11: Fleur-de-lis

11: Fleur-de-lis

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Hope & Miracles

Fleur-de-lis

Old as she was, she still missed her daddy sometimes.

~Gloria Naylor

After some success as a writer over the last five years, I had been chosen as a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miraculous Messages from Heaven. It was a wonderful day when the first copies of the book finally arrived. I took my time, carefully opening the package and removing the top book. The house was quiet and the afternoon was slipping into evening. I went into the bedroom, removed my shoes, and settled into the massive pillows on the bed to view my story.

Opening the book for the first time, I found the table of contents, and ran my fingers down the page searching for my name, my story. I didn’t get far. Finding a story called “Hi, from Dad,” I stopped, my finger holding its position. The title caught my breath; it captured my attention. Almost without thought I opened the book to its page and read the story. Simply enough, it was an eloquent story of a young woman who had lost her father and received a message from him in a miraculous way.

Memories of my dad flashed in my mind. Closing the book, I found myself reliving the difficult days of his illness and the grief of his passing. Here it was three years later, and I still found myself doubting some of those tough decisions, hoping that in the end he knew I provided the best care I could under the circumstances.

Similar to the author of the story I had just read, I wanted to know whether my dad was all right and if love extended past this physical life into the next. But my fear and my doubts until now had stopped me from looking for any continuing connection. I had been afraid to ask and have silence as my only answer.

Reading this story encouraged me. Perhaps it was time to request a sign from my dad. Just a small sign, I told myself. Something clear that I would understand. Looking around the bedroom, my eyes settled on a brown metal box with a large fleur-de-lis on it.

Perfect. My dad was from New Orleans and the fleur-de-lis, the lily-shaped flower, was a decorative symbol found throughout the city. “Okay, Dad,” I said in the quiet of the room. “Please send me the sign.” Closing my eyes, I sent my request to the heavens.

Over the course of the next few days I followed suggestions provided by the Chicken Soup for the Soul publicists and arranged a book reading at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona. They welcomed the chance to feature local authors and even encouraged me to see if another author featured in the book might want to join. Making arrangements with my contact at Chicken Soup for the Soul, I soon connected with one.

She was a young woman, excited to join me.

“What’s the name of your story?” I asked as we exchanged information over the phone.

‘ “Hi, from Dad,’ ” she told me.

“What story?” I questioned. Softly she repeated it.

How could that be? Of all the authors in the book, I spoke with the one who had inspired my quest. What a strange coincidence.

The following morning I turned on a local TV news station to catch the weather, but they were in the middle of a sports report. The New Orleans Saints’ helmet flashed on the screen, prominently displaying the fleur-de-lis symbol.

Leaning forward, I immediately thought of my request for a sign from my dad. There it was on the screen in front of me!

“Coincidence!” I proclaimed to the empty room. Simply that. Dismissing it as invalid, I turned it off. After all, signs don’t come through your television. But my small inner voice wondered. What did I know of signs? Until now I had been too reluctant to ask for one. And despite the appearance of exactly the requested sign, I just couldn’t believe that was it. Refusing to give it any more consideration, I pressed on to other issues and put any thoughts of the fleur-de-lis aside.

Determined to make the book reading a success, I designed a colorful invitation and made arrangements with friends and colleagues to help me pass out the cards. One of my last places to drop off the invites was the small salon where I’d had my hair cut over the last few years. The owner had been kind enough to offer to display some of the invitation cards in the shop. She immediately stopped working to look over the cards and announce my event to the women in the salon.

I quickly added that a second local author, Laura Johnston, was going to join me. “Laura Johnston?” said a questioning voice from the corner waiting area. I turned to respond to her question, but no words came out. I stood frozen in disbelief, looking in the woman’s direction, not making a sound. On the wall around her hung magazine racks displaying the latest hairstyles and issues of People. But it wasn’t the magazines that caught my attention; it was the design on the racks themselves. They were decorated with an assortment of fleurs-de-lis.

My sign! I gasped. Not one fleur-de-lis, but a collection of them! Rushing forward I placed my hand on the rack, my palm resting on a fleur-de-lis, trying to collect myself. In his quest to make sure I truly got his sign, my father had also added a bit of irony. The fleurs-de-lis were on magazine racks. My dad, during his younger years, had lived in New Orleans on Magazine Street, a house we had driven by so many times with him during our visits.

“Okay Dad, I get it,” I said to myself, my eyes tearing, my emotions confused, unsure. Then I understood; one clear emotion had found its place inside me. Gratitude. It overwhelmed me. Looking upwards I sent words of gratitude for the sign and gratitude for our life together. Above all, gratitude to my dad, that through it all, his love remains.

~Diana Creel Elarde

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