88: Along for the Ride

88: Along for the Ride

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Angels and Miracles

Along for the Ride

A dragonfly to remind me even though we are apart, your spirit is always with me, forever in my heart . . .

~Author Unknown

“Energy never dies. It only changes form.” That’s what my minister Ben kept telling me after my mom died. I would go to him in tears because I was desperate to feel a connection to Mom. He would just grin and insist that she was still there, somewhere, in a different form. His attitude irritated me.

“Several months after my aunt died, my uncle was jolted awake in the middle of the night to the sound of clanging pots and pans,” I told Ben. “He went to investigate and found his wife standing in the hallway. He said they talked for half an hour!”

To be frank, I’m pretty sure I’d pee my pants if I found Mom cooking in my kitchen at 3 a.m. At the same time, I’d love to see her.

“My neighbor lost her spouse two years ago and she said that sometimes she’ll be driving down the road and a peacefulness washes over her because she can feel her husband beside her in the passenger’s seat,” I said. “Why won’t Mom come sit with me?”

“Her spirit may come in a way you don’t expect,” Ben said. “You can’t anticipate it. Just be open to it.”

Summer came and my family headed to my parents’ lake cabin in northern Michigan — the same one I’d been going to since I was eight years old. I had always loved going to the lake so I could go boating, waterskiing, and swimming. This year, however, I dreaded it.

Sure enough, the moment I set foot on the wooden dock, I recalled Mom’s squeal—the one she used whenever she was sprayed in the face with lake water. As I took the blue canvas off the Sea Ray, I thought of the hundreds of rides Mom had taken while relaxing in the stern of the boat. Mom, always sporting a cool pair of tinted sunglasses, would stretch out her tanned legs, propping them up on the side of the Sea Ray, her feet crossed at the ankles. This enabled her to bronze her body but still catch a cooling breeze.

My stomach knotted, knowing that Mom wouldn’t be joining us on the boat this summer or ever again. That’s what was so difficult for me to wrap my head around — the finality of it all. How could it be that I would no longer get to experience Mom’s’ playful spirit?

“This summer will be awful,” I thought to myself. “Mom’s gone. The magic’s gone. The joy is gone.”

“Hey, Mom!” my nine-year-old son Kyler hollered as he sprinted down the path toward the water. “Can we take a boat ride?”

My two-year-old chimed in. “Please, Mommy! Can we?”

I lifted Trevyn into the boat.

“Sure,” I said, flipping on the blower.

“Might as well,” I thought. “I have to get these ‘firsts’ over with sometime.”

I took a deep breath as I clicked the boat into reverse, backing it off the hoist.

The motor gurgled in the shallow water as we slowly maneuvered past the buoy. As I helped the boys tighten the straps on their life jackets, Kyler pointed to the left of my head and announced, “Hey, Mom — look!”

A dragonfly was hovering near my face and then landed on my shoulder.

I giggled as its delicate wings tickled my skin. I didn’t think much of it. It buzzed off in a flash and we continued making our way out of the cove.

“Is everybody ready?” I asked before pushing down on the throttle. “Okay, hang on!”

Just as we were about to speed up, the dragonfly returned. This time it landed smack dab in the middle of the seat on the back of the boat. Despite the strong breeze that made its wings flutter, it remained. The kids sprinted toward it and I was sure their sudden movement would scare it off, but it didn’t budge.

“That’s the spot where Mom always sat,” I told the boys.

“That’s right!” Kyler said.

I remembered reading that the dragonfly symbolizes transformation and significance and that they often appear to carry a message.

Could it be that Mom was trying to tell me that she was still with us? And not just on this boat ride but always? I was skeptical and yet intrigued at the same time.

The lake was like glass and so the boys asked me to speed up a bit. I pushed down on the throttle: 15 RPMs, 20, 25. We occasionally hit a whitecap or boat wake and as water sprayed up on all of our faces, I heard Mom’s familiar squeal, only coming through my sons’ mouths this time.

I glanced back. The dragonfly was still with us. I didn’t know how it was hanging on. I thought of the times an insect clung mightily to my windshield only to lose its grip once the vehicle picked up speed. I wondered how this little guy was able to stay put. I could only imagine it was because he was enjoying the ride.

Throughout that summer, a dragonfly joined us on numerous boat rides — always on the middle of the seat in the stern of the boat. After the third time, the boys started greeting the insect each time they saw it.

“Hi, Grandma!” they hollered.

“Energy never dies,” Ben had said. “It only changes form.”

I tapped the throttle as I piloted the boat out of our cove.

“Love you, Mom,” I whispered into the wind.

~Christy Heitger-Ewing

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