My life was pure bliss.
I have always loved nature. And my husband, Tom, and I lived on a beautifully wooded, two acre piece of property that was just surrounded by it. Barred owls and various species of hawks and other birds were regulars in our trees. Hummingbirds and butterflies filled our gardens. Animals such as turtles and squirrels visited the property so often that we had named them. And on rare occasions, beautiful creatures such as foxes and bobcats could be seen wandering around the edges of our small forest.
Sharing the wonders of nature was a very special part of our relationship. Whether it was a delicate, intricate spiderweb, a colorful butterfly, or even new growth emerging on a tree, sharing the beautiful elements of the world was something that seemed to bring us closer together on a daily basis. We even made a game out of it. Whenever one of us saw something we wanted to share, we would say “Wonder of Nature! Wonder of Nature!”. And no matter what we were doing at the time, we always went to see what the wonder of nature was that the other one had found.
Not only was nature and wildlife my passion, it was also my profession. For over 15 years, I had been a wildlife writer and photographer, often using stories and photos from our own property.
I felt like a fairy tale princess, living in my wooded wonderland with my wonderful prince.
The bobcats were some of my favorite animal visitors. Not only are bobcats tremendously beautiful, but they are primarily nocturnal and keep themselves well hidden most of the time. Catching a glimpse of one of these magnificent creatures was always a rare treat. But one evening, around dusk, I looked out the window and caught sight of several cats that I was sure were bobcat babies. I rushed outside, but by the time I got there,Â they were gone. However, several of the neighbors reported sightings of a mother bobcat and three babies and I was excited about the prospect of seeing these beautiful creatures for myself.
Several weeks after I first saw the bobcat babies, my idyllic world came to a shattering end. My prince, my husband, the love of my life, died suddenly and unexpectedly. And the beautiful woods that had once brought me so much solace and peace were suddenly nothing but a sad reminder of how the best thing that had ever happened to me was now gone.
From that point forward, every bird, ever bud, every bloom served only to remind me of what was missing from my life: the beautiful soul who always shared these treasures with me. What had once brought immense pleasure now brought only pain.
I fell into a deep depression that I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of. The days and weeks passed. I stayed isolated in my home, listening to the radio rather than the birds outside my window; watching television rather than the wonders that were going on all around me on my property. My woods had once been like a quiet cathedral to me, bringing me inner peace whenever I needed it. But now, I couldn’t bear to be outside.
Then one night, I was awakened from a deep sleep by the alarm on my home security system. I cautiously walked out of my bedroom and checked inside the house. All of the windows and doors were secure and there was nothing obvious that could have set off the alarm. I reset the system and returned to bed to try to get back to sleep. In a few minutes, the alarm started sounding again.
This time, after resetting the alarm, I took a very powerful flashlight that I kept by the bed and started shining it out the windows, trying to see if there was a prowler outside. Instead of seeing a person, I saw 4 sets of eyes reflecting in the beam of my flashlight. The beautiful mother bobcat and her babies were all staring back at me. And in my mind I heard the words quite clearly “Wonder of nature. Wonder of nature.”
Tears began to well in my eyes. To me, there was no explanation other than the fact that my husband’s spirit had wanted me to see those beautiful bobcats. I stood at the window, transfixed, watching the cats as they wandered along the edge of light from the flashlight and headed off into the woods.
And then I went back to bed, feeling a new sense of peace that I hadn’t felt since Tom had passed away.
When the sun came up and I finally got out of bed, I immediately went outside. I took a deep breath and just immersed myself in all of the sights and sounds and smells around me. Everything brought me memories of my sweet husband and the life that we had lived together. But I was no longer afraid of the memories. Â I knew that he still wanted me to see all the beauty of the world, just as he had when he was here with me. I could feel his presence in the woods now as a peaceful, guiding spirit, pointing out all of the beautiful sights and sounds just as he did in life.
When I lost Tom, it was so easy to think that my happiness had been dependent on him. I mourned so many losses, thinking that life would never be the same again. But that night when I saw the bobcats, I was reminded that all of the beauty and joy and wonder that was a great part of our life together is still here, all around me. All I have to do to feel Tom with me again is just step outside my door, open my eyes, open my heart and listen. And as I look deeply into the beauty of the world around me, I can almost hear his words gently whispered in my ear “Wonder of Nature. Wonder of Nature. Wonder of Nature.”
***Author’s Note: This essay was recently published in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book, Angels and Miracles