It was May of 2003, and I had spent a year in the darkest recesses of my mind, nursing a broken heart. I had suffered three traumatic blows, one after another. First came the loss of a good job, right before Christmas 2001. I kept telling myself, and two children, that things would be OK, but tried as I might I could not find work - not even as a waitress, the economy had gone so bad.
In January of 2002, not two weeks later, my son passed having taken his own life... I'm the one who found him, performed CPR, even though I knew it was too late. I beat myself up emotionally for that, for a long time, feeling that I had failed.
Somewhere during that time our cat, Simba, disappeared. One day, I focused long enough to realize I could not remember the last time I had seen our 13 year old fur-ball. Even though he was supposedly 'my' cat, he was very attached to my son. I thought maybe he had gone looking for 'his' human. Add to all this, our home had fallen into foreclosure and I had to give our dog away.
So it was, I found myself and daughter downsizing from a 10 room house with 3/4 acre lawn to a tiny 2 bedroom apartment. We sold off quite a bit of our belongings, but I steadfastly clung to a plaster garden angel that was my son's last gift to me; a cherub sitting on a pile of rocks reading a book as a squirrel and rabbit perched on either side of his lap. It stands nearly two feet tall and has some heft to it. I had no idea where I would put it but I wrapped it in a towel to prevent any chipping and loaded it into my car myself. That angel meant a lot to me. I remember when he bought it, saying I deserved it. I deserved something nice.
I stood in that house saying goodbye to what had been the only home my son could remember, the place my daughter had been born, and felt hallow, defeated. Except for my daughter (whom my ex was trying to take away, as he blamed me for our son's death) I felt I had lost everything of any importance. I touched the woodland murals I had painted in my son's room, and blinking back the tears, whispered to my son, that if he could hear me, if that was really him I had glimpses of - then he should come with me, or go into the light. I did not believe, as opposed to my upbringing, that suicide automatically sentenced you to hell. Not if God was truly just. After all He knows the big picture, right? I think the 'why' plays a big part in His decision. Anyway, that's when I heard the weirdest 'meow', coming from outside.
Next door had these thorny bushes that always seemed to be ensnaring small dogs and cats and it was there I followed this weird 'calling' to. About two feet away, I began talking, my usual 'don't hurt me, and I won't hurt you' babble as I reached for the gloves my neighbor's were kind enough to leave there for me. Funny, I have no fear of four legged beasties, but they were terrified of them - so they left these long gloves for me to wear as some protection from bites or scratches (from bush or frightened animal). I squatted down on my haunches and began parting the bush. The real trick was keeping the animal, usually someone's pet, calm enough to allow me to disengage the bush from their collar without them strangling themselves. I saw familiar golden amber eyes looking at me - Simba? No - impossible. But it was! After being gone for about a year, on the day of the move - here he was! I had to be sure, so I said, in a very stern voice, "Get your furry butt up on our porch now!" He shot out of that bush and up onto our porch, then looked at me like, 'miss me much?'
So Simba came back, and seemed to understand that the apartment was his new home, and he never tried to leave it. In fact he'd bat at my daughter's younger cat, about a year old, if he tried for the door, as if to say, "Hey, buddy - you don't want to do that."
I unloaded my car, and could not find the angel. It wasn't there, it wasn't in the apartment. I looked high and low. Where could a two foot tall statue hide in a place that made a shoe box look big? I called people who had helped me move, but no one had seen it. It hadn't surfaced when I curled my weary body into bed, with Simba curling up next to me.
Of course first night in a new place, you are going to hear sounds. Weird sounds. I'd left a lamp on in the living room, and the light dimly lit part of my room. Not a lot, but enough I wouldn't break a toe if I got up and had to navigate the still unfamiliar apartment. I distinctly heard the word, "Mom" and I sat bolt up in my bed - I knew that voice. Silence. I convinced myself I had imagined it, or perhaps sound carried from another house. I laid back down. A few moments passed. "Mom, listen," I can't describe the odd hope/heartbreak/longing achyness that filled me hearing my son's voice, as Simba came into the alert position, cocking his head as if he too heard. "The angel is in the game box. I put it there. Dad's having mean thoughts, but it'll pass." I whispered his name, I could smell him in the air, but just as quickly it was gone.
Game box, I thought, what game box? We hadn't had one since the kids turned into teenagers. But they had used my old wooden chest as one, I got out of bed and practically ran to it. I flung it open and emptied it. Mostly linens and a few breakables I hadn't unpacked yet, but no angel. "Crazy," I murmured to myself, "You've gone totally round the bend." I decided, since I was up, I may as well put the mess away proper. Placing the linens in the closet, I spied the box I had labeled 'games'. I knew that's all that was in that box - board games, and a few outgrown toys that I couldn't bare to part with. Sentimental reasons, I guess. May as well empty that box too.
The box was packed in layers; games on the bottom, and the assorted toys on top. I had packed that box, I remember my daughter laughing at me because I placed the games alphabetically. Yet, somehow at the very bottom was the angel! I lifted it out and hugged it to me. Maybe I imagined it, but I thought I felt my son hug me in that moment too.