Don Shepherd likes to send me great, big, obvious signs. I never question that it’s him. I just know. One of the signs he sends over and over, is the big yellow Penske moving truck.
On Superbowl Sunday, 2005, Don pulled up in a big yellow Penske truck, with his car attached and his cat in his lap, after driving 24 hours to New Jersey from Florida – and we began our new adventure together. He moved into my apartment and turned it from a place to live, into a home. He would ask me to be his wife 10 months later, and we would be married 4 years and 9 months before his sudden death. The Penske truck, to me, represents new beginnings. I usually see it a lot this time of year – and I usually see it right after I was thinking about or talking about Don. When he is coming in strongest, I will see lots of them right in a row, while driving. Or one will be parked somewhere significant, on a milestone kind of day. Whenever I see one, I say ” Hi, Don.” It’s become part of my vocabulary and a normal part of life.
In fact, last December, while moving back to Massachusetts and out of my NYC apartment in a moving van of my own, it was Don who sparked the idea of the perfect theme for my TED talk. We were driving along in the moving truck, (ours was a U-Haul, ironically, because Penske didnt have the size available that we needed), on the highway, when a big yellow Penske truck appeared in the next lane beside us. “Hi Don”, I said, as per usual. That truck stayed alongside us for almost an hour, and as it did, I began to think about the concept of a moving truck as a symbol, and how it was BESIDE me. How Don would always be part of things, part of me. A lightbulb went off. I am never moving ON from Don, or from love. He comes with me. I am moving WITH ….
Today was the weekly widowed group that I’ve been attending. The one that my 92 year old widowed friend Joe told me about. In group today, we talked about memories of our spouses that involved new beginnings together. I shared the story of him moving in on Superbowl Sunday.
There was a new widow there today, and she was really struggling. Crying through the entire meetup, unable to get out a sentence. I remember those days. I will never forget.
Her husband died only 2 months ago. After the meetup, as she was walking out and still crying, I went up to her and told her ” you’re going to be okay.” I gave her a hug, my card, and told her about the Soaring Spirits widowed group that I co-run 2x per month. She said she would love to come, and then she asked me: “How do you know that I will be okay?” I told her: “Because I’m okay. And because you’re here at this meetup, which means that some small part of you wants to be okay. You will be.” She left there feeling way more hopeful than when she arrived.
While driving home, I was thinking about Don moving in with me and that woman and how Don’s death and life continues to impact me and teach me daily – and I drove up the hill to my parents house (pictured) – and this yellow Penske truck was there to greet me. Hi Don!
Later, Nick came over and we went out to the movies and to talk – and we spoke of our mutual goals as individuals and together, and how we hoped to be making plans to get a place together a year or so from now, and plans for our future and things we hope.
We got back to the house, and the truck was still there. ” Looks like Don is spending the night”, Nick joked. I responded that I thought it was a sign that he approves of our future moving hopes and plans together.
It’s now the middle of the night, and the truck is still sitting there. I like having it there. It reminds me that Don moves WITH me, everywhere I go, forever. He will never leave me again. And it reminds me of beautiful memories, and new beginnings, both then – and now.