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Nancy smiled as her daughter Carol walked into the kitchen. It was early in 2008 and they were making plans for a mother-daughter mini vacation at Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They had taken the trip many times and didn’t really need to prepare, but both enjoyed the planning as much as the trip itself. Carol hugged her mother before taking a seat. Nancy thought to herself what a blessing it was to see her daughter’s happy disposition, considering all the difficulties she had faced growing up.

Extremely active as a child, things changed drastically after Carol entered her teenage years. She developed back problems which systematically limited her mobility. It was determined by her doctors that back surgery was necessary, three in total. One surgery, a spinal fusion, proved to cause more harm than good. For an entire year she dealt with the pain unaware of the continued damage her body was being subjected to. Finally, to their relief, a new doctor discovered the many mistakes made in her spinal fusion surgery. He was quick to correct them in a final surgery. Nancy felt in her heart that permanent damage had occurred because of the length of time the mistakes went undetected.

Carol, now 23, was a licensed EMT. Intelligent and self-motivated she was in the process of furthering her career by becoming a Paramedic. Nancy was very proud of her daughter’s accomplishments, but what made Carol so special was the person she was inside. Compassionate and caring she had a natural affinity for animals and hopping to the top of her list were the bunny rabbits. They were by far her favorite. With such a kind and gentle spirit, animals and people alike took to her quite easily. She also loved reading and writing poetry when she could find time to relax.

Sitting at the table they discussed plans for the trip even though it wouldn’t take place until the coming summer. Afterwards, they chatted about their day to day small stuff. Nancy noticed that her daughter fidgeted uncomfortably in her chair. The medications apparently had begun to wear off. Carol relied heavily on the strong pain relievers prescribed for extreme back pain. The damage to her back would be a problem for the rest of her life. She was not one to complain though. Because of all her trials and tribulations she possessed an inner strength that enabled her to adapt to her limitations accordingly. With a forced smile she hugged her mother good night and headed to bed.

Before they knew it May was upon them and spring was coming to an end. The trip grew ever closer. Nancy had begun to worry about her daughter and all the pain medicine she was currently taking. She would have gladly taken the pain from her if it were only possible. The final addition to her cocktail of medicine was Oxycontin. The doctors felt it would help alleviate more of her pain. Unfortunately, in Carol’s body the combination of medications became a deadly toxin.

One afternoon Nancy quietly entered Carol’s room. Her daughter had decided to take a nap and it was time to rouse her from her sleep. Walking over to the bed Nancy felt something just wasn’t right. She gently nudged her daughter’s arm and got no response. The second time she began to panic and then her world fell apart. Carol laid there so silent and peaceful. She was too silent. Nancy realized her daughter was no longer breathing. It was May 17, 2008. A day she would never forget.

It wasn’t until later that Nancy was informed of what had truly happened. The mix of medications had resulted in slowing her breath to the point that it just stopped. Nancy’s heart was broken. Her beloved daughter was gone. She and her husband Carter felt a numbness that parent’s shouldn’t have to feel. For months they went about their day to day business trying not to let the floodgates of emotion open up. The hurt and pain had edged its way in, pushing the merciful numbness into a deep abyss.

September ushered its way in and Nancy suddenly realized the time had arrived for the mother-daughter trip she and Carol had planned. To honor their daughter, Nancy and Carter decided to head to the Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In some small way it made them feel closer to her. The serene postcard surroundings were peaceful and gave them time to reflect and remember their beautiful girl.

While saying goodbye they walked out onto one of the rock beaches that surrounded Lake Superior. The peacefulness seemed to bring about a sense of closure to Carol’s abrupt departure. Before leaving Nancy looked down and noticed a rock leaning against her purse. She hadn’t noticed it before but as she drew nearer she saw the distinct figure of a bunny’s head within the rocks surface. The image looked carved into the rock, but upon closer observation it was obvious nature had been at work. Nancy knew right away it was a sign from Carol. Her husband, being a skeptical engineer, never believed in supernatural things such as signs, but he himself couldn’t deny it.

Nancy was very aware that Carol had received many signs from her grandmother when she passed away in 1999. Because of these, Nancy did not have difficulty believing her daughter would do the same. She thanked Carol in a silent prayer. She knew this would be a day she would also never forget. But this day was one of joy. Carol made it clear to her mother and her father that there is indeed an afterlife and that she was still with them. Finally, they found comfort that provided a lifeline out of the black hole of pain they had been living. Although they needed no confirmation, the wife of a resident naturalist they had known for years shared with them she had never seen anything like the rock. Her conclusion was it had to have been a sign from Carol. Although they missed their daughter greatly Nancy felt her near many times and she and Carter knew they would all be together again one day.

Submitted by Nancy Grabarczyk
May 2012