My only Valentine sunshine
This is a very personal story, but one I wish to share with my friends in hopes that you too will find comfort in the loss of a loved one.
When my son Rusty was a baby I called him sunshine.. he had a smile so bright..and so constant. This was a baby that rarely cried and a kid that found joy in the most simple of things. As a teenager and as an adult he continued to go through life with a smile.. he was just a very content person that found humor and happiness in everything. When Rusty was diagnosed with brain cancer he chose to see the brighter side of things. Like when his normally very thin body gained a lot of weight from the cancer medication, he laughed and said “hey I always wanted to be a round boy.. I like it!!” When Rusty was small we would sing “ You are my sunshine” together..after all it fit.. he was MY Sunshine..and I was his. As his cancer progressed and he seemed to regress mentally he would ask me to sing that old childhood song with him. And we did that…every day…at least 10 times a day. As Rusty got sicker and weaker and knew he was doing to die, he changed a few words of the song to express how he felt , “ you are my sunshine , my only sunshine.. You make me happy when skies are grey… I hope you know Momma, How much I’ll miss you… so please have a happy day” When Rusty was actively dying and drawing his last breath, I tearfully sang that song to him as he peacefully left his broken body.
Every year, for as far back as I can remember, Rusty was the one to present me with some sort of Valentine’s day gift. It could be a card or a drawing he made, a trinket or a stuffed teddy bear I had given him in that past that he would hope I had forgotten about… or a flower from my garden, and as he got older he would always buy me a teddy bear and/or some flowers. Roses… red or pink. When he had no way to the store he would not say a word and slip out of the house and walk three miles to the store to be able to say.. “hey Momma.. Happy Valentine’s day” with a huge smile… and then whip out a teddy bear or anywhere from one to a dozen roses from behind his back.
Today is Valentine’s day and after drinking some coffee, I off to the cemetery. I brought with me 2 dozen red roses for Rusty’s grave and a huge Heart balloon as well as a Teddy Bear that was holding a rose. As I repositioned the flowers and the 24 hour light I have shining on his grave, tears welled up in my eyes. I couldn’t help but say “ Days like today make me so aware he is gone… there are no flowers today… no teddy bear”.
I stayed a while and tried to enjoy the beautiful day..the clear sky… the sunshine on my face… the warm breeze. I remembered Rusty in one of his last days when he was now blind and unable to move. We had him in a wheel chair, out in the back yard in the sun..it was a warm but crisp sunny day. He smiled, as he always did, but now only half of his lip would rise… but that was ok with Rusty. In a very weak and almost inaudible voice he said “ It’s a beautiful day, Momma” And so , today as I reflected at his grave, I remembered those words and it made me smile.
On the way home I decided to stop in the convenience store. The same store I go in just about every day and every day, for the past 2 weeks, I have stood beside a mountain of teddy bears placed there for the customers to buy for Valentine’s day. Every day I made an effort NOT to look at them… they had the power to make me sad. Anyway, There I was in the car… I counted up my cigarettes and thought…naaaaaaaaa… I have enough. But then I had a brief internal argument.. you know the kind… the one you have with yourself when you do something half of you doesn’t want to do at all. So I gave in to the stronger me, and went in to the store.
I bought a candy bar and cigarettes and just as I was about to pay, my eye focused on a straggly looking small teddy bear holding a red heart that said “I LOVE YOU”, without any thought, I reached up and touched the teddy bear… and to my total shock it began to sing “ You are my sunshine”…the whole song!! I began picking up all the other teddy bears.. one by one… not a single one was like this one… not a single one played music, and every other one was far more beautiful. So Why did I pick up THAT bear? I hurriedly paid and went to my car, the bear still singing….. and although tears came down, a smile came up… because I knew WHY.
We may not know how our loved ones give us these signs… and really… does the how matter? What they do is inspire us divinely to go to a certain place at a certain time to touch a certain bear… or turn the radio station at just the right moment… so we will KNOW they are still very much with us.
Happy Valentines Day Rusty
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