. In other words, his fiery color matched his personality.
It all started in 2002 when my now ex-husband, along with the kids, rescued Chervony’s mom Blossom from the pound and brought home the surprise, which I eventually accepted. Thankfully, she arrived with a free spay/neuter certificate. However, that was the week my brother suffered a stroke and suddenly died. During this time of chaos, “teenage” Blossom accidentally got pregnant by the neighborhood tomcat.
Shortly thereafter, “little” Blossom delivered seven kittens. Three died and four lived. Realistically, though it was a tough decision, we could only select one additional household member. Out of Chervony, Vanilla Sky, Cali, and Mr. Mike, Chervony it was. We subsequently secured good homes for the others.
Our house was a rambunctious household of people and pets. Life was as vibrant as Chervony’s beautiful coat of red, orange and ginger. In fact, my son shared his coloring, especially the ginger hues. Great faith is easy when all things are great.
After Cliff died 12 years later, Chervony unofficially became Marshall’s cat. No matter how old Marshall was and no matter how much that darn cat kneaded and drooled over him, he never outgrew kissing and stroking him. Sometimes the ritual lasted up to an hour, if not longer.
In 2018, as Chervony aged, he developed an over-active thyroid, and the vet prescribed medication for it. When Marshall, who had moved to Kentucky in 2017, last visited us in Connecticut, he cradled him in his arms and sounded broken when he said, “He’s not the same.”
Marshall was right. The brakes didn’t come to a screeching halt, but they were slowly wearing down. Chervony was losing his loud purring motor and flow of washer fluid drooling. The drum beat of death had insidiously started to paw its way into his lifetime of contentment and scratch at it until Chervony just became a shell, albeit still handsome.
Beginning this past June, the death march gained force. In the beginning of August, Chervony went outside and disappeared again. Later that day, an animal control officer arrived at our door. She informed us that one of the neighbor’s spotted the cat, apparently old and frail, and called the police to ask if they could shoot him with a gun. The neighbor assumed he had rabies, which was, of course, furthest from the truth.
After the cat was safely home, though I didn’t learn who the trigger-happy neighbor was, I sure wanted this person to realize that he or she would have not only destroyed a cat, but the rest of a grieving mom’s heart. Later, I discovered that during Chervony’s disappearance, he had sheltered under a tree on which my son’s name that he carved into it in 2008, remains. I came to the stunning realization that the cat had been undergoing his own fashion of mourning. Afterwards, rocking the senior cat in my arms, I imitated Marshall’s tone when I called Chervony’s name. Instantly, his gaze’s haunting quality was filled with an intrinsic sense of lose, sadness and longing.
Since his last disappearance, we sealed all of Chervony’s escape routes. Then, on August 24, he accidentally trapped his hind leg in an opening of a child’s gate in our house. After another neighbor released him from the gate, we took him to be treated at the Pet ER where the vet reported he had no broken bones.
By the time August 28 rolled around, he was not only frail, but had stopped eating. I intuitively knew his time on earth was near. I scheduled an appointment with our vet and a few hours later, in the same departure ritual that I performed with our beloved Cliff and poodle Crouton, we experienced our final earthly walk through the house and grounds. Before us rolled the silver screen of memories filled with children’s laughter, glee, dogs dancing and cats’ deafening purrs and slobbering drool kisses.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we met our vet in the parking lot after she had sedated Chervony. Subsequently, Chervony started to fade peacefully that afternoon as my roomie and I kissed and rocked him under a breezy sky. Prior to his final departure, as the vet carried him back inside, we asked him to deliver an extra purr from us when he saw Marshall again.
Our old cat had many aliases over the years: Prince Peach, Pumpkin, Chivvy, Chivvs and Churrr-von-y, as the CVS drug store recording called him in their prescription alerts. To us, his unique names, personality and spirit were all bundled into a single, over-sized furry package that was part of our now nearly dissolved family. The love we shared together radiated like a pumpkin in the sun’s rays and was like a cherished tattoo in which the actual process hurts, but it’s all worth the effort.
In essence, our time spent with Chervony was an 18-year test of faith, and when you combine love and faith, the only way to pass the challenge is with flying colors.