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Wise words from a teabag.


balloons for Jarrod

This photo was digitally altered by Jarrod's aunt. Hayden loves the image--and the idea, that his daddy did catch the balloons.

We just passed the birthday of our friend Jarrod, who died a year ago of cancer. His wife Amy asked friends and family to release a balloon for him, to honor a tradition that Amy started with their three-year-old son Hayden.

Jarrod's birthday fell during a brutal cold snap. I had to take Anna to the doctor for an ear infection, so I checked the hospital gift shop for balloons. Lo and behold, there were some, but most were not appropriate. I steered Anna away from the ones that read "Get well soon" as well as the ones that read "It's a boy!" She steared me away from the one featuring a Basset Hound and a single tear dripping down its cheeks that read, "I miss you."

She said, "Did Jarrod even have a dog?" I shook my head. "Well, I think that one is just for dogs anyway," she concluded. She finally settled on the most masculine of the bunch, a huge one, featuring Batman.

All balloons were to be released at 7 pm. At 6:55 we had one of Anna's friends over with his mom. I promptly ended the playdate and sent them packing. We got all bundled up and rushed out the door. We stood in our dark backyard, looking up at the sky for a moment before we released the balloon.

"Do you think we should go up to the top floor to make sure the balloon doesn't get stuck in a tree?" I asked. John just shook his head. He was pretty confident the balloon would make it, but I was a little less sure because there was already one tatttered helium balloon ensnared in a tree that had been there since last summer.

Anna released the balloon and it floated upward, but then dipped and staggered in the cold. We cringed as it headed toward the tree, and then gasped when it got trapped in the branches. I was devestated. This failed launch reminded me of all the other ways we fell short in the last few months of Jarrod's life.

With all the courage she could muster, Anna said, "It's okay, we can send another one to Jarrod tomorrow." I just nodded, holding back tears. John said, "All we need is one good gust of wind." I was doubtful, considering how futile the wind had been with the other balloon.

We went inside and John read stories for Anna while I paced with Natalie in the sling. I said, "Jarrod, we need a little miracle now." I paced some more, cried a little, sighed, and then decided to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed a long pole from the broom clostet and headed out.

I looked up at the tree and blinked. The balloon was gone. I just stood there a few minutes in the cold, with Natalie tucked into the sling under my coat, staring at the gap where the balloon had been, wondering at the terrifying mercy of God.