John and I wanted to celebrate Susie's birthday. She would have been 23 years old on January 27, 1990. Our friends told us we were welcome to use their lake home on Whidbey Island. We gathered candles, a bottle of wine and headed north.
The ferry made its way across the winter water, and we drove through the forest-lined roads to the house. John built a fire that slowly sent warmth and light into the room. We set candles around as darkness fell, and the room grew more intimate with the crackling of the fire and candlelight.
John and I sat facing each other on either side of the fire. We talked to Susie and toasted her and thanked her for being our daughter. We told her we were celebrating this day she had been born. John told a couple of stories about things she had done, and we chuckled with our memories. We felt her presence and her love.
Then I felt her presence so strongly standing in front of us, facing the fire. She was smiling, laughing, and beaming at us, with her hands on her hips and her feet firmly positioned, as she used to stand. Loving on us. It was so real, I felt my breath catch as I tried vainly to see her, then I simply let myself feel her presence and give and receive love.
I said, "John, she's here."
He said, "Yes, I know." His head nodded toward the very same area. He said, "She's standing right there, with her hands on her hips, smiling at us."
I knew it was a gift the three of us were sharing, this moment of intimacy and love. John and I raised our glasses of wine to Susie's presence. "Susie, we toast you and tell you how very well you did it all. We love you and support you and miss you terribly. We are so grateful for this moment."
We felt her love, her presence, knowing she knew her parents loved her, and she loved us. We sat in quiet companionship with Susie. We were silent, yet the air seemed full of communication. The only sounds were from the crackling fire. Slowly time passed, and we knew we had celebrated this day well. Susie's powerful presence had left, and we sat until the fire turned into glowing embers. Grateful. Missing. Having. Knowing.