I stood watching the rain. The day was as gray and dreary as I felt inside. I had lost someone so dear it felt like the hole in my heart would never heal. When does it get easier? I wondered. How do I go on?
An angel was about to show me the way...
When I first got married, 39 years ago, I dreamed of starting our family. But after five years, Jerry and I were still childless. When a specialist told us we wouldn't be able to conceive, we tried to adopt but were turned down because Jerry's job required frequent moves and we were told that would be an “unstable environment.” I was devastated. "All I want is a baby to love," I sobbed.
God must have heard me, because my prayer was answered--only not in the way I expected.
Just a few months later, my husband’s sister came to us. "I'm pregnant," she confessed. Stunned, we listened as she told us that her boyfriend didn't want anything to do with her or the baby.
"I want my baby," she wept. "But I can't manage it alone. Maybe I should give the baby up for adoption!" My heart broke as I listened to her.
"We have to help her," Jerry and I agreed later, so we told my sister-in-law she and the baby could live with us.
Suddenly our house was filled with the anticipation of new life. I wished it was my baby we were planning for, but I still felt like a mother-to-be as we shopped in baby stores for tiny clothes and blankets and I went to each and every doctor appointment with my sister-in-law.
When she went into labor, we rushed her to the hospital. After the baby was born, we cheered, "It's a boy!" to everyone we knew.
When she placed my nephew--named after his uncle--in my arms, my heart filled with joy. This is the child I was meant to love, I thought. "You're my little angel," I whispered.
And somehow little Jerry’s mother understood how much I needed to be a mother. As Jerry grew up, she let me bandage his skinned knees, read him bedtime stories and snap photos of him sitting on Santa's lap.
When he once heard me crying because I'd never have children of my own, he wrapped his arms around me and said, "But I'm your baby, Aunt Jo!" And in my heart I felt he was.
But then, when Jerry was four, my husband was told he had to take a job in Tennessee. "I won't be able to see Jerry grow up!" I cried to my sister-in-law.
"Oh yes you will," she soothed. "He'll spend summers with you."
Over the years, we had to move periodically because of my husband’s job in the construction trade. But no matter where we went, our nephew joined us for a visit. Our home never felt right until young Jerry arrived--everything looked exciting through his curious bright, brown eyes.
One summer, I ran beside Jerry as he learned to ride a bike; the next, we laughed when he caught a fish that was almost as big as he was. And when he sang, "I love you, Mommy Number Two," as he played the keyboard we gave him, my heart danced with happiness.
Together we explored Yellowstone and Disneyland, his small hand in mine. I'm so lucky to have him, I thought each night as I tucked him in.
When Jerry was eight, his grandma passed away, and I tried to explain Heaven to him. "If I die, I'll come back as a blue jay and sing for you," he promised. As I hugged him to me, the idea that he might be taken away from me sent a chill down my spine.
He was the son whose finger-painted self-portraits hung on my fridge. And on Mother's Day, it was his careful penmanship that filled the cards that made my eyes mist over. Dear Mommy #2, he'd write, I love you.
Time went by so quickly. And, like all teens, Jerry soon became too busy with his own life to spend much time with us. I wondered where the time had gone. It seemed like only yesterday that we had been reciting nursery rhymes together. Now he was nearly a man.
During one special visit, Jerry said, "Aunt Jo, we always had so much fun. You became my best friend. When I have kids, can they come and spend the summers with you?" Tears of joy filled my eyes. I imagined the happy moments to come--the days when Jerry and his little ones would visit us.
Then, late one night, the unthinkable happened. What mother hasn't imagined the worst when the phone rings late at night? When my husband hung up and sobbed, "Jerry's gone," I collapsed in his arms.
He was in a car with friends when the driver lost control and crashed. His friends survived, but Jerry died. Suddenly the future seemed empty without my little boy in it.
Because Jerry loved music--he had wanted to be a DJ--I couldn't even bear to turn on the radio. The sight of a brown-haired young man driving a sports car or playing touch football would reduce me to tears. Why can't that be my Jerry? I'd sob.
Our home still waited for him--but he would never come again.
Frozen in grief, I didn't think the pain of losing him would ever end. An aching emptiness filled my life. I couldn't bear to face Mother's Day without him, and every time I glanced at his pictures, scattered throughout my house, I'd break down crying. I just couldn't find the strength to go on.
Then one rainy day in 1996 I stepped outside to find a blue jay on my lawn. It didn't fly away as I moved toward it. It just looked at me...and started singing. The sound washed over me, and the soothing notes wrapped themselves around my broken heart. Jerry! I thought, stunned by the wonder of it. You kept your promise! And each year thereafter, close to Mother’s Day and like today, a blue bird finds its way to say hello in that very special way.
As the bird's song trilled around me that spring of 1996, I realized that my life HAD to go on. Jerry wouldn't have wanted his Mommy Number Two--the one who giggled over his knock-knock jokes, took him to the circus and lovingly watched him as he spread his wings--to give up. Jerry was gone, but the memories of him and the love we shared would live in my heart forever.
Someone was watching over me. Someone is watching over me. Jerry had shown me that. My blue jay. My special angel. My son.