Before my daughter Jeannine died in 2003, I was never one to believe in things that I could not see. My version of reality was defined by hard evidence, not by intuition or feel. Jeannine has given me signs of her presence in a variety of different ways since her death. As a result, my new reality has been defined more by what I feel and experience, then hard facts. With that in mind, I would like to describe one of my more memorable experiences following Jeannine’s death.
During college spring break in March 2006, my wife Cheri and I flew to Phoenix, Arizona, to spend a week with two close friends of ours. This was the first extended vacation that we had taken since Jeannine’s death.
I was excited about the prospect of leaving Upstate New York’s cold climate for a much warmer climate, and spending some time with my friends. However, as I was waiting to board our flight, intense sadness suddenly began to consume me as I thought about how much Jeannine would have enjoyed this trip. Jeannine was always the adventurous, live in the moment type woman who brought out that quality in anyone whose life she touched. I missed not having her with me on this trip.
We boarded our flight in Albany, New York, and flew into Baltimore, Maryland, where we had to change planes. During our layover, a young woman sat across from me; she did not appear to have a care in the world. She appeared to be around 21, which would have been Jeannine’s age had she lived. She was attractive with shoulder-length brown hair, similar to Jeannine’s. Shortly thereafter, Cheri and I boarded the plane; this young woman did not board at the same time that we did.
I took the seat closest to the window and Cheri took the middle seat, leaving one aisle seat empty. Much to my surprise, this same young woman asked if she could sit with us. For most of the trip, she read and listened to her IPOD. I enjoyed watching her engage in routine activities similar to those that Jeannine used to do when she was alive. My pre-flight sadness was a thing of the past.
We did speak just before our flight landed. She told me that she was a college student who was studying communication at the University of Rhode Island. She further explained that she was visiting some friends in Arizona during spring break. I never did find out her name, but it didn’t matter. She gave me the gift of her presence, and that was enough.
I believe that Jeannine made her presence known to me and Cheri through this young woman. Jeannine was looking out for me in death as she had in life.
In July of 2007, Cheri and I went to Nashville, Tennessee, for our first Compassionate Friends conference. As we were waiting for our flight, a little girl and her family sat next to us. The little girl was holding a Tigger doll. Jeannine’s favorite Disney character was Tigger. I just smiled.