Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | June 5, 2011

So, This Happened, II, or Too Precise To Be Random, Redux

Anna’s father lived long enough to attend her high school graduation. He lived long enough to know she was accepted at the college she now attends, with grants and scholarships enough to show they believed our girl to be an excellent fit at their excellent school. He lived long enough for the two of us to share tears and laughter reading the beautiful heartfelt recommendation letters written by key adults in her life.

Anna’s father died midway through her summer between high school and college. He never saw her bravely leave home to enter her new world. But I can’t help but feel that somehow he can see her still. I often feel his presence, looking over my shoulder, watching out for me. I don’t know if she ever feels that unexplainable sensation. I do know if he is somehow able to be with me, there is no way he is not watching over her, his purest love. I do know his heart would be full to bursting with pride and love for his only girl as she makes her way without him.

Yesterday she pointed out to me  that she is halfway through her college career. Two years down, two years to go. This poignant reminder brought me right back to the time halfway through that summer, two years ago, when the day came that we had hoped against hope would not come to pass: the day her dad had to leave us.

Yesterday I picked her up at school to bring her home for the summer. She is happy to be coming home, but sad, wistful, to think of the friends she has made there that graduated yesterday, and won’t be back in the fall. We attended graduation, watching from the grassy hillside under ancient pines, and my heart was full, hearing the accomplishments of all those bright young people, moving forward to take their place in the world. Of course I can’t help but think of the time two years hence, when we will gather together under that big white tent strung with flags of many countries, to watch our girl graduate and move on even farther into the world without her dad there to see.

Last year on the day I picked her up at school, I was loading her stuff into the car, and suddenly I felt his presence as strongly and unmistakably as if he had tapped me on the shoulder or called my name out loud. And when I looked down, there in the gravel between my feet was a heart shaped stone. Just one more of the hundreds of inexplicable reminders I get as I walk on this earth without him. Later that day, I wandered alone down to the tiny stone beach on the campus, where I found handfuls more of the hearts that are seemingly strewn everywhere for me to find. There were so many it felt like they must be an affirmation that his love is still here for us. I’ve often thought of that day in the year since. Am I making it all up? There are many days that I find dozens of hearts; there are a few that I see none. I know that heart shaped objects exist naturally. Some days they feel packed with meaning – their placement or material feels far too precise to be random. Some days, not so much. But still, there they are.

So many times I’ve pondered that beach of hearts over this past year. Wondered how much of what I see and what I feel is a longing to hold on to what is gone. How much I assign meaning where there is none. They make me wonder just how crazy I am, but somehow they also fill me with grace and love.

I arrived at the college yesterday and immediately, I found hearts. Again, they are everywhere. They are pine bark, they are stone, they are glass, metal, leaves, grass, flowers, food. They are ephemeral and they are solid.

And just in case I was wondering about their source, I got another clue. On one of the banquet tables at the reception following the graduation, there was a message just for me. For everyone else it is trash, if it is seen at all. At the end of the afternoon, walking away from the party toward the car, I am surely the only one who sees: randomly left on the thick white tablecloth, a tag from a bread wrapper bearing the code 5/12.

Our wedding date.



  1. Too precise to be random: I went to look at a house/farm for sale. On the bed were piles of old books. I picked up one that was something about faith. Inside…. a packet of homeopathic earache tablets.


  2. crying now, megan….that is FAR too precise to be random.


  3. It must be nice to have Anna home again. The “5/12” really is amazing. I was thinking about Jeff being there for graduation… and then he was gone, and Anna would be moving on to college before long. Other kids may have put off college for a year, but she did it, and you let her go… to a great college in a beautiful place. You have a fabulous family! xo


  4. Beautiful, again, and such a gift of a phrase- too precise to be random. I cut and pasted this and sent it to my daughter who is particularly struggling with the looming inevitable loss of her irreplacable, precious auntie. She wants answers where we can offer nothing but an invitation to contemplate the mystery.
    One thing that she has witnessed her whole life – my dad’s gift of providing me with a convenient parking spot whenever I needed or asked. He died when I was 16 – of the same heinous disease that has stricken my beloved sister (another whole conversation filled with fear). He always got great great parking spots and apparently bequeathed the knack to me. Friends have often been impressed over the many years by my extraordinary “parking karma”. So it’s been something we have always noticed, not as romantic as hearts, but then again he was my dad, and it is such a sweet, fatherly way to show me he’s still looking out – all these 40+ years later. And – yeah – the spaces are way too precise to be random. Like RIGHT IN FRONT of the Boston Garden a few years ago when we were running late for Springsteen’s “Devils & Dust” tour? Thanks for sharing this, Carrie. It really does carry comfort.


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