Five red balloons were tied to a windshield wiper of my black BMW. Red was my favorite color, but I wasn’t in a balloon mood. It was an early Monday morning on Chicago’s south side. The wind was blowing in from the lake. Spring was trying to take root, but winter was being stubborn.
I untied the balloons and firmly held their strings in my hand. Suddenly, I was lifted off my feet and started to float upwards. For reasons unknown to me at the time, I didn’t resist and went along for the ride.
Soon I was a hundred yards above my neighborhood and climbing. I wasn’t afraid. It appeared the wind was carrying me towards Wrigley Field.
One by one, the balloons began to pop and I began to descend. When the final balloon exploded I gently landed on the infield of the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium.
A man in a Cubs jersey was standing on the pitcher’s mound.
“You must be Will?”
I was amazed.
“Yes, that’s me.”
“Quite an entrance. Are you ready to hit a few?”
I looked puzzled.
“I was told you were taking batting practice with us today for your birthday.”
Celebrating my birthday was not a priority. Thirty days earlier my fiancé was killed in a car accident. A week after that, I found out my favorite nephew had cancer.
Before I knew it though, I had a bat in my hands and was standing at home plate looking out on the field where I spent so many summers with my dad watching our beloved Cubbies.
“Are you ready?” The pitching coach asked.
“I guess so.”
When I swung at the first pitch I hit what should have been a routine fly to center field, but a strong gust of wind carried it over the fence. I couldn’t believe it. I had seen so many homeruns there. I always wondered what it would have looked like from the batter’s box. It was awesome.
After about thirty minutes the pitching coached announced time was up. He wished me a happy birthday and gave me a baseball signed by all the current Chicago Cubs.
I was mystified by the events of that morning as I sat on the train heading back home. I had decided not to get off at my station and continued on to visit my nephew. He was a big Cubs fan and would love the autographed baseball.
It was a sad sight at Jonathon’s bedside. But, when he saw the baseball his face lit with joy.
“So have you solved the mystery yet?” My nephew spoke weakly.
“Yes, the mystery of the balloons. I bet there were five of them. I knew you had faith, Uncle Will.”
“There were five balloons, but what are you talking about?”
“I thought I was dreaming last night, but I was sitting with Jesus, your dad and Jenny. She says she loves you by the way. We tried to figure out what to do for your birthday. Wrigley Field was your Dad’s idea.”
I sat next to Jonathon’s bed with tears in my eyes.
“The best thing though, Uncle Will, was the balloons. That was Jesus’ idea. We each blew them up with all the love we had for you. But, Jesus said the fifth balloon, which He blew in to, was key ingredient.”
I sat there shaking my head in wonderment.
“Jesus said if you had faith that all things were possible, the fifth balloon would carry you to Wrigley Field.”
Three months later I was standing at Jonathon’s gravesite to share some final thoughts. Four red balloons were tied to his casket. I spoke about the Wrigley Field miracle and the power of the fifth balloon.
I explained how the four balloons were symbolic of the love Jonathon, Jenny, Dad and Jesus had for us, and that the fifth balloon would be filled with our faith that God would carry us through that difficult time.
I had one red balloon given to each person who remained. I instructed them to blow them up with all the love they had for Jonathon. Instead of placing flowers, everyone tied their balloon to the four helium filled balloons on Jonathon’s casket.
Before Jonathon’s earthly body was laid to final rest, I watched my sister release the balloons. As the casket was being lowered, everybody watched the red bouquet of balloons rise in the cloudless sky and slowly disappear into the glow of the sun.
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