My boyfriend Nick has a very good friend, perhaps a best friend, named Todd.
Todd had a battle with cancer, and the last few months of that battle were unfortunately during covid, so he was living in a nursing home type place, no visitors allowed, no outside gifts or food allowed, all of that. Heartbreaking.
He died on May 10th, which also happened to be Mothers Day, but also due to covid, his brother was not able to pull together any services or burial until now. This morning there was a private, invite only burial service, about an hours drive away. Nick and I knew it would be a tough day, because nothing about losing a friend or seeing them sick or having them die is easy, but we changed into our dressy clothes and started the drive to the cemetery where he was being laid to rest.
We followed along with my Waze app, and it took us directly to the address that was listed for the cemetery. Except there was no cemetery there – just a long sort of dirt road, with a house on the corner. We were about 15 minutes early, so we kept driving past the address, stopped into a mechanics shop to see if they knew where it was, (they didnt) and then drove the other way to make sure we didnt miss anything. We attempted calling and texting a couple others we knew would be at the ceremony, but there was no reception on Nick’s phone to reach anyone, and we were using my phone for the Waze app.
The ceremony was to begin at 11. The clock turned to 11:00 am, and just as it did, we had returned back to where the exact address was, where there was supposed to be a cemetery. The Waze app announced: “You have reached your destination”, and just as we began to turn around, that’s when Nick saw the cardinal. 11 a.m, start time of service, on a Dead End street, the cardinal stopped by the side of our car, looked at Nick, and seemed to give him permission to turn back toward home. It felt like a sign, and Nick said the cardinal showing up at that moment gave him a peaceful feeling, and made him feel like it was perfectly okay to stop looking for the cemetery that didnt seem to exist. It wasnt meant to be.
A few minutes later, on our hour long drive back home, Nick turned to me and asked: “What’s your favorite memory of Todd?” I thought about it for a few minutes, and then spoke of his kindness, his ability to be humble and accepting and courageous (especially while facing his own death), and his childlike innocence in many ways – like how he always got nervous talking to a woman he really liked, or his love for snack cakes and junk food. I didn’t know him for that long, but the time I did know him I am thankful for, and Im thankful that he was like a brother to my guy, always. Nick then shared a few memories he had about times he spent with Todd, some of his favorites being the Red Sox games they went to together, often.
Sometimes the way we honor someone we love who died, is not the way we wanted or expected. Sometimes plans change, or you cant find the cemetery you are supposed to be at, but instead you find a cardinal who leads you back home to tell stories of the one you miss dearly. I will always believe that when we tell each others stories, we keep those we love alive forever. It brings great peace and great warmth to my heart whenever I share stories or memories about my husband who died with others, or when they share stories with me. We honor and remember our friends and family who have died, every single time we speak their name or tell someone about them.
It is a beautiful and profound thing to live love forward, even when sometimes the road you are taking leads you right back to where you began.