By Margarett Sample
My daughter Jenny Joy died before she was born. Losing her has been the greatest sorrow of my life.
In the days following her delivery my arms literally ached from emptiness. I learned this is common among women who have lost a baby.
But no one was able to tell me of other bereaved mothers giving up sleeping on their sides because they could hear inconsolable baby cries every time they pressed an ear to the pillow. I began to sleep on my back. At some point, though, the crying sounds stopped, and I could sleep on my side again.
I was fortunate in subsequent years to have two healthy and wonderful sons. Once in a while, when he was very young, my first son would tell me he’d played with “the girl with the blue hair” in his crib. I figured it must be his sister visiting.
I had different food cravings with each pregnancy. With my second son it was cheesecake, with my first son it was spicy Italian pasta, with Jenny it was sardines. By the time the boys were two and four years old, I had become a lacto-vegetarian, eating some dairy but no fish, poultry or meat.
When the opportunity arose to travel to Greece to perform a play I’d co-created just before I’d gotten pregnant with Jenny, I was very excited, though a bit concerned about travelling as a vegetarian. This was the early 1990’s, and vegetarian food was not widely available in restaurants.
As I pondered how to stick with my new diet while abroad, I was struck by a sudden and overwhelming craving for sardines. I decided to try eating some, both to assuage the craving and to see if I could actually eat and digest fish. I enjoyed the sardines. So, on the flight to Athens, when my pre-ordered “vegetarian” meal turned out to be vegetables and fish, I laughed and quietly thanked Jenny for the preparation.
I felt her with me throughout the trip. One night a new traveling friend, who didn’t know about my daughter, asked who the little girl was who’d been standing beside me on a verandah. He had seen her with me when he’d come out of his room, but when he turned back after locking his door, he no longer saw her. He said she looked like me.
Later that year, there was a wedding in my family, and I was buying dress shoes for my boys because they were the ring-bearers and needed appropriate footwear to go with their black tails. I spent some time lingering over a display of little girls’ black patent leather shoes, thinking about my Jenny Joy and how she would have been getting a pair if she were alive.
A few weeks later, I went to see a well-known psychic about various things going on in my life. Near the end of the reading he said, “I see a little girl around you, does this make sense?”
I replied, “Yes, that’s my daughter.”
He said, “It’s so interesting … usually when children come to me they are barefoot, but she is very proudly showing me her shiny black patent leather shoes.”
When the boys were three and five years old, we got a pet bunny, which they had begged for and adored. When Runabout Max died within a year, we buried her in the backyard, with much ceremony and many tears. That night I had a dream in which a little girl of about six was playing in our yard with Runabout Max. When I told the boys and their dad, we were all sure that it was Jenny, who now had a pet bunny to take care of.
Early on, I began to associate hummingbirds with Jenny Joy. They would appear and I would smile, feeling her presence. Not that I thought the hummingbird was her, but I had a deep knowing that she was sending this traditional symbol of Joy to remind me that her spirit is always with me.
Over the years, hummingbirds have appeared to me in the most amazing ways. On many occasions, one has flown in and hovered for a while in front of my face, sometimes cheeping to me, sometimes just silently connecting. A magnificent Giant Hummingbird got up close and personal with me during a trip to Peru, and that same afternoon I found a delicate silver and enamel cloissoné hummingbird pendant that I now wear on a chain.
I recently turned sixty. On my birthday, a friend who knows I love to sing gave me a brooch. She said, “There were two I liked, and I really wanted to give you the sparkly treble clef, but I just had to get you this one. It was like I had no real choice.”
As I opened the box, I burst into tears, because in my heart I clearly heard, “Happy Birthday, Mum.”
The brooch is a hummingbird.
The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us at email@example.com and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.