Harbinger of Hope

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

–Robert Fulghum

The rustling coming from the corner of her bedroom was subtle but it woke Linda anyway.  She sat up with a start but knew instantly what it was.  Holding her breath, Linda waited.  Sure enough, it didn’t take long for the rustling to occur again.  Linda blinked several times, trying to see in the dark.  Then she saw the two yellow eyes and she relaxed a little.  Yes, the black cat was back.  It had visited Linda a few times during the last year – always waking her up at night as it crept around the edges of her bedroom.  The first visit scared Linda so much that she couldn’t move.  The creature eventually disappeared but Linda spent the rest of the night moving her bedroom furniture away from the walls, hoping either to find the cat or a hole where it came and went.  She found nothing.

During subsequent visits from the cat, Linda was less afraid than just curious.  She knew that she must be hallucinating the cat visits, but why?  Admittedly, she had trouble falling asleep and was now using sleeping pills to help her get the rest she needed.  But was that the reason she was imagining the repeated visits from the black cat?  Linda googled the side effects of her sleeping pills but found no mention of any sleep disturbances, including hallucinations.  She then asked her mother-in-law, Barbara, for her thoughts on the strange visits.  Linda’s relationship with Barbara stretched back almost thirty years, from the time Linda first met Alex, Barbara’s son, who eventually became her husband.  Barbara was an amazing woman – someone who led a life of genuine authenticity, courage, and profound spirituality.  When Alex was diagnosed with acute leukemia, Barbara stayed with them every day until Alex’s passing.  When Linda’s mother died a year later, Barbara became Linda’s “other mother.”  So, when Barbara pronounced the black cat to be an important messenger, Linda listened.

“Perhaps the cat was visiting as a harbinger of something… perhaps in order to announce the end or beginning of something important”, Barbara speculated.

Whatever its purpose, Barbara advised Linda to observe the cat carefully during his visits.

One day after the cat’s latest visit, Linda received a call from a man who had seen her profile on the online dating site she joined.  He asked Linda out for dinner and she reluctantly agreed.  Now, as she scrutinized her closet for what to wear, Linda wondered if this was such a good idea after all.  She had just broken up with a man who turned out to be nothing like what he pretended to be.  She had little hope that she would ever meet anyone as good for her as Alex.  Oh well, – this man, James, was a widower so at least they had something in common, she thought.

It was snowing outside when Linda parked her car in front of the Chinese restaurant.  As she gingerly walked across the snowy parking lot, she saw a tall man also walking toward the restaurant.  That must be James, Linda thought.  She waited at the restaurant door until he approached her and smiled.

“Are you Linda?” he asked.

“Yes, you must be James,” she replied.  She liked his smile.

“Let’s go in and get out of this weather,” he said.

It turned out that the restaurant was James’ favorite and he knew the owner well.  The owner came over to their table and welcomed James with a big grin.  He turned to Linda and said he would make sure her meal would be something she’d never forget.  With that encouragement, Linda relaxed and began to enjoy herself.  James was an easy conversationalist and he seemed genuinely interested in her thoughts and experiences.  But as they talked over what was admittedly, the best Chinese food Linda had ever eaten, they were both amazed by how much they had in common.  It started when they realized they lived only a couple of miles from each other.  Next, they discovered that they were the same age and that their challenges as parents were similar.  The coincidences began to feel a little spooky when James said, “Alex would never have put up with what I’ve dealt with from our kids.”  Linda stopped with her fork in mid-air.

“What did you say?” she asked.  James paused, then repeated his comment.

“Who is Alex?”  Linda asked.

“Oh, that was my wife’s name,” James replied.

“Oh my God.  Alex was my husband’s name also.”  Linda almost choked on her words.

James was quiet for a moment.  Then he said, “Do you believe in fate?”

Linda said she wasn’t sure but she thought something was going on here.”  James smiled that sweet smile again.

The time went by quickly as Linda and James discussed their jobs, their favorite TV shows, books, and politics.  Linda was a lifelong Democrat but she was almost relieved when James said he was Independent in his political views.  Then, as they realized they were the last customers in the restaurant and were getting their coats on, Linda, for reasons she still doesn’t quite understand, asked James, “If you could go anywhere on your next vacation, where would you go?”

Without any hesitation, James replied, “Norway.”

Again, Linda was stopped dead in her tracks.

“I’m half Norwegian and that’s where I want to go too!”  At this point, James and Linda sat down again.

Linda looked into James’ eyes and asked, “What do you think about a trip together to Norway in early spring?”  James said, “Let’s talk more about it.”  This time, it was Linda’s turn to smile.

When they walked out of the restaurant, the owner opened the door and asked Linda, “Did the evening meet your expectations?”  Before Linda could answer, she saw something in the corner of the room, next to the door.  It was a black cat, swishing his tail and looking at Linda with big yellow eyes.

The owner noticed him too and said, “He visits us some time but I haven’t seen him in a while.  He must like you.”

Linda and James went to Norway two months later.  They were married a year after that.  There is hope after all.

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