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A Balloon from Eternity

A mother coping with grief dreamed of the impossible—to hear from her son one last time.

She wanted to hear from her son, just one more time

Three Mother’s Day cards stood on the living-room console, meant to cheer me up.

Yet I couldn’t help thinking, There should be four. It had been two years, now, since my oldest, Dennis, died, yet my grief hadn’t faded.

Dennis was my determined one. He ran his own business down in Texas. Even when he was diagnosed with MS in his thirties, he refused to let it get in his way. He went everywhere in his wheelchair. We almost forgot Dennis had anything wrong with him, which is what he wanted. Then he was struck down by terminal cancer. Because of the MS, perhaps, it spread quickly.

In those last days, we spoke on the phone when I couldn’t be with him in Texas (Dennis couldn’t travel and I was caring for his ill father). Dennis always managed to say one thing before he hung up, “Love you, Mom.”

“I love you too, Denny,” I said, though each time the words were harder to get out, since I knew it might be the last time I said them.

I thought a lot about his life in those last days, what a fine man he’d become, what a sweet little boy he had been, a boy who loved birthdays and balloons. Lord, how will I go on without hearing him say, “Love you, Mom?”

For the funeral the family gathered at our church in Michigan. At the end of the service we went out to the parking lot. Everybody was given a balloon. There were more than 100 of them—sky blue, hot pink, daffodil yellow. Our minister said a few words then we released the balloons. I watched them float into the blustery March sky. Into the arms of God, like Denny, I tried telling myself. But as the months passed, my grief grew. If only I could let go of my son like I had that balloon.

For a week I kept those Mother’s Day cards on the console, hoping they’d comfort me. But they made me miss Dennis all the more. Sunday I got up early. I took coffee to the dining room so I could look out the window to our backyard. The lilac bush was in full bloom and birds darted among the trees by our wishing well. Something appeared in the sky.

A shiny Mylar balloon. It slipped between the trees, hovered above the wishing well, then stopped at the bird feeders. The breeze was blowing in the opposite direction, yet it floated toward the house. From the window I could see all my favorite flowers printed on it—lilacs, violets, pansies. There was a message too, but I couldn’t make it out. I went outside to get a closer look.

That balloon didn’t come from out of nowhere. Nor did the sudden sense of peace that enveloped me. I knew exactly where it had come from. Printed boldly across the front of the balloon were the words “Love you, Mom.”

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