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You may want to read the following story, previously posted on this blog, as background for this installment. The tale of Mavis’ Ladybug below has been excerpted from a chapter in my book, “Good Grief: Finding Peace After Pet Loss”.—Sid
I was blessed to know a phenomenal woman named Mavis Vitums
for more than a decade. There were more times than I could count
when I saw evidence of her doing the work of angels in people’s lives,
my own included. She was the most giving person I think I’ve ever
known. In her sixty-eight years on Earth, she had fostered dozens
upon dozens of children and later gave homes to adults in need of
foster care, including my stepfather Leonard and his mentally
retarded brother Benjamin, who both lived quite happily in Mavis’
home until their deaths in 2001 and 2003, respectively.
After years of battling numerous forms of cancer and heart disease
— after even having died twice in the ER and been resuscitated — she
finally chose to let herself stop fighting and truly transform into the
celestial being I knew she always was on the inside.
However, while she was in hospice care in her nursing home
room, a few days before she died, I had said to her, “Mavis, we have
to work out an important detail. What are you going to send me as a
sign that you’re around and doing all right once you pass? I want to
be able to recognize it.”
She thought a moment and then said with a grin, “A ladybug.
Red with black spots. I think they’re classy.”
Well, she died on September 19, 2007, and I was to perform a
wedding ceremony on September 21. I’d gone into the ladies’ restroom
at the golf course clubhouse in Shakopee, Minnesota, for a
final freshening up before the ceremony was to begin, and when I
reached into a basket of paper towels to dry my hands, I stopped
short because there, atop the stack of towels was a red ladybug with
The members of the bridal party who’d been gathered there waiting
for the big moment said they’d seen it earlier and just thought,
“Oh that’s nice. It’s good luck.”
I told them of Mavis’ promise to send me a ladybug, and they
promptly cursed me out for making them all cry before the ceremony.
I put the bug on my left palm and ran around the party room, showing
as many of the 250 guests and/or wedding party members as I
could find. The ladybug just contentedly sat on my hand, occasionally
stretching its legs and preening but otherwise never budging. I
picked up my note cards and decided I would perform the ceremony
with a bug on my hand. The wedding went off without a hitch; I can’t
imagine where my newfound confidence could have come from!
My husband took a Polaroid picture of this as untampered-with
After about an hour of holding my palm turned upward, though, my
hand started to cramp. I said to the ladybug, “I’m going to have to have
you climb up on my dress, okay?”
As if it understood me, it began crawling toward my chest when I held
my hand next to me and wound up positioning itself on my dress approximatelywhere a brooch would go. It sat there for nearly another half-hour then got a little bit “antsy,” pardon the pun, and crawled along my collar.
I said to it, “Oh, I get it. You have to go now, right? I’ll take you
I placed the bug back on my left palm, where it sat, pouting, legs
tucked in and unmoving. My husband, Anthony, and I went outside
to near the waterfall beside which I’d just performed the ceremony.
The ladybug remained motionless until I said, “I see some impatiens
in the rocks over there. I’ll put you there, okay?”
The instant I’d said that, the bug began crawling up my palm to
the tip of my index finger, just like a trained flea circus performer. I
placed my finger next to a leaf on the purple impatiens plant, and the
ladybug readily climbed onto it. I turned for just a second to hug my
husband and say tearfully to the heavens, “Mavis, you rock!”
When I turned back, the ladybug had disappeared.
Later on, as we were leaving, I saw Stacy, a.k.a. the new Mrs. Jake
Adelmann, racing across the parking lot like a runaway bride, only
she was running toward us. She called out, “Tell your friend how
grateful we are she came to our wedding!”
Now that you’re caught up, back to the current story…Yesterday, I took my four Westies for a walk around beautiful Lake Calhoun here in Minneapolis. As I prepared to get them out of the back seat of my car, I placed my keys on the roof and stopped in my tracks. There on top of my car and right next to where I’d laid my keys was a ladybug.
This has enormous significance because it was another gift sent from the Other Side by my dear, departed friend Mavis Vitums. The timing was incredible, too, because the ladybug showed up on the afternoon of my opening night of “The Dixie Swim Club,” a play in which I play Jeri Neal, currently staged by Expressions Community Theater at the Lakeville Area Arts Center.
A bit more backstory is needed here. A few years ago, just a few months after she died, Mavis surprised me with ladybugs on another opening night at the same venue. This one was during Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap,” in which I played Mrs. Boyle. It was my return to the stage after a long hiatus. I’d gone into the ladies’ room deep within the theater building, and I was greeted by two ladybugs on the bathroom mirror right before I went onstage. (This was late October in Minnesota, it was cold outside and quite well past ladybug season.)
Knowing that my dear, dear friend is still a fan of mine and following my “career” on the stage is both thrilling and deeply comforting to me. Every time she sends me these messages, she reminds me that she is not gone, merely transformed into another form of energy—evidently a form of energy that has a lot of clout with ladybugs!
Thank you, Mavis, for remaining my steadfast friend even after death! My every performance in this play is dedicated to your memory. XOXOX
P.S. Added Monday following the play’s opening weekend: Mavis sent another live ladybug, which landed on and stayed on a barrette on the back of Bonnie Rae’s (Vernadette) head during the show on Saturday night! As I was informed of this on Sunday, another live ladybug flew over our heads in the dressing room and landed on the window above my makeup station! I think Mavis loves the press she’s receiving from this!!!—Sid
I noticed a small spike in viewership of this blog took place on Christmas Day, and I can only guess that’s because the holidays can be both joyful and sorrowful times and some of you needed a bit of support. Perhaps this is your first Christmas without a beloved pet, or maybe you’re aware it will be your last with him or her. Either way, emotions can be magnified during holidays and/or anniversaries. If you are one of those hurting individuals, please accept my sincere condolences and my wish for you—and everyone else—that you’re able to notice signs that your loved ones who’ve passed on are still around you and that their spirit and their love for you never dies. If anyone has had such a holiday experience, please email me at <email@example.com> and I’ll post it here.
In the meanwhile, here’s a wonderful holiday spirit (literally) story for you to enjoy and take to heart:
A month after losing his 17-year-old dog, Lyndsey, a man in Arizona was putting up Christmas lights outside his house, and a beautiful gray pigeon landed on his shoulder, startling him mightily. The bird stayed nearby or on his arm all day. It flew with him to his barn and even pecked on his front door until the man came back outside.
That first night, the bird could be seen watching him from the skylight overhead. It never left the man’s sight for eight days. It even slept on the departed dog’s blanket on porch every subsequent night until Christmas Eve.
Christmas morning, after opening their gifts, he and his family planted 300 bulbs around Lindsey’s resting place. The pigeon was doing her part alongside them, scratching in the dirt. After last bulb was planted, the bird fluffed her wings and flew off, never to be seen there again. Two days later, though, the man’s father called him from his home in Glendale, Ariz., saying, “You’re not going to believe what just flew down our chimney. A gray pigeon!”
The man summed up his extraordinary experience, saying, “It’s nice to think that my old dog Lyndsey…has found a little way to hang around for the holidays and to let everyone know that she is well and looking after us.”
I wish everyone who needs it an angelic visitation this holiday season!—Sid