On Friday, my father’s birthday passed like any other day.  When he was alive, we would all go to dinner and then celebrate by buying a German Chocolate cake, singing Happy Birthday, and feeding him pieces of cake. Even writing this memory, various images flash in my mind. His smile, my mom’s laughter, my sister giving my father a hug, while we all formed a circle around him. I am trying to reconcile that memory with the present.

There isn’t a father or a celebration or German Chocolate cake.

We did go to dinner to honor his memory and I asked my mom if we should bring home a cake. Her body sank into her chair and with a quiet voice, she said,  “No. Why should we bring a cake?  He isn’t here.” The last sentence echoed inside of me. My eyes tingled with tears, but I hid my face behind the stairs and said, “Ok, Mom. No cake.”

This conversation lingered in my head, but I desperately wanted to step out of my melancholy.  But the farewell to my father is one, even after two years, I don’t quite understand and am still trying to stumble my way through. On Friday, on our way home from dinner, I said to my husband, “If Dad could just show up for dinner and tell us he is fine… then…” My sentence hung in the air with no place to land.

Since his passing, I’ve wanted a sign acknowledging that he is fine. The boldness of this next statement even surprises me. I believe I received this sign on Sunday evening. On this particular night, we planned a dinner at our home for some friends we recently met. When they arrived, the wife held a pink and white orchid in her hands as a housewarming present.

An orchid. There is an uncanny connection I feel toward this lovely flower. During my father’s service, a single white orchid served as a light of love among the images of death and decay. We brought this same particular orchid home and cared for it. During the transport from Texas to Arizona, the orchid was never the same and withered away slowly. For sentimental reasons, I saved a few of the white petals. Everytime I see an orchid, I think of my father.

As I placed the orchid on the dining table, my mom and husband both looked in my direction, and  they said, “It’s an orchid.” We all knew what that meant. Throughout the night, I kept looking at the orchid, comforted by its presence. I later learned that the wife had also lost her father to cancer and as we exchanged our stories, we learned of many similarities between both of our fathers.

After they left, I ask my husband about the orchid and whether he believed there was something more to their gesture. He told me he didn’t believe in coicidences.  I think he is right. Hope comes from unexpected places.