On the 6th of August, my father in law – Arthur Cook – passed away from liver cancer after a very short battle with it. In fact, it wasn’t much of a battle since he entered it at 84 years of age and it just sort of had its way with him.
I knew him as my husband’s father, the man who taught my husband how to be a good father. I knew him as my children’s grandfather even though they had precious little time with him, what with us living in two different countries and all.
I remember the first time he met my son and he coaxed the shyness out of him by offering to read a book with him. I bet he’d read it with many other grandchildren but as each page turned he pretended to see it for the first time.
You couldn’t help but like the guy. Nothing phased him. And why would it? Just out of high school he joined the army and they sent him to the Pacific. They were sent to an island that had been pretty much taken over by the Japanese, who had decimated the local population. Well, the locals weren’t really that happy. They happened to be head hunting cannibals. Art said it was the only time he was really afraid. The Japanese were still afraid of the cannibals, with their habit of eating the scouts they sent on patrols. The Japanese would walk into the American camps and surrender rather than be eaten. Not something you would think of those Kamikaze Japanese from WWII.
Nothing got to Art. Even the diagnosis. He accepted it and went about living… until he didn’t. The last time I saw him he said he’d “see me when he saw me” and talked about taking one day at a time. He died at home about two weeks later, in his sleep, surrounded by his beloved elephant collection. (He had thousands in the house.)
After finding out he’d passed away I got up, went about my day with a feeling of overwhelming sadness for what we’d lost as a family. I realized I’d never had a conversation with Art about what he believed. I knew my husband said there were no atheists in foxholes, so could I assume he believed in God? Could I assume he had found that “better place”? I’ll admit, it was stressing me out.
So I prayed about it. Now normally I’m not into telling God that I want a sign and, oh by the way, I want a specific one. But I did. I asked for a sign, like a postcard from Art to say he was ok and in a good place. And I wanted it to be an elephant. I figured they didn’t pop up in every day life and as long as I didn’t go drive by the zoo on acci-purpose, it wasn’t too likely that one would pop up.
So I got ready for work, went off and figured that if one was going to show itself… it would probably be in the evening news or something.
My boss came into work an hour after I did.
“Heather, I have to tell you about the toys I bought for my grandkids when we were on vacation… it’s three elephants. They stand all in a row and hold the tail of the elephant in front. It’s really cool.”
Yes, it is really cool.
Thanks for the postcard, Art.