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I spy joy (and love) in Renee’s heart

Renee's Heart

On April 30, 2011, at 7:55 am, my sister Renee became an angel.

Well, I suppose she already was one, but on that day it became official. Renee had been living with cancer for nearly 8 years. What started out as breast cancer, became liver, lung, and bone cancer; and then ovarian and abdominal cancer.

Although she lived in Montana and I in Washington, my kids and I were blessed to see her less than a week before she passed. We said our tearful goodbyes and Renee told my kids she’d be watching over them–their very own angel. I believe her. And I believe she’s my angel, too.

A small group of family and friends went to spread Renee’s ashes the day before the service. We went to Glacier, one of her favorite places to visit. After each of us tossing some of the gritty ash that remained of her physical form into the lake, the larger portion was released at the edge of the water. As the ash slowly dissipated into the clear, cold water, I photographed it, thinking what a beautiful view she has.

Several of us picked up a few rocks–mementos of the day. I looked for pretty rocks in shades of red, yellow and green. I found a sparkley green one that looked a little like a heart.  And then I found a ruddy red rock that looked exactly like a heart. Thrilled with my tangible reminders of this last bodily touch with my sister, I showed them to everyone there.

Yet this was just a trifle compared to what I was about to discover.

My purpose fulfilled, I began looking through the images I shot while the others lingered. When I saw the photo above I gasped, loud enough to draw attention. Where did this heart come from? Clearly shaped from Renee’s ashes, this heart formation was undeniable. And it was also unbelievable–it wasn’t there when I took the photo. I never saw it until I looked back through the images. How could I have missed seeing that when I took the shot?

Everyone looked at their own images.  Nothing. Neither did they see Renee’s ashes ever looking like that as they stretched out into their resting place. We were all nearly speechless.

Unbelievable. And yet undeniable.

Renee sends her love. And I believe a greater message even than that. Her final resting place isn’t a lake in Glacier Park, Montana. It’s in love. LOVE.

Love is what’s on the other side. Lots of it.

After all, underlying everything, that’s all there is.

L. O. V. E.

Rock hearts from Renee


1 Anne McQuary { 05.18.11 at 7:25 am }

This takes my breath away. I was talking to a friend who has just lost her partner, and she told me a similar story about ladybugs. I was thinking just the morning about talismans – tokens of spirit that we receive from those who pass before us. Then I read this! I have a story like this about my father and hummingbirds. I don’t know if I believe in “heaven”, but I do believe in love, and this photograph is clearly a talisman, a physical reminder of the love you shared with your sister. You are filled with it. Lots of love to you, my friend. Thank you for sharing this with us.

2 Roberta Crane { 05.18.11 at 10:28 am }

This is beautiful, Michele! Thank you for sending it. Our love to you and your family. Roberta and Tom

3 Carol Nichols { 05.18.11 at 11:36 am }

I just received the word of Renee’s passing. My heart goes out to you and your family for this sad news.
I send a huge loving hug.
Take care and my wish is that you always remember the joyful times with Renee.

4 ISpyJoy { 05.18.11 at 4:23 pm }

Anne, thank you so much. I would really love to hear the story about the ladybugs and the hummingbirds. Perhaps over some coffee?

5 ISpyJoy { 05.18.11 at 4:23 pm }

Thank you, Roberta! I hope you two are doing well. My love to you and Tom.

6 ISpyJoy { 05.18.11 at 4:24 pm }

Carol, thanks so much. I send a huge, loving hug right back.

7 Santiago Lahoz { 05.18.11 at 6:55 pm }

Thank you Michelle for your great picture and article. I think this is even more mystical than what you said. Just think, you are the only one who got the picture of the “heart”. My picture does not show it. Also you are the only one who found two “heart” shaped stones. This was a direct message to you from Renee’s “heart” and to your children so they can hold Renee’s love in the palm of their hands. She truly is their guardian angel. If you have any other pictures I would be privileged to receive them. Santiago

8 June Tofte { 05.20.11 at 1:11 pm }

Michele, I may be your newest friend, but I love you already.
This just blew me away. I do believe we remain bonded in life and in death, and I would say you will always have a strong loving connection with your sister. You each sent a message to the other never to be forgotten. You, Michele, are amazing, as I’m sure Renee was.
June Tofte

9 Uncle Paul { 05.26.11 at 1:26 pm }

Sweet Michele, honey thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and pictures with us. It was my pleasure to be able to share this special day with you and hold you in my arms as we shared 0ur love and grief about Renee. I testify to you that she lives on in a spiritual form and will always walk and be near all of us if we will only be receptive to her spirit trying to contact us. How special that day was as Renee reached to us through her ashes letting us know that she was well, fine, and happy and that she loved all of us so very, very much. Love you so much Michele.

10 MaryBeth Burton { 06.01.11 at 6:03 pm }

Michele, I stumbled across your blog by finding it on the Ode online website. My life’s purpose is firmly entrenched in making the world a better place and this frequently exposes me to the pain, sadness, and suffering in the world so remaining optimistic and holding onto joy are very important to me. Thank you for sharing the joy in your life with the world, especially with people like me who treasure it so much.

That being said, I am so sorry that you had to say goodbye to your sister’s earthly presence but am not surprised that your outlook enabled you to simultaneously welcome her spiritual presence to your life–and what an amazing gift to have those rocks and that beautiful photograph as a wonderful reminder of her constant presence. A blessing indeed. Hugs to you and your family.

11 ISpyJoy { 06.02.11 at 9:06 pm }

June, thank you so much. You are an angel, too. I’m sure of it.

12 ISpyJoy { 06.02.11 at 9:09 pm }

Thank you, MaryBeth. I am equally touched by you. Hugs to you and yours.

13 ISpyJoy { 06.02.11 at 9:10 pm }

Love you bunches too, Uncle Paul!

14 ISpyJoy { 06.02.11 at 9:12 pm }

Thank you, Santiago. I do have some photos and will send them to you.

15 Melanie Stephens { 08.17.11 at 11:07 am }

Carol- I was one of your clients…just wanted you to know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Melanie Stephens
LaCenter, WA

16 Chris { 08.31.11 at 9:53 pm }

You got it right: love. Thanks for sharing.

17 Emily J { 10.21.11 at 4:12 am }

Wow, thank you for sharing your beautiful experience! I love to hear, how in the most amazing ways, our loved ones reach us! I imagine Renee is reminding many of us (knowingly or not) about the power of love. Thank you !

18 PJ { 02.24.12 at 10:10 am }

reading this a few months short of the anniversary of your sister’s angel-hood, I am guessing you & her other loved ones have ridden the roller coaster of grief, with the ups and downs of memories and missing. This lovely picture, the story, and undoubtedly other ways she has touched your life & heart since, I hope you has brought you comfort. Thank you for sharing such a personal & tender time.

19 ISpyJoy { 02.25.12 at 1:54 pm }

Thank you so much for your kind and loving thoughts. Your timing is perfect. Mom and I were just revisiting this photo and Renee has indeed been in our thoughts this week. Her birthday is just a few days away. She’s been sending lots of love in the shape of a heart.

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