The Yellow Balloon

So, if you read my last post, you heard about my 'sign'...  the Maggiano Angel.  I had prayed for a sign that Callie was in heaven and that God was real.  Our encounter that day left me feeling relieved and, although I was (and still am) extremely sad for our loss, I felt a sense of peace wash over me from that day forward.  But for John, well... John needed a sign too.   The Monday before her memorial service, John and I laid Callie to rest.  We had wanted to do this privately instead of waiting for the needed to be intimate and private...  just the two of us.  It was a cold and windy day, but despite the wintry chill in the air, the sun managed to shine down upon us.  I believe she was with us that blustery afternoon.  Our pastor led us to the garden outside our church where we had decided to bury Callie's ashes.  With us, we had brought a single yellow rose and a cheery yellow balloon to release at the end of the service.  The pastor said some beautiful words, but I don't think I heard much of it at all.  It seemed so very surreal to be burying our daughter, the one we had waited those nine long months for.  Nine months of dreaming and hoping and wishing for her future...  imagining what she would look like...  how we would say her name when she got in trouble...  kissing her boo-boos when she fell... dressing her up in girly outfits... and most of all, praying that she would grow into my best friend.  And now, as we stood in the garden, all we had left of those dreams was a rose and a yellow balloon. After he was done, the pastor showed us the plant he had bought to serve as a marker for Callie's resting spot behind the cross.  It was a beautiful and thoughtful gesture.  I laid the rose on the cold earth and John released the yellow balloon.  We cried as we watched it drift upwards with the wind.  I hoped that it would reach heaven for Callie to see.  As the balloon grew smaller and smaller in the bright blue sky, my emotions rolled over me and I looked down at the ground, sobbing and trying to wipe my eyes.  When I looked back up, the balloon was gone and I was crushed with disappointment.  I had wanted to watch it drift away until the very last minute, but had been unable to.  And now it was gone... and so was Callie.  We spent the rest of the week preparing for her memorial service that Saturday and talking with friends and family who were coming into town to be there with us as we celebrated Callie's short, sweet life. The day before Callie's service, John came bounding into the bathroom where I was showering and said, "You're never going to believe this."  And then he started his story... John had been praying every night for a sign...  just like me, he wanted a sign from God too.  He needed to know that Callie was in heaven and that He was in control.  Each day since Callie's death, John had struggled with the "Why?" of it all.  Why would God do this to us?  Why should children have to get sick and die?  How could a kind and benevolent God do such things?  After the Maggiano angel, my faith had grown stronger, but his had wavered...he was angry at God, very angry.  It was eating him alive and threatening to destroy his faith.  He was so consumed with these thoughts that I began to worry that he would grow cynical and lose that warmth about him that I love so much.  Like me, Callie's death had shaken his faith and he begged God for a sign.   And then it came...   The previous day, as he was walking the dogs around the neighborhood, John had noticed a yellow balloon caught in the weeds just around the corner from our house.  He looked at it, and it reminded him of Callie's service, but he didn't really think anything of it.  He dismissed it quickly with so many other things crowding his mind at the time.  When you are grieving it is so hard to think of anything else but your all-consuming emotions.  But then, the next morning, as John took the dogs out, there sat the little yellow balloon...  right in front of our house.  Now, it had been quite windy the night before and for that yellow balloon to come all the way around the corner, just to land right outside of our home was no coincidence.  John rushed inside to show me the little shriveled up balloon and when he told me the story of how he had seen it the day before and then again that morning, I got chills all over!  Could it be the very same balloon that we had released earlier that week??  What are the chances that someone else accidentally let go of a single yellow balloon and that it would somehow land right outside our door?? 

The yellow balloon

No matter where that balloon came from, again we knew that it was no accident.  John needed a sign... a clear, unmistakable sign that God could hear him and was standing by his side.  And when John was too dense to see the sign the first time, He blew that little yellow balloon right smack in front of his face.  We chuckle to think that God was probably shaking his head and saying, "What more do you want from me, John?"   Each and every single night of my pregnancy, John and I had both prayed for Callie to be born healthy and strong.  After her passing, we had struggled with the fact that God had completely ignored our prayers.  But after the Maggiano angel and the yellow balloon, we knew God could hear us just fine.  But then, why?  Why answer some prayers and not others?  Well, like Garth Brooks says it best, "Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."  We have no idea why He chose Callie to be born with a genetic disorder and then to die 35 hours later.  But now by his signs, we do know that he is listening and that there is a greater plan in store for us.  Callie's short life has already caused a domino effect greater than we will ever know.  She has impacted our lives tremendously and taught us to treasure each moment and to love deeply and without reservation.  Many of you have shared how Callie's life has changed you... and you have no idea what that means to us.  It gives meaning, to the senseless... peace, where there was none...  hope, where once there was despair.  Sometimes we all are just a little too busy to take note of the little 'signs' that are all around us.  But they are there...  you just have to slow down and look.