Two signs

By Adria Martin

We ordered pizza that day because we were celebrating 10 years of marriage. Ten! Quite a lot...if you think of it. My husband bought my favourite Ice Wine the other day, to celebrate properly. 
The pizza man came and the pizza was Devine, as usual: double cheese, ham, bacon, mushrooms, green olives. We tried different pizza shops, but we were always disappointed. Once you taste this pizza, you never like any othere. It’s juicy, tasty, and crispy. All you would dream of in a pizza is there! We talked to some friends while having pizza. Sitting on the couch, on the coffee table where the iPad was we talked with them on Facetime, just like I was seeing once in some news where you can have dinner with family living in another corner of this world in a restaurant provided with big screens in front of the table. It was just like being there! As usual, we talked about what we did lately, what they did lately. My husband mentioned Rudy and we started to tell stories about him, how he took us to the University where he was teaching the last time we saw each other. We were visiting New York City and on our way back we finally reached to Connecticut, after many years of planning to see each other. Many times he said he will come to Toronto to see us, but he never made it. It was a long drive and he was not getting any younger. To our surprise, his big house was full of things that were memories to him: pants like Elvis had, the sweater knitted by his first wife, the only one who really loved him and not his money. He had a large backyard and made barbeque for us. Hamburgers and hot dogs. I can still see him happy that we dropped by. It was the first time I was seeing closely and African Grey parrot. Cicca was somehow talking and doing parrot tricks for us. In the afternoon she was allowed to fly freely in the room. She loved watermelon and other fruits. “She’s the only one who loves me and doesn’t leave me”, said Rudy, with a funny sad smile. It’s from Rudy that we discovered a great cheese called Pecorino Romano. He gave us a piece and my husband was making jokes that he gave him such a small piece of cheese. But for Rudy this was considered delicatessen! This cheese is not cheap at all. Based at Rudy’s house, we had day trips to Rocky Neck beach and to Boston. Boston is wonderful to visit. After a long day when we hunted the red line (there is a red line panted on the pavement to guide the tourists find the attractions in the city), we stopped to a place, a kind of shop with a small Italian delicatessen department. In the left side of the shop you could buy sandwiches and in the right side you could buy Italian gourmet. They had Pecorino Romano as well, so we bought a large chunk for Rudy as well. It ws not cheap, but not so expensive either. We bought some sandwiches and I was amazed by the way they did it here, no mayo, no margarine! Just poured from a sqeeze bottle some olive oil with herbs. Then he layered on a submarine bread lots of cheese slices and different kinds of ham. I was either too hungry or the sandwich was incredibly good prepared this way.
So we were unfolding these memories to our friends in Philadelphia via Facetime, from our own couch-that was a November, Thursday. You could not talk about Rudy and not smile, he was such a funny man, always cracking a joke here and there. I love people with a sense of humour! 
For some time, I haven’t heard from Rudy. We used to call each other regularly or talk over the Internet. Next day I felt an urge to call, but, caught with all sorts of chores, I forgot. Same next day and all the weekend. On Monday I called to put an end to my urge. I left a voicemail. Several hour later  the phone was ringing back. On the display it said: Rudy. But, to my surprise, at the other end I heard a voice of a woman. That moment I knew something happened to Rudy, he was either dead of bed ridden.  It was his old time friend, calling back to say that Rudy died on Thursday afternoon. Exactly when we were talking about him with our friends. Somehow his spirit connected to ours and we got the message, but not the right one: that he died. 
He died while talking on the phone with a friend. His friend didn’t get any answer at one point and panicked that something happened. He jumped in the car and went to Rudy’s house to see what had happened. The door was locked so he went in the backyard to look through the window, to try to knock to the back windows. Rudy was leaning on the table. He called 911, the broke the door and found out that Rudy was already dead. 
The news came like a thunder shock for us. Rudy seemed an ageless person, he was the type of person who you’d think would bury us all and still survive. Was that it?! I mean, no goodbyes, no sick time in bed to get used to the idea of death...Frankly, I guess no matter how long before you might know, when death comes, you’re never prepared...because you don’t know what’s after..if there is something. The idea of heaven is appealing to all...the idea of nothingness or the idea of hell are frightening. My father used to say: “nobody came back to tell us how it is after death”. Well..sort of. Some had clinical death, out of body experience...and they told us some about leaving the body!
I called my friends to let them know. All our friends knew about Rudy, as I was often talking about him. I asked Rudy’s cousin, who came from another city for the funeral preparation and was living in his house if Rudy’s relatives from Italy were told about his death. He said they don’t speak Italian and couldn’t call them. So I called a friend in Italy, one who knew and met Rudy two years ago when they met for the first time. I introduced him to her. So she called the relatives to let them know about this tragic news.
