My dad used to create slideshows with family or nature scenery photos mixed with some of his favorite music. He made the first one in 2009, and in the last few months of his life he increased the frequency and focus. He would create a theme like, “father and son”, and pick a song to represent the photos. He’d email us a link when he was ready to share them, there are about thirty slideshows total. They are very special.
The day before his memorial service, I found a DVD tucked in the back of his desk drawer with a Post-It that had his first name and date of birth on it. It was a slideshow that he had not shown to anyone. The theme was favorite moments of his own life and the song he picked was a fairly obscure Marvin Gaye song called “If I Should Die Tonight.” The lyrics, and Marvin Gaye’s tone, work to convey a sense of comfort to loved ones left behind. I think it is especially targeted to a romantic partner, but anyone listening can glean that the intended message is a clarity and peace around mortality. On my days when I feel super spiritually connected, I get it. On the days when I’m like, “what the hell is going on with this whole life and death situation” I feel frustrated. And every day, no matter what, I miss my dad.
Recently, on the weekend just after what would have been his 67th birthday, I woke up at 5:23am on Saturday morning with one thought: “get on a bike and go to the Lincoln Memorial”. I know the exact time because my second thought was, “am I crazy, what time is it”, and I grabbed my phone. It felt crazy, but I sat up, considered it, and then got up and dressed. By 5:45am, I was pulling the rented bike out of the kiosk, and I was on my way. Although this was only the second time I had ridden a bike in about twenty years, the trip down to the Lincoln Memorial was uneventful, good exercise, and I got there in thirty minutes.
At the memorial, for a few minutes, it was just me and a park ranger. The view towards the Washington Monument and the Capitol was gorgeous. The lights of the buildings lit a band of clouds that created a soft gray background. I sat for a few minutes and then took a picture when strips of blue sky started to peek through and over the clouds. More people started to gather and sit on the steps, and I noticed a few photographers. I wasn’t sure why they had gathered, but really wanted a peaceful and solo moment so I posted the picture on Facebook and headed to the back of the memorial. It was 6:24am. At the back of the memorial I was able to sit, listen to music on Pandora, read from A Course in Miracles, and just soak in a quiet moment. After about another 30 minutes I felt calm and grateful and decided to leave.
When I got to the front of the memorial, I discovered that the small crowd had gathered to watch the sunrise. I was literally stunned by the view. The soft grays and blues were replaced by a brilliant gold and orange color that tinted the entire sky. The reflection pool basked in the glory of its purpose and created an illusion that there was no division between the heavens and the earth. I sat down with everyone else and proceeded to take pictures.
When the sun took position behind the Washington Monument, the beauty of the silhouette was breathtaking. I captured a few more pictures and then sat quietly. I knew that it was a miracle moment. By the time it all ended it was around 7:20am.
I was filled with so much joy that I decided to walk to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial which is just a few minutes away and a favorite place to visit when I want to remember my dad. He believed so deeply in Dr. King’s philosophies and my childhood was filled with his glorious speeches. My dad was so proud to have donated money towards the building of the memorial. Sadly, he died the week before he was scheduled to visit DC and never got to see it in person. When I visit, there are always crowds of people so it isn’t necessarily peaceful or quiet, but it brings me a sense of comfort.
So that morning, I’m walking to the memorial and when I get about half a block away, Marvin Gaye’s song, “If I Should Die Tonight” came on Pandora. It stopped me in my tracks. Of all the songs in Pandora’s playlist, this song came on? I couldn’t believe it but I kept walking, and listened to the words.
The song ended when I got to the Memorial, at about 7:30am. I was shocked because only two other people, a couple from Sweden, were at the site. I offered to take a picture so they could stand in front of the statue together, we made small talk, and when they left, I was alone. I took pictures. The sky behind the memorial was an incredibly beautiful shade of blue. And then I looked behind me and realized that the sun had moved position just over the water and I took my last picture. It was 7:40am.
In about a two hour time-frame I experienced what I’ll forever refer to as my sun day miracle moment. I wanted to share this with others who go through struggles because what I realized that morning is that God, the Universe, our angels and ancestors (or whatever one chooses to call that beautiful energy) work together to get our attention. It is up to us to notice. I think these moments can be obvious, like sun day, but also I think the more nuanced miracle moments in life often get lost in our day-to-day. I really want to notice them more and more. For me, they are the moments when I realize that I am going to be okay, and I have the right and responsibility to define what that means in my lifetime.
There is an inscription on one side of the MLK memorial that says, “Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope.” Yes, yes, and yes.