I’ve looked for small signs, or deeper meaning, all my life. I suppose much of that can be chalked up to superstition. When I was a little girl, I looked for the indian on my Tootsie Pop wrapper. I didn’t know why, but if I found one, I always took that as a sign of good luck. When I got a bit older, I would twist the stem off of my apples while reciting the alphabet. Whatever letter I was on when the stem broke free, would be the first initial of my future husband. I remember having to do some tricky stem-pulling to get that stem to come off on the letter I was hoping for! These were just silly games that most kids play. A “lucky” day or a supposed glimpse into the future were games we played as children in order to reassure ourselves that all was well, things were good, things were going to go the way we hoped. As an adult, I began to look for signs in other ways. While the methods may have become a bit more sophisticated, there was still a desire for signs that would reassure. (Although, I do still look for the indian on my Tootsie Pop wrapper!)
When my daughter Grace was in a hospital an hour’s drive from my home, I looked for deer as a sign. It was during the bleak, brown month of November. The drive took us along a long, open stretch of fields. On our first nerve-wracking drive to the NICU, I saw a doe standing serenely on the crest of a bluff. All alone, and in broad daylight, she stood looking out across the vast, barren fields. The sight of such beauty moved me. I had been riding along full of fear, and the sight of this lone, majestic deer brought me out of my introspection. For a brief moment, I was able to look beyond my own troubles and fears. I was able to appreciate beauty that had nothing to do with me. For a moment, I was able to connect once again to the world beyond my own cares.
For 17 days, back and forth, we drove that stretch of interstate. We drove to a place that we didn’t want to be. It was scary, and we were losing a hard-fought battle. More than once on that drive, the deer stood on the crest of the bluff. Each time I saw her, I took it as a sign. It was not a sign that my daughter would live or that everything would turn out the way I might have wished. Instead, I drew strength from the site of that beautiful doe. I was able to take a deep breath and reconnect with the world beyond me for a brief moment. She was a symbol of beauty in a place full of vast emptiness, and I will never forget the gift of strength that doe gave to me.
I thought about that beautiful doe today as I drove home from a conference. Once again, I felt comforted by the memory. The beautiful doe from years ago was not the first, and certainly not the last, time that “signs” have brought me peace and comfort during difficult times. But I realized that somehow I have stopped looking for signs in my life. As I drove along, I wondered why. Maybe I stopped looking for signs, because I have become too busy. Perhaps, I have become too introspective. I have a feeling, though, that the reason I stopped looking for signs is because I have changed over these past few years. I have become cynical. Somewhere along the line, I lost trust in the inherent beauty and goodness in the world and in a future that would turn out OK. I feel optimistic, though. Once again, the doe has visited me. As always, my mind’s eye can see her perfectly. She stands proud in her majesty, peaceful and still at the crest of a hill, taking in the beauty of the rolling fields below her. Once again, she has given me strength and peace.