My brain could not process the news! I called my husband and found not tact at all to give him such a bad news. I simply told him” Rudy died”. Then he asked me how and could hardly find his words to say something. Soon the tears came to release some of the tension in my brain. Later, while my body was trying to process the news, the tears were accompanied by bouts of shouts: Why?! How?! We never got to say good bye! Why didn't I call him earlier last week?! 
My husband is a man with ideas, that and his outstanding sense of humour attracted me most at him. He comes with very good ideas at the right time. He thought I was devastated and came up with the idea to buy pizza for dinner, so I was not forced to cook dinner in this state of mind. This was we could talk about this awful news and maybe release some of the tension. That evening was dedicated to Rudy. We lighted a candle and remembered so many things Rudy said or did in time. We met him over 10 years ago. One you met Rudy, you could never forget him! He was no ordinary human being. His life was rich and bubbly. He was born in Italy from an Italian father and American mother. His father was well off in a village in the Alps Mountains. He showed me pictures from his trip there and the landscapes were breathtaking. When his father died, his mother came back to America. Rudy was about 14 years old by then. He had a hard time adjusting because all he ever knew was the village in the Alps. His life was very hard and his mother was struggling to make the ends meet and put some food on the table. But with ambition and perseverance, he worked his way up to being a medical doctor: he was an eye surgeon and a teacher at the local University. Rudy was saying that in America he feels Italian and in Italy he feels American. His soul was floating in between these two countries.
The next morning I woke up in disbelief and denial...maybe it was a bad joke, maybe he hasn’t died, maybe I had a nightmare. I called Rudy’s cousin and asked him not to pick up the phone because I want to record Rudy’s voice from his answering machine: “Hello, this is Dr. B speaking. I can’t come to the phone right now, but if you could leave me your phone and a brief message, i will call you back”. Uncontrollable tears were running on my cheeks while hearing his voice. Somehow my brain could not grasp the idea that I can hear the voice of someone who just died. I looked through some voice mails that I saved in my computer and found one of his. I played it and replayed it for an hour. What do I have from Rudy, besides many beautiful memories?! A leather small purse, like a walled that he brought from one of his many trips in exotic places. He had sent it to me 6 years ago. Then I had an elegant set of dictionaries, all with hard cover, red cover, with the letters printed in gold. He bought it for me as he knew I love to write and English is my second language.  Another time he gave me a gold plated writing set with a pen and a mechanical pencil. I never used it for writing as it was way to beautiful to write with such a beauty! I kept it like a treasure somehow and brought it to me in Canada. Later on he sent me a book that he read, by an author that he liked. Louis L’Amour. Rudy loved to read and he was always quoting some things from his books. When he came to visit us once he gave us a CD collection, a compilation of songs he liked. We instantly got in love with one of the Italian songs called “ Non ho l’eta”, could be translated “ I am underage”. And the story goes like this: a girl, probably under 18 Years Old fells in love with an older man and she tells him to wait for her to grow older, because she’s too young to have a relationship with him. The song is incredibly beautiful and won the first prize to San Remo music festival in the sixties. San Remo is an annual music festival in Italy where they have guests and participants from all Europe. What else do I have from Rudy?! Memories...abundant memories...
My husband searched for his song and played it for us to remember Rudy...Non ho l’eta. My husband remembered Rudy saying , while we were listening the song together that there is no proper English translation for “se tu vorrai aspettarmi”, which would mean” If you would want to wait for me”...but in a much sweeter and romantic way said than this rough translation.
After several days I was able to look for the things he gave me and touch them. A wonderful human being gave these to me as gifts! He’s no longer with me! I can’t call him and talk for hours about all a human mind can conceive! He was a very close friend. Sometimes he was calling me to tell me he is depressed and lonely. He was living alone for years by now. We talked and made fun of everything, and usually ended up in a cheerful mode. He used to say” you always make me laugh and how come I feel much better and less guilty about some things I did in life after talking to you?”.  We hardly spoke of religion, God, Jesus and afterlife. But I remember when I was mentioning to him about afterlife, he was saying” trust me, there’s nothing after death”. I said: “Rudy, what if there is? What will you do then?”. He never had any doubt about death being the definite end of everything. So, being a believer in God, I wonder how Rudy handled the afterlife. I guess he was in a state of shock to see he’s dead and still alive, in another form somehow...His mother, father and other relatives must have waited for him at the gates of afterlife...Or so I imagine. Whoever knows?! I haven’t been there to come back with the belief that there is something after death. But this is my belief system and support and don’t know any better. So far it has helped me throughout life.
