Last night, I was sitting on one end of the living room sofa reading through a dissertation. My daughter was sitting on the other end, struggling through some math homework for which she lacked motivation. The hour was late and our eyes were heavy. I decided I would go to bed, but the younger night owl decided she would stroll in the backyard to get some fresh air in order to inspire her remaining long division.
I went upstairs, readied myself for bed, set my alarm and stretched out. I had just found a comfy spot when I saw my daughter’s shadow in the doorway.
“Mom” she whispered. “I think there’s a possum on the roof.”
As not thrilled as I was at the thought of a midnight opossum siting, I thought I should probably check this particular situation out.
“I see its big, furry tail hanging off the roof over the lattice with the jasmine” she scoped out as she led me out the back door. I was about to point out that the opossum was not known for its fluffy tail when she stopped in her tracks and motioned to me to freeze.
“Its a raccoon!” she whispered just as I was about to point that out to her myself.
The moonlight bandit slunk down onto the lattice and looked at us. I paused as I watched my tween and a raccoon stand almost eye to eye, just looking at each other. Both were mesmerized.
My daughter slowly leaned over to me, “I need to whisper something” she said.
The first thing that went through my mind as she pressed her face next to my ear was how sweet it was that my daughter wanted to share a secret with me. With all the emerging adolescent angst, Mom-Daughter secret sharing is a rare treat.
“I think its Grandma” she whispered “she didn’t know where my room was but she still found me.”
As if hearing, the raccoon scurried off onto the fence and disappeared.
I hugged her close. “I am glad she found you” I whispered back.
The spring breeze in the night air ran through our hair and across our skin. Her eyes were shining with recognition and she smiled. It was three years ago when her Grandma died, and she has avoided talking about her feelings. Just recently she started to talk about her memories and ask for pictures and stories. Now, in her own way, she had her own moments of much needed connection.
I have heard so many stories over the years about these moments of recognition. I have experienced my own, too. I am a scholar, a counselor, a writer who studies grief. I can discuss philosophy, theology, and psychosocial implications of loss. But last night, it was all there…palpable…in a ring-tailed raccoon that appeared from nowhere but communicated everything my daughter needed to feel. Recognition. Love. Connection.
Love was stronger than death, and it was right there with us.