The Prologue: Signs Author: Joyce Godwin Grubbs
Mother went first, and indeed she did send back signs. My sister Trula passed on second, and I anticipated my signs , but none came. At least, not signs for me. The Pact ( though really only agreed to by Trula as we “placated her wishes”) specified there would be direct signs between the three of us; mother, sister, and me. Others called with stories of her contacting them, but still none came to me. Even my conservative husband who is a true fundamentalist and non-believer in signs after life, was shaken by signs that definitely involved “sister” and were not explainable in “rational terms”. But to me, nothing. Until………
Four years after her death my sister gave me a sign of direct contact. It was in her own time, and in her own way, just as she had been in life. She always had a way of surprising me throughout life in good ways and in bad. In life, she might be in one of her “snits” and not speaking, (a definite Godwin genetic trait,) yet in my time of need, she would still come through. So it was now even in death, with the promised signs.
I was having a difficult time, struggling with the pain of concern for someone dear to me who was in serious trouble. I found myself sitting alone on the couch crying early in the morning. I didn’t want to go to work upset, but I couldn’t resolve this problem in my mind with enough hope for a positive resolution. Prayer in these times is always involved, but there are just times we leave that prayer time feeling we selfishly wanted immediate gratification or resolution. This was one of those times for me.
I found myself saying aloud, “If you were here sister, you’d know what to do or who to talk too. I really need your help.”
In my mind, my sister, a distinguished and decorated veteran police officer for twenty eight years, would have a vast ray of experience to draw on. She would have answers to my questions if she was here. I boo-hooed a little longer, then I went to the kitchen to take my insulin, and force myself to eat breakfast .
As I passed the television it was showing the morning show that was my least favorite. My husband left it on that channel before leaving with our greyhounds for an early morning walk. Imus. Imus is such a negative person that he sets my teeth on edge. As I passed the tv I could have switched it off , but in my passive and saddened state, I just ignored it.
Fixing breakfast I began to notice music playing in the background. It was a beautiful gospel song with such familiar harmony that I marveled it could be coming from the Imus show. There had to be an explanation. Imus thought of himself as a musical afficionado’, but this was not even close to the usual music of his choosing. Then, it hit me. The familiarity was because it was the, “Five Blind Men From Alabama”. My sister’s favorite gospel group. What in the world was that music doing on the Imus program?
I hastened to the living room and there, on the screen , was the singing group. Not only was I hearing their music, they were making a personal appearance on Imus. Impossible. I felt a little nudge in my spiritual self , realizing there could be a significance to this, and to my previous plea to my sister that I needed her. Of course, the thought of “contact” was fleeting, as one’s practical self always interrupts with doubts.
When my sister was literally on her death bed from breast cancer, and in the hospital, she had me playing the CD of the “Five Blind Men From Alabama” hour after hour. In the last coherent hours of communication , she had me play only their version of “Amazing Grace” from that disc. It is the most haunting and unique variation of the song I have ever heard. Distinctive, moving, and powerful. I could never forget it.
At that very moment, they began to sing, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.” As my eggs begin to burn and my toast turned cold, I stood spellbound by the haunting refrain . At the end of the performance I remained silent and staring at the screen. I was still floored by the fact they were even on the Imus program. Beyond that, I had to absorb the occurrence of that song being sung within minutes of my tearful plea to my sister to help. And to hear that song, specifically by that group. It should be giving me comfort and make me feel she answered. It was a chilling moment when I felt I needed to accept it as a direct contact. But, the contact wasn’t over.
I arrived at work in a state of confusion, hope, and need. I told no one of my state of mind or anxiety and went about in my usual way, pretending this was a perfect day, and life was good. Inside myself, I was still anxious and felt I should have been reassured about my concerns. I should have taken my sister’s contact as a sign that the problem I was worrying about would be worked out. But, like most people who struggle with things of the supernatural/spiritual type, I continued to try to explain away the “coincidence” of the morning music, the appearance of the singing group appearing on a program known for mocking such music, and again, for mocking such belief systems.
Within the hour, I would no longer have doubts. I sat fretting over work I could not concentrate on. Office interactions were blocked out as I tried to focus on the tasks at hand. In the cubicle next to mine, I could hear our graphic artist talking to a new employee about his own personal work style. This graphic artist was known for arriving promptly, putting in his ear plugs, and only taking them out for breaks and lunch. He also had a massive number of downloaded music choices he listened to. Being young, in his twenties, and not known to be particularly religious, I was often glad he used ear plugs as our music tastes were complete opposites, though he often offered to play selections I would enjoy.
“Yeah, there’s all kinds of music on here“, he was saying to the new employee. “Some I listen to a lot, and some not, actually rarely. Like this”.
