A couple of weeks ago I got a call in the middle of the night that informed me that my daughter passed away. She was my middle child and the vet tech who somehow managed to trick Hans and I into adopting Wilbur just days before we took off on our first attempt at living on our boat.She was born in December and I'll never forget how much fun it was to have a baby so close to Christmas. After having dealt with a first born who woke up every two hours, cried far too much and sounded like a fog horn, Rachel was a welcome relief. You see, she was the 'good' baby. The baby who slept an unprecedented six hours during her first night home and always smelled like Baby Magic. She seldom cried and went from being a perfect infant to a precocious toddler (she was the only child I ever had to put on a leash), and by first grade she was reading chapter books. She actually gave me more problems at the age of ten than she did at thirteen and Hans still remembers that when I met him during my kids' turbulent teenage years, I told him how close we were and how thankful I was that we got along so well. Don't get me wrong, life surely wasn't perfect and this past year was the most difficult one we ever lived through. During all of Rachel's life she was an animal (or aminal as she said) lover. Spiders were not to be stepped on, snakes were beautiful, and she swore if she ever saw someone abusing an animal she'd kill them. Luckily no animal abuser ever directly crossed her path.
I have to tell you, I've never seen a child so enamoured of toads in my life as Rachel was. She went on daily toad hunts, and the bigger and juicier the toad, the better. Each day would find her crouched and rooting through flower beds and then WHAM! she'd pounce and come up with one very astonished toad clutched in her sweaty toddler hand. On one memorable occasion she placed an extra fat juicy toad on her head and it peed all over her. She didn't care a bit and, no, she didn't get warts.
One distinct memory I have of her as a toddler was the day I looked out our sliding glass doors and saw her standing beside our house and clutching the toad of the day in her chubby hands (no toad was safe when Rachel was around). Her response to my asking her what she was up to was, "Yook, Mommy (the letter y took over for l in those days), a nocopillar is crawling up my yeg!" To this day we don't measure the severity of the coming winter by studying caterpillar stripes. We study nocopillar stripes.
I flew back home for the funeral and my poor youngest child, whom I refer to as Baby Girl, literally took over and made all the arrangements. She did an incredible job and we're all so lucky to have her in our lives. Rachel's pit bull, Duncan, will now be living with Rachel's dad. He's come to know Duncan over the last few months and has grown very attached to him. Duncan will be happy and taken care of very well.
Even though this was a tragic occasion; on a lighter note, I finally got to meet my son's girlfriend. My son was my first born of nearly 29 years ago and was the fog horn crier. Needless to say, First Born got sick to death of being referred to as 'almost thirty' and being told he better treat this girl right and not do something stupid and lose her. This is because she is wonderful, we all fell in love with her, and I only hope she didn't run screaming into the night after meeting First Born's family 'en masse.'
I've often read stories stories about people who claim to have received a 'sign' from those who've passed on before them. I don't discount these claims and have always tried to remain open minded about them.
Last week Hans and I spent a very balmy Saturday evening sitting in our cockpit and contemplating Rachel's life. I told him that if there really is a heaven then I just bet Rachel stomped right past St. Peter and is now stirring things up but good (and also looking for our deceased family pets as she always insisted that all animals have souls). We spotted a couple walking past our boat and Wilbur came up from below and realized that is was just Lucy and her owners. Lucy is a standard white poodle from the other side of the marina and so after displaying his potty patch abilities (much to Lucy's owners delight) Wilbur went back down below to resume his long weekend nap.
Lucy's owner's shouted out a quick hello and then before moving along, Lucy's mom commented that they never come over to this side of the marina but since they didn't have Rachel with them, they could.
Hans and I froze and I asked her to repeat her comment. She said again that if they'd had Rachel with them it would have been impossible to stop as Rachel causes too many problems on their walks.
Our reaction startled them and long story short, we told them my daughter Rachel had died the week before. After expressing shock and condolences she told me I should take this as a sign. She questioned why she even felt the need to mention her other dog and, I mean really, how many people name a dog Rachel?
She then related a story about how years ago her father (whom due to a nasty divorce she'd lost touch with twenty years previously) had died. His name was Pome and the day after he died (he was from Scotland) a car in front of her (right here in Florida) had a license plate that read POME. She found this to be an odd coincidence and decided that this was his way of letting her know he was okay.
She told us that they have never walked over to our side of the marina but that particular night her back was bothering her and she thought a walk would do her good. As they started to leave Hans asked them what kind of dog Rachel is and they said a poodle. That really didn't mean much and then she added, "she's a red poodle."
For the last five years my daughter dyed her hair red.
Whether this was a sign or not, it did make me feel better and that's all that really matters.
I debated posting about my daughter's death. It's extremely personal but at the same time I felt it would be somehow selfish to her memory if I didn't.
I will continue to blog about our life on the boat. I find that keeping my mind busy is what I need to do and curling up in a ball of misery will do no one any good and will not bring my daughter back. We are certainly grieving but I'm not going to drag it out here on a regular basis and I don't think Rachel would have wanted me to.
As for Rachel, I hope she's truly at peace now. I hope she found her grandmother, whom she was very close to. And I hope Heaven is full of big fat juicy toads.