Remember “Chicken Soup for the Soul?” This post is kind of like that. Here I will share about a grief dream I had and pictures that represent things I call both “God Winks” and “Caleb Kisses.” I’ve also called them “Hugs from Heaven.” With each photo I’ll describe what I saw and what it meant to me. These are moments that I felt held by God and saw things that reminded me of Caleb. Some of the things I’ve seen are so plainly, and obviously, Caleb Kisses! What does a grieving person want? They want the person they lost! They want to see them, hear them and feel them but that’s not possible, and it’s a wretched feeling! You know what I’m talking about if you’ve experienced a great loss. When I see things like what I’m sharing here, my hope gets refilled, my face smiles and my heart gets comforted. A bit of a disclaimer, I do not believe that Caleb himself communicated with me by sending me signs. I believe that God communicates with us in a variety of ways and that he uses the Holy Spirit to comfort us. God understands the pain we’re in when we lose a loved one and he can help us see what we need to see to comfort us.
Let me go backwards for just one second. On September 20, 2020, I shared this post about how God answered my broken-hearted prayer to show himself and Caleb to me. It’s relatable to this and I’d love for you to read it! https://ajourneyforcaleb.org/brokenheartfaithfulprayer/
I’m no expert on dreams and I have no human knowledge of what they mean or why we have them. When a loved one dies, you want to dream of them so you can see them living, at least I do. I had experienced grief dreams after my dad’s passing in 2015 and the dreams I had about him were mostly pleasant but of the 5 dreams I’ve had of Caleb since he died, only one of them is pleasant. The other 4 are quite troubling and I don’t like recalling them. I was so grateful to have a pleasant dream and I really felt comforted when I woke up. Come to dreamland with me… I heard a beautiful song, a heavenly song. When I looked to see where it was coming from I saw a white Cardinal singing. It wasn’t disturbed by my presence so it just kept singing and it got louder and louder. As it sang it transformed into a man and not a man I recognized. He was wearing all white and had white hair. Just then I see Caleb. I can see him through the glass screen door and he’s knocking. He’s a little boy and he’s also wearing all white. I then hear Jordyn calling for me upstairs. I feel torn. Do I answer the door and let Caleb in, or do I go upstairs to Jordyn? I say to the man in white, “That’s my son, please let him in.” I turn to walk up the stairs and then, I wake up. I was so mad that I woke up, but so glad that I had a pleasant dream of my son. If dreams interest you, in particular, grief dreams, there is a podcast titled “Grief Dreams Podcast” you may want to check out. I’ve not listened to it myself, but I have heard the creator of the Podcast speak about it on another show.
I love visiting State Parks in Tennessee. In November 2019, I forced myself and the girls out of the house and drove to a park about an hour away. The Fall colors were beautiful and we all needed fresh air. As we were walking we noticed this tree and we think it looks like a heart. For me, this was a God Wink. He let me see what I needed to see in that moment. A heart on a tree to remind me he’s there, he knows and he sees my pain.
This little guy flew into my yard while I was sitting on the porch. I see a lot of Cardinals in my neighborhood year round and they always give my heart a little hug. I really do feel like God created them as a way to send us his winks and hugs.
May 2020 was an incredibly difficult and painful month for me as it’s the month Caleb should have graduated high school. Now, not many Seniors (if any at all) were able to graduate in person in May 2020 because of Coronavirus, but nonetheless, he wasn’t here to even graduate virtually. I’m especially grateful that his school took Senior photos and Cap & Gown photos the Summer before his Senior year actually started or I would not have these pictures:
As I sat on my porch in late afternoon on May 31, 2020 reflecting on how I made it through a month that once seemed impossible, I looked up to the sky and saw a cloud shaped like a heart! I have never seen a real image like this in a cloud before and it honestly took my breath away. I immediately took a picture and felt that God sent me a wink to show me that he knew how hard the month was for me and I imagined hearing him say, “You did it.” The first picture is the original and the second is retouched to show only the heart I saw.
