((Heart)) in the sky

As a parent, the imminent journey of life after the loss of a child is an evolving emotional roller coaster, albeit a mostly tedious and strenuous one after such an unimaginable loss. The pure focus on taking just one step after another and then remembering to breathe to the flooding thoughts of “what was,” “what you had hoped,” “what will never be” and “what you wish you could have done differently”; all-consuming, never-ending, and everlasting retrospection, remembrance and mindfulness. And in the journey’s midst, you look for silver linings representing rays of hope, faith and love. I saw one of those streaks this past Friday morning. 
I had awoken early to get from the Southside of Indy to the North side by 7:30 a.m. and meet with students at Noblesville High School. I was going to Noblesville, where both Sam and Nick were born at Riverview Hospital, to share with students Sam’s message to “Know Now” about the drug dangers threatening teens; especially synthetic drugs which constantly evolve and seem far more dangerous than the drugs of my generation. After two engaging sessions with students, my cohort and life-long friend, Robin, and I left the school with a smile on our face and began to head back home to Greenwood. Just as we left the school grounds, Robin asked if I’d make a quick stop at a gas station so she could get a “fill up” on caffeine for the 50-minute trip home. I pulled into the first one I saw, on Conner Street, and Robin got out of to grab what she needed. She made her way easily out of the passenger side of my coal black Durango Citadel and avoided bumping up against the car side and the dirt collected over the winter’s recent frigid cold-temp, wind-blowing, snow-falling days. After parking, I immediately turned my attention to my iPhone and the emails and texts that had come in over the last few hours while I was at the school. Robin returned shortly though and when I looked up, she was seated next to me and she reached across and extended her arm to rest her hand on my shoulder and said, “You did good, kid.” We smiled again. 
Robin is actually ten days older than me so I like to admit that she is older than me and she likes to admit that she is my elder with nicknames like “kid.” Sometimes she expresses the ever-slight age difference when I comment on something that seemingly crosses an invisible line that exists between us and she says, “You’re not the boss of me.” Affectionately, of course. Just after her most recent compliment including a description that there is some slight difference in our ages, with her hand still on my shoulder, it becomes obvious to me that her gaze has slipped past me and then she says, “Oh, look. Do you see that?” I turn away from her in the passenger seat to look out my driver’s side window. Then I see what she is referring to. There in the sky floating and waving like a flag amongst the light layer of clouds is a heart-shaped helium balloon. We continued looking at it in amused amazement that we’d see such a thing after leaving the school. I can’t even remember since Sam’s passing seeing a balloon in the sky other than the ones we have released in Sam’s memory at grieving mileposts. Robin and I both watched the heart-shaped helium balloon until we couldn’t see it any longer and then I turned back from the window and we both looked at each other and smiled again. I started the Durango and pulled out onto Conner Street and then South onto State Road 37 proceeding to drive Ms. Daisy home.