We toss coins into the fountain at the mall just like we’ve been doing for the fifteen years that I’ve been a mother. One by one by one as my daughters were old enough to reach and toss their own coins it’s been our little tradition. But we don’t just toss coins into the fountain as we make a wish, instead we decided years ago that the wishes only come true if your coin lands and stays on the flat lily pad stone in the center of the fountain. And for fifteen years we’ve tossed and tossed and tossed, and the coins have come up short, gone too far, or bounced off the stone.
On this day it’s no different as we watch dozens of coins plink into the water and bounce off the lily pad. But on this day my wish is different than it’s been in years past. This time I hold the coins close to my heart as I close my eyes and wish silently “Please let my mom still be here” as I toss the coins and they sink one by one. My youngest daughter has two wishes that she says out loud because she’s eight and doesn’t keep secrets. One wish is “Let Grammy be alive!” and the next “Let unicorns be real!” As her coins one by one sink to the bottom of the fountain.
I find myself angry and feeling silly that I could wish for something so impossible when I know she’s gone. She’s dead. I cried over her body and as I’ve cried over her memory for months now. But if she’s really dead than the impossible must be possible and I can’t stop wishing for her presence.
My mom believed that her parents came to visit her each day as she watched the cardinals land on her feeder in the backyard. “Good morning Mom and Dad.” She would say as they landed to eat and sing a friendly song. And now I wonder if my own mom is there when I go for a sunrise run and hear a cardinal singing and look towards the song and see a female on a high branch. Or when a favorite song of hers comes on the radio, I wonder if she’s out there somewhere making sure I know she’s okay.
The hardest part of losing someone you love is the finality of never seeing them again and how you are supposed to walk forward without them next to you. How can your story continue without one of your main characters? And in the darkest hours of those first few weeks after her death, I willed her to come to me in my dreams so I could see her, touch her, and hear her again, yet she never came. But on my birthday about six weeks after she died, I woke at 3:30 am after a fitful night and sobbed at the thought of my first birthday without my mom. And as I fell asleep again she came to me in my dream that morning. We were sitting across from each other holding hands and she looked right into my eyes as I asked her if she was feeling better. She patted my hands and then held them tight and she told me that she was feeling much, much better and I didn’t have to worry about her anymore. And now she’s in almost every dream – sometimes a main character and sometimes she’s just there in distance, but she’s there. And I do wonder if she’s out there somewhere making sure I know she’s okay.
Several years ago my mom gave my girls little treasure chest Christmas ornaments. They’ve always hung on our tree, but I know my daughters had never really opened them before or thought much about the little gift from Grammy, but this year was different. As they took their little treasure boxes out they each opened them and found the letter Grammy had written them so many years ago and we all cried and shared stories as they hung them on the tree – this year realizing that her gift was much more than just an ornament. We all went to bed a little sadder that night as the full weight of her loss continued to get heavier as the Holiday Season arrived, and when I woke up in the morning to turn the tree lights back on all of the ornaments on the tree were still hanging in place except the treasure chests were all on the living room floor. And I do wonder if she’s out there somewhere making sure I know she’s okay.
I’m down to the last few coins in my purse and again I start to feel silly for making my wish and my girls start giving up hope too. And then my middle daughter screams as I look up and see her nickel has landed and stayed on the lily pad. And then my youngest holds her penny close to her forehead and whispers loudly “Unicorn Grammy Unicorn Grammy” and she leans and tosses it and it lands on the lily pad and spins for a moment before coming to a stop on the stone. I laugh with them at the impossible as I grab my last penny and hold it to my heart and close my eyes. “Please Mom, please please, Mom be here.” And I toss my coin and it lands squarely on the lily pad without a bounce. And I knew at that moment that she’s been here with us all along making sure I know she’s okay and the impossible can truly be possible.