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My parents around 1982. Thanks to my sister, who provided this photo. She's the keeper of photos in our family.

My parents around 1982. Thanks to my sister, who provided this photo. She’s the keeper of photos in our family.

I remember as a small child, under the age of six, my mother sitting with my sister and I in our Las Vegas bedroom through a middle-of-the-night thunderstorm. Whenever these storms would roll through, she would wake us to watch. During one particular storm, a bolt of lightning struck one of the big shade trees in the backyard, splitting it. This tree was right outside our bedroom window and went down with a loud crack. Like all small children, I looked to my mother. I can still see and hear her response. “Wow! That was incredible!” She exclaimed. No trace of fear.

When I was older, we talked about those storms. She told me that she woke me and my sister to watch because she knew at some point, we would wake on our own, and she didn’t want us to be afraid. She wanted to pre-empt our fear and replace it with wonder.

On the morning my mother passed away, I left the facility where she spent the last few days of her life and drove to her home after saying my final goodbye. It was around 4:15a.m. She had left her mortal experience and was now beyond my reach. The early dawn was just beginning to touch the sky in the east. But to the southwest a thunderstorm brewed. In a flash of lightning, the memories of those Las Vegas storms pressed themselves into my mind, and I remembered turning to my mother in the moment that tree was split and seeing her reaction of awe and wonder without any fear.

As I drove away from my final earthly memory of her, I watched the storm unfold and was overcome by that same sense of wonder; the wonder that was instilled in me by my mother. And as I continued to drive to meet that morning’s fury of nature and the darkening sky of the loss of my mother, I heard these words, “Don’t be afraid.”

lightning bolt