Friday, as a downpour flooded area streets, overflowed ditches and turned lawns into lakes, a large white balloon settled into the center of a plant in our frontyard flower bed. The white ribbon trailing from the balloon led to the stem of a rose bush we planted in 2008 in memory of Marisa Joy Williams, a beloved friend who died in a car accident at the age of 18.
Rain drummed on the surface of the balloon like a rapid heartbeat.
But reason and faith are comfortable companions in my brain. I also believe in signs, that seemingly random events have meaning, that “synchronicity” is more than just the title of the last studio album from the Police. And this sign came like a message from above, just when it was needed.
Ten days prior, I had met with Marisa’s family and other friends to mark her 21st birthday. As has become our tradition, we gathered by her tomb, wrote birthday messages on helium balloons, clipped off the trailing ribbons and released the floating orbs to the heavens.
That same day, the single bud on the memorial rose had bloomed.
We joke sometimes about the people who may find the balloons we launch and what they must wonder about the girl to whom these birthday messages are written. I have a feeling I’m closer, now, to understanding their possible reactions.
In the past, I have written to and about Marisa on her birthday or other milestone dates. You may have read some of those notes here. This year, for whatever reason, I just couldn’t do so. I felt closed off, like that avenue of expression was unavailable. Honestly, I felt a guilty as the days passed and I hadn’t acknowledged her beyond a passage I placed on a personal blog.
It has been a difficult year in many ways, and so many things that bound us to her memory have frayed. Friends moved away, family became distracted with school or work, and we too often struggled just to get by. She was never far from our thoughts, even as we seemed to lose contact with one another.
In symbolism, the color white indicates innocence, safety, goodness. The egg is a symbol of life, not just birth but the full cycle, the hope of resurrection. The rose is an emblem of love, and pink indicates femininity and happiness. I can think of no more accurate description of Marisa Joy.
If she (or some higher power) had a message for us in the morning’s storm, it must have been this: Live and love and be happy until we meet again.
This was my Sunday "Undercurrents" column for The News Herald.
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