Today was a really rough day for me personally, and I was just not feeling the Halloween Spirit. Normally, I go all out for Halloween. One of the many perks of being a Middle School Teacher is that I get to dress up for Halloween and act out like the big kid that I am. Over the years my costumes have ranged from as simple as Fred Flinstone (whom I share more than a passing resemblance to) to my most complex one: a full, home made, Optimus Prime Costume. Keeping with tradition, this year I was supposed to be Captain America, and the girls purchased a Captain America shield for me to complete my costume.
As the day progressed I just never really got into the Halloween spirit, and as time to head out Trick or Treating came around my lack of enthusiasm sapped my will to don my Captain America Costume. I figured since I already had a Superman Shirt on (I wear a Superman S everyday since Rees died) I was going out in that alone and it would be good enough. The look on the Girls’ faces revealed their disappointment that I was not dressing up, so as a consolation, I grabbed the Captain America Shield at the last minute and said I was “Super Soldier”. The girls both glared at me with a skeptical eye, but dismissed it as Daddy being silly and the crisis was averted.
So we headed out, the whole family including all of the Grandparents, and we made up for the Halloween that did not happen for us last year. I reveled in seeing my little girls go house to house, dressed as superheros, like their baby brother would have been. Fleeting smiles faded to imperceptible grimaces as I imagined Rees joining his big sisters for the first time and what could have been… what should have been.
We proceeded to go house to house for about an hour, and the girls scored quite a haul of candy that should fuel the next three weeks of sugar rushes. Sam and I stayed back for the most part and merely kept a keen eye on them as they progressed door to door, asking politely for candy. It was a nice family moment, the feelings of which eroded away my sour mood that marked the beginning of our trek.
Eventually, Lori started to grow tired and we began to make our way back home. Abby and Lori both took inventory of their new-found candy treasures and their laughter and smiles served to fuel my soul. For that brief moment, all was right in the world and I smiled. It was at this time that I spotted another family making their way down the street. I saw multiple children dressed as fairy tale princesses and various comic book heroes. One hero stood out in particular: Captain America. A little boy, no older than maybe 5 or six was wearing a full Captain America Costume, with one glaring exception: his shield. Without even thinking I approached the diminutive Super Soldier and asked him where his shield was? His parents said he didn’t have one and I immediately removed my Captain America shield and gave it to him. I told him Captain America can’t go far without his shield and wished the family well. As I walked away I immediately thought to give them a ReesSpecht life card and realized that I had left my wallet in my car. Oh well. I thought to myself, it’s the act that matters – Rees knows. As we made our way home the thought that I did not have ReesSpecht Life cards with me tugged at my brain like a child pulling their parent’s pant leg.
I really felt like I had missed an opportunity to share Rees’ message. When we arrived home some 15 minutes later it was time for me to go pick up the pizza we had ordered earlier. I grabbed a couple of ReesSpecht Life cards and decided that I was going to try and find Captain America’s family and give them the cards. I drove around for about ten minutes before I spotted them, and when I did I immediately got out of my car and headed over to them. My first thought was that these people are going to think I was some nutcase, or that I wanted my shield back. I told them that I wanted to give them these cards when I gave their son the shield, but that I did not have any on me. I politely asked them to pay the kindness forward and started to walk away. It was then that Rees’ spirit intervened and the real trick and treat of this Halloween happened…
“Are you the father?” a woman asked. I looked at this woman, who seemed vaguely familiar to me but I could not place her. I replied that no, I was not the Boy’s father. “No, the cards, Rees – are you Rees’ Father?” she said eyes wide open. If this hadn’t happened to me before I would have been more surprised than I was, but with over 20,000 ReesSpecht Life cards out there, and 11,500 followers on facebook I am finding these moments are increasing in frequency. I told her that I was indeed Rees’ father and what she said next sent a chill through me (rather apropos for halloween). “I was the nurse in the ER on that day”, she tenderly said, “I was the one who wrapped him in the blanket and gave him to you”. My whole world stopped right there. I realized, in some ways, I was staring at the first Rees’ piece. Her simple act of swaddling our little Boy so that we could hold him one last time was the ultimate gift in an untenable situation. She gave us the gift of saying “Auf Wiedersehen” (I don’t believe in goodbye’s) and a last tender moment. I immediately hugged this woman, whose name I forgot in the intensity of the moment, and thanked her. I did not know what else to say. She told me that what we were doing to honor him was “Beautiful” and I thanked her again and walked away, trying to hide my tears that just burst through the wall of my last reserves of will power.
I got in the car and immediately drove away, blubbering like a little child and thanking Rees out loud. Again, he came to me when I needed it most. Had I not forgotten the cards at home, or had I not had that nagging feeling to get them later this moment would never have happened. Every time that doubt creeps into my mind, glimpses of Rees’ presence make themselves known. In the past year I have seen too many signs, too many pieces of Rees to think that anything else could explain my experiences. Today, of all days, when I faced a trial of life almost as difficult as losing Rees, he made himself known to me. My gaze rarely needs to wander far to find Rees’ pieces – I find them everywhere now. Prior to this past year I believed that every “amazing” or “unexplained” event we gave meaning to was merely a coincidence – a conformation bias we create to make ourselves feel better. Rees’ pieces continue to prove otherwise: I don’t believe in coincidences anymore…