August 11, 2020, was the day before the one year anniversary of the day Caleb went to Heaven. For 364 days, I had been dreading waking up and knowing that I had lived without my firstborn child for an entire year. I felt very heavy-hearted and wished I could just go back to sleep and never wake up. As I pulled out of my driveway to go to work, I saw a rainbow right in front of me and it hadn’t been rainy at all that morning. Of course I took a picture and thanked God for showing me I was not alone.
In November 2020, we visited Caleb’s memorial tree that was planted at a park in our city. As we were looking at the name plate and then the tree, I noticed this tiny red leaf shaped like a heart and it was the only leaf on the whole tree! This was another moment that took my breath away and brought a big hug to my heart. How is it possible that there would only be on leaf on the tree and that it was shaped like a heart? I held onto this Hug from Heaven for a long time.
On August 5, 2021 while I was at work, I got a Ring notification that there was a person at the door. When I opened the camera to see who it was, this is what I saw…a Cardinal! I had the biggest smile on my face and watched the video over and over.
The second anniversary of the day Caleb went to Heaven was more difficult that the first. I took the day off work and allowed myself to have a grief day. I looked at pictures, watched videos, listened to voicemails, sat at the cemetery for awhile, held some of his dirty shirts and cried, cried, cried all day. I was on my porch as the sun set and looked up to this brokenhearted cloud in the sky. After such a difficult and emotional day, God showed me he was there and he weeps with me over the death of my son. I took a few deep breaths and thanked God for that Hug from Heaven to remind me that he has not forgotten about my crushed spirit.
For Spring Break 2021, we took our first family vacation since losing Caleb and we went to The Outer Banks, NC. My hope for this trip was to reconnect as a family, feel freedom from grief, to make new memories and just be in the moment. We arrived in Corolla just as the sun was about to set and were greeted with the most beautiful bright orange sunset I’ve ever seen! I felt God and Caleb working together on this one. They wanted us to know that while we were hurting that Caleb wasn’t with us, they wanted us to enjoy our adventure and have fun. I’m still in love with this sunset!
This one is my favorites and also from our trip to The Outer Banks. I’ve printed this on canvas and have it hanging in my living room. Throughout the week I had been hoping to see 5 birds together to represent our family of 5 with Caleb. On our last morning there, we all woke up early to watch the sunrise on Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Just before the sun rose, 5 birds flew by with one just ahead of the rest. Chills ran through me and I was so thankful I got to see this. One of us is ahead of the rest. Caleb is not in our past, he is in our future. He is ahead of us, waiting for us in Heaven. Each day that passes is one day closer to seeing him again. When I’m having a particularly sad day, I work really hard at focusing on the fact that Caleb is ahead of me, not behind me.
The very first Caleb Kiss I got was on Friday, August 16, 2019, just 4 days after the worst day of my life. One of Caleb’s teachers came to the visitation and brought one of Caleb’s assignments with him. The assignment he brought with him is pictured below. Caleb’s goals for the year that he wrote in his Criminal Justice class on Friday, August 9, 2019, three days before he would take his own life. You can’t read these goals and tell me that Caleb wanted to die! He wanted to live! He had goals, dreams and aspirations and I know he wanted to see them through! It also brings a lot of confusion…how could a kid who wrote these goals down for a class assignment die by suicide? I don’t know. It’s incomprehensible. What I do know for sure is that my son Caleb was as faithful, sincere, caring and driven as I thought he was. This piece of paper is priceless to me and I cherish having it every day.
One day in September 2019, I was looking through a box of Caleb’s childhood keepsakes and found his very first journal. I smiled and sobbed as I read the first entry. At this time he was a young five year old, so he would tell me what he wanted to write and I would write it for him then he would write his name. I was reminded of how genuine Caleb’s faith was when he was even a little boy. Finding this was most definitely a Caleb Kiss.