I could not even react as I heard the strains of “Amazing Grace” begin to play. Oh no, not just a version of Amazing Grace you could explain away, but Amazing Grace by the Five Blind Men of Alabama. I silently begin to pray and to thank God that He allowed encouragement to reach me through my sister. (Some of my fundamentalist family and friends just fainted from fear for my soul. <grin>)
While the previous problem of my concern did resolve in an purely positive way, I knew I could rely on the fact my sister knew of my concerns and sorrow, even though she was no longer “here”. I was accepting that it wasn’t going to be an every day happening. I now believed she could be involved in the caring of my welfare in this life, but we weren’t going to have a daily coffee clutch or be able to communicate at will.
I felt a renewed sense of loss. But, that would not be the only time she would make such a bold statement/contact in my life and give me another jolt.
As much as it has been a joy for me to write these legacy stories to leave for my family, I have also anticipated putting them in a book, to share with anyone who might enjoy or benefit from the tone and content of the stories. At the same time, it has also made me sad that my sister never got her book published. It was her life long dream to write about her tormented childhood, unsolved rape in her home as an adult, and her colorful and pioneering career in the police department. I must say, hers would have been a bestseller. Mine, is a bittersweet project.
On a particularly melancholy night, I was ruminating on these very thoughts as I went downstairs to go through bins of old pictures. I was trying to select a few relevant pictures to publish in my book. The fact that I am a clutter-bug and have all kinds of pictures, cards, and memorabilia from the last fifty years, means that I get into these bins for hours once I start. That night would be an exception.
The second bin I opened was a combination of pictures and old greeting cards. Some were from years gone by and concern people only I would remember. I try to “thin out” the cards thinking ahead to a time when my poor children will have to go through things, after my passing. I am sure they will wonder who these people were and why I kept their cards.
As I searched through to the pictures hidden in the bottom of the bin, I noticed a card that didn’t look familiar . What caught my eye was that it didn’t appear to be a holiday or birthday greeting card like most in the bin. It had pencils and stars on the front and the phrase, “You Are a Lover of Words”.
I pulled the card out and without opening it, began to read the front;
You Are a Lover of Words
One Day You Will
Write A Book
People turn to you because you give voice to dreams, notice little things, and make otherwise impossible imaginings appear real. You are a rare bird who thinks the world is beautiful enough to try to figure it out, who has the courage to dive into your wild mind and go swimming there. You are Someone who still believes in cloud watching, people watching, daydreaming, tomorrow, favorite colors, silver clouds dandelions, and sorrow. Be Sacred. Be cool. Be wild. Go far. Words do more than plant miracle seeds. With you writing them, they can change the world.
I paused to consider the meaning of those words and ponder the person who would have given it to me. I had a client who was an accomplished and published author of some 28 books and gave me several cards, but I didn’t remember this card, let alone her giving it to me. Then there was my friend who was my “Writing Buddy” . We have made another kind of pact with each other. Our pact, was that we would each write and publish a book before we died. I didn’t remember her giving this card either, though I have dozens from her sent over the years.
I decided to open it and solve the mystery. I was stunned.
The undertaking of writing my memoirs, let alone publishing them, often overwhelms me. After all, my sister was the talent when it came to writing poems, I just dabbled at creative writing. Nothing special, I just liked to do it. I would have valued my sister’s opinion and encouragement, but she had been dead for over four years. I opened the card and the message inside was hand written. I recognized the familiar scrip instantly.
“In my life you have played an important role Sister! Because of you, I grew in certain directions..for the better. You stood by me in real life; life and death crisis, and you did it with love and unconditional. If you had not been there, I might not be here this year to say “HAPPY BIRTHDAY”. But thru the years of good and bad, we grew, and we complimented each other while we reached for goals that only were mapped out in different directions. We work different, we love different and pray different. But Sister, we are the same. May this new year bless you with your heart’s rewards you so rightly deserve. Happy Birthday From, the Sister of the Wind, Blood of the Wolf, Trula.”
So many questions exploded in my mind. How could I have received this card and not remember it? It was not dated, so when did she give it to me? Most cards in the bin were in envelopes so I could check the postmark, but not this one. I took it to my husband and asked if he remembered it. He didn’t. He too could not imagine I would have forgotten it considering the amazing revelations of the handwritten message. In addition, he couldn’t fathom that I wouldn’t have shown it to him, which would have been in keeping with our usual practice.
We theorized it was from the time period when my sister almost died from surgical complications and I stayed with her three weeks in the University Hospital. Then, I brought her home to our house where I dressed her surgical site daily for weeks. It would fit that time period. But, how would I have forgotten that? It was a stressful time but still…….
I know I treasure the timing of the find and feel she led me too it. I cherish it more than words can say , as during our often contentious relationship through the years, my sister had a hard time saying she was sorry or expressing deep emotions. This message was truly a gift of closure for me and reassured me that all the time and efforts I had put into trying to be a good sister, had not been in vain. Maybe God allowed me to block out receiving that card until it would do the most good, and touch my life in the most powerful way. Whatever the reason, it worked.
The legacy of sisterhood and that bond cannot be fully explained. You have to experience it. And I did.