Next time I was dusting in my bookcase, I found the book and a wave of memories and feelings flooded my soul and mind altogether! I am touching the same book he touched and read...Isn’t that amazing?! I sat on the couch and an idea came to my mind. Maybe it was inspired by Rudy itself! What if opening the book randomly I can find a message from him?! What if he put a piece of paper with a note inside? I never read the book as he told me, so it was possible that he wrote something, as he wrote on a note for other gifts that he gave me. This is an old fashion way of gifting something, you were writing something on the first page of the book. So I opened the book in excitement and eagerness, randomly. I always expect the message to be on the left page in the first paragraph when I do this. Nothing meaningless was there for me to read....I hugged the book, looked at the cover of the book and caressed it. Rudy! Such a wonderful friend! A voice in my head said: he is still your friend, but now you have connections above, in the afterlife in him. I was so much of Rudy’s style of joking. Then I was looking for a sign, a small note or something...To my hugs surprise, there was one, even though it was not the sign I was looking for!!! A toothpick used as a bookmark. I read the first lines on the left page (page 6): 
“done to the others, he still possessed spirit and strength. “if they get there!” he said cynically. “This lot knows little of fighting and less seafaring. It will be a God’s wonder if they do not drown all of us”
Tears came to extinguish the blaze beneath my was clearly a message from Rudy, from afterlife!  It contains keywords that I am able to figure out.
 In the book’s words he is saying” he is a spirit and possesses strength”. “Cynically” is a sort of ID, a personal mark...Rudy was very cynical at times. “God” in the text above means I was right, there is a God out there. And “It will be a God’s wonder if they do not drown all of us” might mean a lot of things..such as...there is still a judgement to be made on him or his life...
I was so happy I could fly!!! Yessss, Rudy gave me sign!!!! Incredibly, right?! Fantastic! Still, my soul has a mind of his own and feels it’s true and possible. My mom gave me lots of signs after she died as well.
Meantime I was writing back and forth messages to Rudy’s cousin, a lady that I never met but with this tragic occasion, Rudy’s death and funeral. I made a video with music and pictures of Rudy, with pictures from his house, pictures of his parrot, Chicca, that I took in our last visit to Rudy, some pictures I took in his house with all his diplomas he had hanged all over the walls, and a picture of his obituary page from the funeral house he was in until the day of the burial. I chose a heaven like song, with bird chirping and smooth playing piano. While browsing through my music to see what I can use, I ran into “Heart of Gold” and said to myself that this is how Rudy was: a heart of gold! I didn’t want to use any music that had lyrics, not to distract from watching the pictures while the video was running. So I didn’t use it but kept on playing it while working on this video. The video turned out great and I sent it to his relatives and friends. I was told it was played at the funeral house for him. We couldn’t reach to the funeral on such a short notice, but we sent a beautiful flower arrangement, blue and white flowers with a huge blue ribbon. So somehow our presence was there, through these two things: flowers and video.
Little by little, day by day, night by night, my mind found some comfort in the idea of Rudy being transformed from my soul friend to my guardian angel friend. We used to call each other “twinnie”, because we were very much alike, like twins and both born in June, in Gemini sign of horoscope.
One night I received an e-mail from his cousin. She was writing about missing Rudy, especially on the Thanksgiving day to come. She was saying that Rudy died in the fall, when leaves are all golden and that Rudy had a “Heart of gold”. While reading this...I was in a state of shock. Could this be another sign from Rudy? The second one?! This time “heart of gold” was like a key word/phrase for me. More, they were in quotes, like requiring special attention and care when being grouped, somehow like saying “keep them grouped this way when inserted in the text....While checking the news with my heart, I had the confirmation...yes, it was Rudy’s way of saying hi to me, of bringing into my awareness the fact that he is a spirit out there in this universe watching over me. He’ll be there at the gates of afterlife when I’ll come, together with my parents and grandma, aunts and cousins. After your first half or life, so many people in your life died that if you admit there is an afterlife, you have more beloved people there than here! So you feel pulled somehow sentimentally to that side as much as to this side of life.
Greatly enthusiastic, quite happy I might say, I thought I need to share this and told his cousin that I received a message from Rudy through her e-mail to me and explained the “heart of gold” connection. She never wrote back. Maybe she was just a messenger to deliver Rudy’s sign to me. Then why would she write back?! I admit...if you don’t believe in God and afterlife, you might think some people like me are a “nuts case” as Rudy used to say. But what I know deep in my heart, in the very core of my being, can’t be hashed by any materialistic and realistic view of this life I am living. I am a happy human being. Why would I want to change this by flipping my belief in a Devine force, in  a Devine source of life and Creation into a dull, senseless, aimless materialistic view of life?! Yet, somehow, even if Rudy was an atheist, there was this love and light in him and surrounding him that only a chosen spirit can have while being incarnated. I’m happy to have met had have as friend such a wonderful human being. When I say wonderful, I don’t mean that Rudy didn’t have his little bads too, here and there, that I will not mention here, but they were part of him. They came with the package, goods and bads, like for all of us. But his goods were way bigger and draw all the attention in the world. Since his life among us, mortals, ended, I learned something...Really...what can you learn from death?! From the death of a beloved human being?! Is there anything to learn?! I guess so...and one of the things I learned is this: love between souls survives death...As Rudy would say “we will prevail” prevails everything.
- Based on a true story –

December 8, 2012