I’m sweating on the morning stage, flooded by brilliant November sunshine, teaching Jazzercise. At the 23-minute mark of a 60-minute set, I feel a vibration on my left wrist. It’s Fitbit, telling me a call is coming in. Since I’m doing the highest level cardio routine – and it’s a new one – I don’t bother to look at my watch, see the phone number. I’m glad I didn’t; I’d have messed up the routine more than I did.
Several minutes later I feel four more hits on Fitbit, little ones. Blip, blip, blip, blip. Texts. I hope everything’s ok, I think. I have an opportunity after a stretch, as class members gather weights, to peek at my phone. It’s my daughter texting, nothing major, just a typical mom thing. One of the kids is driving her nuts. She must have been the one calling; I’ll call her after I pack up.
I’m ready to go and four of the ladies are gathered in their socially distant yakking circle when I take a closer look at my phone. Time stops. Chills flood my spine. It wasn’t my daughter calling at all. It was her father. At the end of this month, he’ll have been dead for 17 years.
I show the ladies my phone. “It’s my husband’s number,” I declare. And then, of course, I must clarify, as I do have a living husband. “My dead husband.”
“Well, it would make sense,” one of them points out, “that someone else would have his number.”
“Yeah. Agreed. But why is that someone else calling my number?”
The ladies get requisite chills as well. I call “that someone else”, a message tells me it’s a man who isn’t my late husband, and I hang up.
Happenstance? Sheer coincidence? I prefer to think of it as synchronicity. Here’s a great definition by goop.com: “Synchronicities are incidents of spiritual significance that ask us to momentarily dampen our self-obsession and consider the possibility of the divine.”
For a brief moment, looking at my phone, I knew Hugh had managed to reach out to me from the great beyond. For a brief moment, I felt us reconnect, communicate. Our two cell phones – I still have the same number – together again!
Yeah, so if you’ve done the math, you’ll know that Hugh died in 2004, a year which was like two years for the price of one, really. Like Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”.
Trips! Tahiti. Florida. The east coast of Canada. The Mayan Riviera. All exotic and fun.
Deaths! Mom! Preceded by a beloved family dog, followed by an old tomcat. All within the first two months. All sudden and unexpected.
What I want to get at, though, is the numerous synchronicities. The visits from the divine. The “woo-woo” stuff. Back home from the Tahiti/Florida trip in March of that year, I had this thought while driving to work: Well Universe, it’s Wednesday (“the worst of times” seemed to be happening on Wednesdays), I’m back in Canada. What have you got for me? A giant transformer – you know, one of those HUGE cans that perch atop electrical poles – promptly exploded before my eyes, raining sparks down on my car. Wow. Universe! You’ve got my attention.
The next month? Some foreshadowing. You must understand this about Hugh. He was extreme. He worked hard. He played hard. While playing hard one evening he vanished. I spoke to him on his cell briefly the next morning, which was a Wednesday darn it, perhaps that’s why my antennae were over-stimulated. He didn’t sound good. He did not materialize. That afternoon, I drove around the country corner to his parents’ house, sat in a chair in their office and sobbed, uncontrollably.
“He’s dead!” I cried. His parents looked at me like that was a tad dramatic. He came home, dazed, but quite alive, that evening.
My April wail became true November 29th, but still, I was unprepared. While Mom’s death was sudden and unexpected, it did have a cause, a bleeding stroke. Hugh’s however, the result of a sudden arrhythmia that an AED could not shock back into submission, would eventually be labeled by a coroner’s office “sudden and unexplained”. No cause of death leaves myriad unanswered questions, slashes gaping holes in hearts and psyches.
In late December 2004, I talked on the phone with a longtime business friend, sharing the story of Hugh’s passing. “I know how it feels to die that way,” was her surprising response. And you have to understand this about her. Her life’s work was in the computer business. And computers can be a source of frustration and mystery for many. Not this beautiful woman; regardless of computer glitches, she’d remain calm, matter-of-fact. Stoic even.
She’d been in the hospital having tests on her heart when it went into an arrhythmia. Because she was in the hospital, she did not die that day. She said, “That’s the way to go, boy. No pain.”
And yet? She was indeed dead before the year ended. At her visitation, her memorial card reminded me that she and Hugh shared the same birth date, same year. If that isn’t a clear message from beyond, I don’t know what is.
Because it was so sudden and unexpected, Hugh was quite unprepared for his own death. In the months that followed, he tended to communicate through electricity. Previously, in our Clarke Road home, I’d never observed lighting fluctuations, but they became commonplace. A brown-out one night was so extreme, that a visiting friend and I ran around the house, frantic, trying to determine a cause. Nothing.
The second Christmas after his passing, I decided to take our three young adult kids away from it all, try to start working on that new bond with them as a single mom. When we left the airport in London, Ontario? The electricity was out. When we arrived at our tropical destination? The electricity was out.
Make of it what you will. I know Hugh called to say, “Hello. It’s me. I miss you! And the kids! They’re doing great. We crammed a work ethic into them, huh?
“And grandkids?! Wow. Growing like bad weeds. Dad says, ‘We need to put a brick on their heads’. Don’t worry (he knows I will anyway, it’s my thing). I’m keepin’ an eye on them. But a different kind of eye, if you get what I’m layin’ down.
“Don’t forget what I told you in tough times: ‘Things always have a way of working themselves out.’ Oh and this: ‘It’s going to be a great day today!’
“Great days here are . . . well, they’re kinda woo-woo. Things are totally loosie-goosie. ‘Vertical time’. Heard of it? Ha. Kinda like how I used to do things. Wasn’t that great at telling time, was I? Late for this, late for that. Too much to do, too little . . .
“Time is . . . woo-woo. Come on. You felt it, right? When you looked at your phone and knew for certain I’d made contact after all this . . . time?”