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My private thrill
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I’ve always thought it odd that, while my sisters and brother are the most religious of we 4, I am the most spiritual. To the point where I am the only one who says things like, “I’m sure Mama is watching us right now,” when we visit our parents’ grave together at the National Cemetery. That comment attracted a sharp look from one sister in particular, Sharon, the first and last time I said it out loud. She speaks for my 3 siblings when she insists that our parents are in Heaven, and that’s that. Not watching us. Not communicating with us. Nada.

But I beg to differ. I first started recognizing that our father was speaking to me a couple of weeks before he passed away. My other sister and I were hurriedly running from front door to driveway and back, packing my car for yet another drive from my home in Philadelphia to Greensboro, NC, to visit Daddy in the rehab center we secured for him as he battled sepsis. The poor care he received there in the too-frequent absence of his children’s watchful eyes is an issue for another essay. My point here is, that was the first time I noticed a praying mantis–sitting on my storage bin on the porch in a matching brown color. I haven’t seen those elusive insects often in my lifetime, and this time I immediately recognized it as a message of some kind, likely from my father, since we were getting ready to visit him.

That hunch was confirmed a few days later when, after a particularly difficult day of witnessing Daddy’s decline at the rehab facility, I noticed a praying mantis sitting on top of my car in the parking lot–in a matching dark grey color. “All will be okay,” its presence said to me.

All was not okay, of course, as my father died at a hospice facility several days later. None of us were there when he passed, which I will never forgive myself for. Waiting for my sisters to face the reality that there wasn’t much time left and we needed to get down there, I planned for us to travel a day too late. But Daddy found a way to comfort me.

I was upstairs an hour after the nurse called to tell me he had passed, packing for the trip down to plan the funeral, when I heard the wind suddenly pick up and I turned to see a stiff breeze lift the curtains in one of my bedroom windows. A sudden stiff breeze, on an otherwise still late summer day. And only in one window–not the other two. To this day, almost 7 years later, I am convinced that Daddy was stopping by to say goodbye. I felt at peace afterward. I’ve never told my siblings about that moment. Nor about the annual visits I received from praying mantises for the first few years after Daddy passed away. Always around the anniversary of his passing in September.

After a few disappointing years without a sighting, I had given up. But this year on July 4th, I saw a praying mantis on one of the Zinnias on my patio–in a green that perfectly matched the flower’s leaves. My heart “literally” jumped for joy. I was having a particularly hard day, as holidays have been for me since my ex and I separated last summer. Seems like Daddy knew, and he wanted to tell me that “All will be okay.”

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