It’s been over a month and I’m still in awe.
Over this past Christmas holiday, my husband, Mike, and I attended a party hosted by one of my dear friends. Feeling warm and festive as I stood on her luxurious back porch mingling with a glass of wine and other guests, I felt a tap on my lower right leg. My conversation came to a complete halt when I looked down to see what startled me. It was then that our eyes met — or should I say our souls?
Standing there was this cute little fair-skinned girl with brown curls who looked to be around three years old. Her wide brown eyes and friendly wave caught my attention. Trying my best not to over-dote, which is what I do best around babies and small children, I smiled and waved back.
“She thinks you’re her aunt” I heard from the sidelines. I glanced over and saw the little girl’s beautiful mother (whose name I later learned was Valeria) acknowledging her own words with a wide-eyed look bigger than her daughter’s.
“What’s her name?” I asked.
“Gigi,” she replied, with the look of awe still in her eyes.
I knew where they were coming from. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been intrigued when I hear people’s interpretations of who they think others look like. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with a mom who was prone to noticing look-alikes, openly sharing her thoughts with total strangers about their uncanny resemblance to a famous celebrity. Or, maybe it’s because in her later years, my mom would verbalize the comfort she felt anytime she saw someone who resembled her beloved parents. I inherited her fascination with doppelgängers, which, as you can imagine, added a special spark to what just happened at the party.
But wait, there’s more.
I looked down at Gigi, who had somehow gotten even cuter since last glance. Her arms were raised and open in what appeared to be an invitation for a hug. I peeked over at Valeria once again for approval.
She nodded. With fresh grief seeping out of her quivering voice, she added, “Her aunt is my sister who passed away four months ago.”
Knowing a heavenly sign when I see one, my heart went straight into overdrive. I wanted to offer them as much comfort and validation as I could.
“What is your sister’s name?” I asked.
“Dina” she sighed, a mixture of sadness and pride in her voice. “Gigi called her Titi.”
I knelt down in front of her sweet daughter and within half a second Gigi and I were in a deep embrace — so much so that she nuzzled her head deep in my neck. Time stood still.
Our long hug, enveloped in the love of God and her dear aunt, prompted me to whisper peacefully in her little ear. “Your Titi is here. She’s with you and she loves you soooo much. She wants to wish you a Merry Christmas.”
Over and over, I kept repeating those words, subconsciously hoping Gigi would feel her aunt’s loving presence. Judging by her increasingly tight squeezes, I knew my heart’s desire had been fulfilled. I kissed her little cheek to seal our special moment.
By then, Valeria pulled her cellphone out, ready to show me a picture of her beautiful sister. I swear my heart skipped a beat at first glance. The same dark, straight hair, same fair complexion and same green eyes shot out from her phone screen. Even Mike was taken aback. As a group of us hovered over the phone, oohing and aahing over the strong resemblance, Valeria’s grief-stricken eyes drew me back in. I hugged her.
“I’m a firm believer that our loved ones visit us through connections like this,” I reassured her. “Your sister is definitely saying hello and wanting to wish you a Merry Christmas.”
With tears flowing, Valeria nodded in agreement, and I knew I needn’t say anymore. It was obvious she understood wholeheartedly the wonderful Christmas gift wrapped as a heavenly hello.
Leaving the party on the fluffiest cloud nine ever, I wondered if Valeria knew what a gift that moment was for me too. You see, in the almost ten years since my parents’ passing, I have always been the one eager to connect the dots, spotting, approaching, and even spilling my guts out with complete strangers who happen to look like my parents. It’s something I’ve always done and still continue to do. But never in my life have I been THE dot.
Now, having been on the other end of this heavenly sign, I can honestly say that being the look-alike is almost as powerful as spotting one. Either way, God’s goodness shines through in those comforting moments so we can feel our loved one’s spirit until we see them face to face in heaven.
I will forever be in awe. Rest in peace, Titi.