Submitted by Kim Wencl
Sunday morning had finally arrived! Excitement compelled Kim to rise from the comforting confines of her bed. Today her enthusiasm could not be curbed as her well-planned preparations came to fruition. The family would be celebrating their patriarch’s 80th birthday in a relatively short while. Tom Baldwin, normally one to shy away from ostentatious attention, had agreed in good-nature to go along with their plans.
Kim made every effort to celebrate her father’s life in grand fashion. She had been successful in persuading the local news station to recognize him on their 10 pm broadcast. Likewise, the newspaper ran the announcement of his birthday complete with a photo. Their church in turn, honored Tom by dedicating the flowers at the altar to this milestone event. The day was setting up to be quite a memorable one, just as Kim had intended.
Later, the family gathered at the restaurant to celebrate. Earlier that week Kim had attempted to reserve a private room but to no avail. Slightly disappointed she vowed not to let that dampen the party. Much to her dismay they were led into a private room after all. Elated that their celebration wouldn’t be disturbing others they were free to laugh and carry on. Two of Kim’s favorite cousins, Dawn and Beth, were also in attendance because of close ties to her dad. Beth spent the evening preserving special moments on camera which seemed only fitting since she worked for a photographer.
The meal was topped off with an extravagant chocolate dessert. Then, the assembled family as if on cue, raised their glasses to toast the man of the day. Tom couldn’t contain his happiness as his ear to ear grin betrayed him. Struggling valiantly to stem any tears, he was able to express the deep love and pride he felt for his family. The evening came to a close with hugs for everyone. Beth, anxious to capture her last picture, gathered everyone together. Tom stood proudly, surrounded by those that loved him. Each face grinned happily as the camera clicked on the count of three.
All Kim had hoped for fell into place, but despite the happiness of the day she couldn’t help but feel a stabbing tinge of sadness. The only thing that kept it from being a perfect day was the absence of her daughter Elizabeth. The 20 year old college student had died in a tragic fire the fall of 2003. Even though almost nine years had passed, the empty chair at family functions served as a despondent reminder of their heartfelt loss.
The next day Beth sent her cousin Kim an email thanking her for the invitation. She included some of the photos taken the prior evening. Beth also mentioned her initial concern regarding the pictures. The first one she downloaded had a very distinct spot just above Kim’s head and positioned on her husband’s arm. Beth was afraid the spot would ruin every photo. To her relief, it had only appeared on the one group picture. The longer she examined it the clearer her deduction became. The spot was positioned in the exact place Elizabeth would have been standing had she been there. Could it possibly be? Knowing Kim had experienced some incredible occurrences after her daughter’s death Beth could not rule out her conclusion.
When Kim finished the email there was no doubt in her mind. What a wonderful gift to know that Elizabeth had been present for her grandfather’s birthday after all. Thrilled with this knowledge she immediately phoned her father and asked him to stop by. She told him she had one last gift for him.
Tom entered the kitchen gently scolding his daughter. “Kimmie, I don’t need any more birthday presents! Everything you gave me yesterday was wonderful.” Kim smiling like a Cheshire cat replied, “Oh, I think you’ll want this one Dad, but you’d better sit down first.”
Her father complied, sitting at the kitchen table with a puzzled look on his face. Kim placed Beth’s email in front of him. As he slowly read the message the emotion began to show on his face. He set the paper down as Kim silently placed the photo before him. Her father stared for a few minutes and then was overcome by his emotions as he realized the true significance of the spot. Father and daughter shed tears of joy at the thought of Elizabeth being right there with them on such a special day. They hold staunchly to the belief that love never dies, and the bond shared with those we love are never broken.not even by death!