And then one day, when I was feeling particularly wishy-washy, a song came on the radio on my way to work that settled it once and for all. The song was “Brighter Than the Sun” by Colbie Caillat. It’s the kind of song that instantly puts you in a good mood. The sun was rising, my radio was turned way up loud, and I sang like I was a contestant on American Idol. And it was then that I knew Callie was the name for our sweet little baby girl. It was all sunshine and happiness and that was the perfect name for the perfect girl.
I think sunshine is Callie’s “thing”. It all started before she was even born. John and I were so in sync when it came to boys’ names. But, girls? We were worlds apart. Since both my husband and I work in education, we had long lists of “DO NOT NAME”s that were automatically thrown out of contention. I rejected all of his names and he rejected all of mine. This went on for so long that I thought we may never find a name. One night, however, as we enjoyed a nice pasta meal John said, “How about Callie?” And, the named warmed me up inside and made me smile. I told him that I liked it and that was it… we tacked on Marie (John’s mother’s middle name) and we had a name! Well, sort of…
I am as wishy-washy as they come. So, naturally, I went back and forth with the name Callie. It’s a big decision after all! I thought of every kind of mean thing a stupid bully could turn her name into. There was “Callie-flower” like cauliflower and, of course, “calamari” if you combined her first and middle names. Not terrible, but still, I wanted a name that was bully-proof and that spoke to the kind of little girl I wanted her to become. Sweet, kind, and full of All-American goodness. Was the name Callie all of those things? I wasn’t sure.
Of course, this is not the only reason sunshine is Callie’s “thing”. First, there was the sunshiny yellow-striped sweater that I wore on the day I went into labor. And later, on the day Callie passed away, we dressed her up in a onesie that looked an awful lot like that sweater… we matched! Callie’s song even before she was born was “You Are My Sunshine” and we sang it to her as a lullaby as we laid her down for her eternal resting place in heaven. I shared my feelings with John the day we left the hospital that, in my mind, sunshine was going to be a symbol for Callie… but I didn’t share that with anyone else, and neither did he.
A few days after we returned home and the news of Callie’s passing had spread, I received this message from a good friend:
“I weep and weep for your sweet Callie. I hope in time the peace of knowing she is with Jesus comforts you both. I didn’t get to meet her on this earth but I met her this morning on my walk. The wind is bitter and cold but I was warmed by the shine of the sun. I know that warmth is Callie smiling on us today. Go out for just a moment today and FEEL the warmth your kind daughter is giving everyone today who mourns her.”
Whoa, crazy! Another connection to sunshine! And then a few days later, a good friend/coworker of mine brought me some sweet homemade sympathy cards from my first grade students. Seeing their cute kid-writing warmed my heart and brought me to tears. And as I was going through the pile, this little sunshine fell onto my lap:
Even crazier! No one had told this little boy that sunshine was Callie’s “thing”, but somehow he had known just the right thing to create to comfort me. Knowing this student and his kind heart makes this gesture even more sweet.
And then, the final sunshiny sign, came after we buried Callie’s ashes a few days prior to her memorial service. We laid Callie to rest behind the cross built in our church’s prayer garden. Later the next day, our pastor informed us that the yellow daffodils near the entrance to the church had blossomed. He dug them up and transferred them to the prayer garden where their sunny presence could mark Callie’s final resting place. We felt like those flowers pushing up through the cold, dark earth during this late winter month were a symbol of the rebirth Callie was experiencing in her new life in heaven.
Because of these reasons, we asked everyone to wear yellow for Callie’s memorial service. The last thing we wanted was for everyone to wear black… too dreary and dark. Callie’s memorial was meant to be a positive and uplifting celebration. I cannot even put into words how wonderful it was to look out across the church sanctuary and find a sea of yellow brightening the space. It was cheery and beautiful and I think it was the perfect touch to help us focus on the celebration of Callie’s life and everything we learned from her. She will forever be our Sunshine Angel.