Two months into my grief our school system had Fall Break. We didn’t really have a solid plan in place before he died, so I was grateful that we didn’t have to cancel any plans. While I didn’t want to go on an adventure or make new memories without Caleb, I did want to spend time with my girls. Our house had been full of so much grief, sadness and tears that I wanted them to have a chance to enjoy their break from school. My sister and I took them to St. Louis, MO for a few days to visit the zoo, the arch and the children’s museum. Our last night in town we found a great spot to watch the sunset and my sister took this photo of me and my girls. Honestly, I didn’t even want to look at the picture after she took it because Caleb wasn’t in it. Inside my head I was screaming “I have 3 kids, not 2! I have 3 kids, not 2!” When I did look at the picture later that day, I noticed the orange ray of light right through it. You’ll start to notice a pattern here…orange makes me think of Caleb because he loved the Tennessee Volunteers! Caleb was there, he is in the picture with us. A Caleb Kiss in St. Louis, MO.
On December 6, 2019, my daughters had their Winter Piano Recital. It was very difficult as this was my youngest’s first ever performance and Caleb was always so proud to watch his little sisters do anything, he was their biggest cheerleader. As my oldest daughter sang “You Say” by Lauren Daigle, I glanced into the upper section of seats and envisioned Caleb sitting, watching and listening to her sing, and tears rolled down my face. When the recital was over we walked around the foyer looking at all the decorated Christmas trees and came upon this one. My youngest daughter sat down in the little rocking chair next to the tree and I took her picture.
A few seconds later, someone in our group pointed out a Skittle on a chair and we were all in amazement. One of Caleb’s nicknames is “MC Skittles” and Skittles always remind us of him. As we continued to look around, we noticed 7 different Skittles scattered throughout the display. Why only 7? Not sure, but there were 7 of us in our group! And guess what else? Where we were standing was directly in front of the door which led to the spot where I glanced up to during my daughter’s performance. We all had chills and felt like Caleb had been there and wanted us to know it. The idea definitely warmed my heart and gave me a Caleb Kiss!
In October 2020, my girls and I went to Maine for Fall Break with my sister who lives in Boston. The day we left Maine to drive back to Boston was a heavy grief day for me. As I sat in the passenger seat, I wrote in my journal then did a meditation to help me get a grasp on my emotions and settle down. When I opened my eyes and looked through the windshield this is what I saw. A gray Dodge Van with “28” on the license plate…28 is Caleb’s Jersey number! I’m still in awe over this one.
My husband and I visited Natchez Trace State Park and as we were walking around exploring the park, we crossed a wooden bridge and saw this etched into the wood. Since Caleb was a baby, we called him “Goose and Buddy Goose.” We stood there for a few minutes and held onto this Caleb Kiss.
One thing I love about my backyard in the Winter is that I can see the sunrise every morning because the trees are bare. We live in a home that we did not share with Caleb so our first Winter here we noticed that if we catch the sunrise at the right time on a sunny day, our whole kitchen fills with rays of orange from the sunlight. I also woke up one morning to see a ray of orange shining in my room from a small opening underneath the window shade. These made me think of Caleb and smile.
The second August 11th rolled around and as I was leaving my neighborhood to run some errands. I came to a stop at a stop sign, and saw a bright orange sunset right in front of me that instantly made me think of Caleb. I know he would say how sorry he is for all the pain I’m in and he would wish he could make it right. Nobody was behind me, so I stayed there for a minute or two just staring at the sunset trying to remember my son’s life and not his death, which was so heavy on my mind at this time. I thanked Caleb for the kiss and drove on.
One evening in October 2021 as I sat in the Taco Bell drive thru, I looked over to see this amazing double rainbow. Why is this a Caleb Kiss? Because it’s at Taco Bell! And it’s two rainbows, not just one! Whatever I need to comfort me, make me smile, imagine as a kiss on the cheek from Caleb and push me into the next right thing, I’ll take it!
Do you have any messages of hope or hugs from Heaven that you’d like to share with me?
Please do so in the comments, I would love to hear your stories!