A few weeks ago, I was standing at the stove fixing dinner when I felt something soft against my leg. I glanced down and, in my peripheral vision, saw a flash of white.
Chico, I thought, wanting out.
Our little Shitsu always goes to the door when he wants out and just sits there until someone notices him. So, I quickly finished what I was doing and went to the door. He wasn’t there. I called. No response. A moment later, my husband called back.
“What do you want Chico for?”
“I thought he wanted out.”
“He’s in his bed, asleep.”
I leaned against the kitchen counter as new tears formed and fell on almost dried tracks that had been building over the last twenty-four hours.
It was Sam. He had brushed my leg as he left, his way of saying good-bye.
We had buried Sam, our little eleven-year-old pure white Maltese, that morning. I guess it took his spirit a little longer to leave. I didn’t tell my husband Jim, knowing I couldn’t say the words without falling apart, fearing he wouldn’t believe me—or worse, that he would be even more hurt because he didn’t see Sam himself.
Now that some time has passed and I can at least write the words, I have to wonder if Jim did see Sam, just didn’t tell me for the same reasons I didn’t tell him. It also makes me remember other flashes or visions less painful.
One day, when my daughter Jessica was two years old with a chubby baby face, I was watching her play with a doll. She looked up at me and for only a moment, a flash, I saw her face as a young adult, slimmed and sculpted without the baby fat. I knew exactly how she would grow, the lovely woman she would become.
She has two sons now, one of them in college, and her face has gradually matured in different ways at different times, always influenced by the events and struggles in her life. But I remember the moment my vision came true.
It happened years ago when her own son was a toddler. Jim and I were sitting in her kitchen, preparing to leave for our home. Jessica rushed into the kitchen, dressed for work. She leaned down to get something, maybe her lunch, and tilted her head up to us with a dazzling smile. She was the most beautiful I had ever seen her—even more than her wedding day. I felt rather than heard Jim take a sudden breath as he saw it too—that moment of absolute beauty, as if we could see beyond the obvious and into her soul. It was more than just pretty hair and well-shaped features. It was the image, the flash I had seen when she was only two.
A similar experience happened when I was a high school senior. I was sitting in English class one day when a very popular but not very pretty girl came in to deliver a written message. We all looked up, momentarily released from the boredom of grammar. After she handed the paper to our teacher, she spun away from the front desk toward the class and left. The turn caused her skirt to billow, as she simultaneously smiled at the class. It was a moment of pure grace and loveliness. Even the teacher saw it. Moments later, she made a comment about surprising beauty almost under her breath. We had all seen and felt it.
When my second daughter Elaine was twelve, I had been unable to imagine her face as having anything but the soft undefined curves of a small child. One day, I was driving the truck to another house in our neighborhood with Elaine and several of her friends. Because it was a short trip, I had let them ride in the bed of the truck, enjoying their laughter and joking. I looked in the rear-view mirror to make sure they were safely sitting down, not playing or horsing around. I was stunned by what I saw. She had cheekbones and a jawline. Her eyes were more prominent and alert, and in them I could see a new awareness. She had moved from childhood into adolescence without my noticing until I saw her objectively in a mirror’s reflection. And I knew then what she too would look like as an adult. More importantly, I felt the wisdom, humor, and loyalty that would frame her as a woman.
I now have to wonder if these unexpected moments of sight are the real truths. Everything else is blurred, misshapen, out of focus due to the complications in our lives that keep us from seeing with clarity—only momentarily catching reality in those rare and wonderful eye flashes.
Thanks for the good-bye, Sam. Your flash of white is forever etched in my memory along with my daughters’ and the girl in high school whose name escapes me but whose grace never will.