For those of you who don’t know me well, I spent a year working on an Honor’s project for college on the topic of increased incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and agricultural practices in Northern Michigan in 2005.  The project, More than Cherries, was inspired by the story of a young woman who died in early 2005 of diffuse large b-cell lymphoma, an aggressive form of NHL.

One year after the publication of my paper, I was diagnosed with the same form of lymphoma.  And weeks into my diagnosis, I was introduced to Lauren’s family for
the first time.  After our introduction, we were amazed at the strange coincidences that seemed always, something more than just coincidence.  It was as if Lauren was looking out for all of us on our journey through cancer.

The more I learned about Lauren, the more I felt like I had known her and at times, I had to remind myself that we had never met.  And yet, there was no doubt she was influencing my life.

Lauren’s mom shared a wonderful story about an eagle that kept appearing after Lauren’s death.  People said eagles had never been sighted near her house, and yet every time Dawn thought about Lauren, there was the eagle.  It even made an appearance at Lauren’s memorial service in town, where other people witnessed it.

A few days ago, I was driving out to Elk Rapids, passing along the open stretch of East Bay, when I saw two eagles each perched atop a rock along the shore.  Immediately I thought of Lauren and her mom and pulled over to allow the girls a better view.  I kept thinking, “These are Lauren’s birds, why am I seeing them right now.”  As one of the large birds lifted off, it seemed to disappear into the sky.

The following morning, I emailed Lauren’s mom and told her about the eagles.  She emailed back immediately and reminded me, “Yesterday was the anniversary of Lauren’s death!  The “coincidence” is not lost on me.”

I’ve always been cyncial, certainly agnostic and I’m likely better described as atheist, but when it comes to Lauren, I can’t help but feel she is real and present in our lives.  And so when I see Lauren’s bird, I see a sign of hope, of peace, of a reality that stretches into the spiritual experience.