Signs, messages, whatever you want to call them, they are all around us. They tell us which way to drive, the name of a store, where to use the restroom, they even let us know who has the best burgers in town. All these signs have the same meaning to you, me, and Joe Shmo down the street. But that isn’t always the case. Some of the signs I have had in my life recently may not mean the same to you as they do to me. These are signs from beyond this physical world, some you can’t explain, some you can. I do have to have a bit of a backstory I must tell and some details will be spared for my family’s privacy, but I want to make sure you know why these signs mean so much. They have been small signs from my father, but extraordinarily huge to me. Maybe telling my story will help you spot some signs you didn’t notice before. Maybe it will help you acknowledge them. Maybe it won’t make you feel alone. Whatever you think is a sign from someone who has left this Earth, it is. Do not dismiss it to just a mere coincidence. Trust me, it helps with grief.
** Side note: I want nothing good to be associated with 2x2x, nothing. 2x2x was complete and udder trash. Please note, I didn’t type the year out, because to put it plain and simple, it doesn’t deserve any recognition. I know it’s just 4 numbers pushed together, but there is a lot more meaning behind it to me, as I am sure some of you as well. When you see that written throughout the blog, you know what it means.
As most of you know, after many years in the retail industry, my father became a real estate agent. He loved his job. He connected with each and every client and poured his heart and soul into finding them their dream home or making sure they made the most money selling their house. Jim Volk wasn’t one of the money-hungry real estate agents that are cutthroat and that do anything to get ahead. When you hired him, you got a friend for life and someone in your corner forever. He loved his job. He loved helping people.
In June, my husband (David) and I decided we wanted to put our house up for sale in Delaware. We moved there in December of 2017 and shortly after moving there, we realized that the house and the area was not a good fit for us. We decided to wait until the home values raised before we would put the house for sale. Fast forward to June of 2x2x again. After speaking with my father and having him run the comps, we decided it was a good time to start fixing up the house and preparing it to be put on the market. Equipped with a pad of paper and pen, my dad and I walked around the house and into each room one by one. I followed him as he told me what I should do in each room to stage it and prepare it for sale. He loved it until I would challenge him on things, then he’d just get irritated. Call it our family’s love language, irritation, just ask my sister, Megan, she’s great at it. 🙂 Doing that was probably one of the last things we did together outside of the hospital.
Unfortunately, when we officially started to pack and get the house in order in July of 2x2x, my father was admitted to the hospital. In my mind, this was going to be like last year, the doctors will run a few tests and figure out what was going on and, in a week or two, he’d be headed back home. The first few days of his hospital stay I asked him many questions about the house. It made us both feel like things were “normal”. While any admittance to the hospital is serious, it just didn’t set into any of my family’s thoughts that it would turn into this. He was placed on a ventilator. At that point David and I pulled the plug on getting our house ready. Obviously, all my attention was focused on my Dad. From speaking to my father every day, multiple times a day, to nothing was excruciating.
On August 8th, I remember, I was laying on the couch, where I spent my time, worrying and thinking, when I heard – *DING*DING*DING* – My phone went off. It was a video call on Facebook. As I leaned over, my heart skipped a beat. That name hadn’t shown up on my phone for 13 days, “Daddy”. I was confused, was my mom there calling me from his phone? Was his phone lost and someone found it? Was he taking his last breaths and they wanted me to be on the phone? I answered with a bit of hesitation. There was my dad, smiling and saying, “Hi baby, I’m awake!” His voice was weak and raspy. I lost it, I was so happy, I had him back! That day, on my sister’s birthday, he was removed from the ventilator. There was talk about this happening, but it changed every day, every hour even. Of course, when we spoke, he had to ask me about the house and how it was coming along. I didn’t have the heart to tell him we had done nothing because he would have felt so bad for, in his words, “stalling” us.
Fast forward a few weeks, he was moved to a rehabilitation “hospital” and was on the road to recovery. I know brushed over those weeks, but please know it was hard, incredibly hard and very brutal. While he continued to get better, he also kept helping us with the house, directing me from Facetime in his hospital bed. The plan my dad and I made was that as soon as he was released, we would get the ball rolling with listing our house. Well let me rephrase that, as soon as he recovered, we would list. Days turned into weeks; weeks turned into months. Unfortunately, he had an incident that undid everything he worked so hard for. Knowing this, the house was put on the back burner.
He was back on the ventilator. We just took about 450,000 steps backwards in his recovery. After a month he was moved to a ventilator where he was able to be conscious again. When the dust settled, he kept asking every day what was going on with our house and if we had any questions (he wasn’t able to speak but he mouthed the words). I would ask him things like, do we need to repaint this room? Should we change the shower? How do you think I should move the couch for staging the house? He loved it, he loved giving us knowledge about this. I soaked everything up and did everything he told me to do.
During this time, my family and I were on edge every minute of every day. We talked to doctors and nurses and specialists constantly hoping to get some crumb of hope. Unfortunately, he had to have a risky surgery done and we were not sure if we would see him again. As we patiently waited for any update in the waiting room, I walked over to the TV with all the surgeries listed that were going on that day. For anonymity purposes they didn’t show the patient’s name, only a number and the time they went into and got out of surgery, etc. I stood in front of that screen for a while. I held my breath for a second when I saw a familiar time, 11:11. I asked my mom if she knew Dad’s number for the surgery, but she said no. 11:11 is a particularly important number to my family. After my grandfather passed when I was in 6th grade(buried by his house on Thomas Street in West Mifflin) my dad told me whenever he looked at the clock it would be 11 minutes after the hour. Dad said that was always Pap-Pap saying, “hi”. So naturally I did what any girl would do (please not the sarcasm of that last statement), I made sure that my first tattoo I got when I was 19 was a clock face saying 11:11 on my wrist. Please note; I successfully hid that from my parents until I was 26 and I only told them because I was getting married and didn’t want to wear a chunky bracelet with my dress.
After his surgery was successful, we were able to go in the room with him while he recovered. I asked the nurse what his patient number was, and explaining the back story, she was very eager to help us to see if this really was his number. IT WAS! He went into surgery at 11:11. Everyone in the hospital room just stood there and said, “Oh my goodness!” That time on the surgery screen was a sign to let us know he was going to fight through this surgery and survive.
A few days after the surgery, Dad told (well mouthed the words) my mom that he thinks we needed to go ahead and put the house for sale by owner. That was a very big decision for me because part of me thought if I agreed to it, it also was me saying he may never come home. After many talks with David and my mother, they were able to convince me it was a good time. My mom helped me with packing and sprucing up and my sister came over, “helped” pack and took pictures for the listing. David said he would run the open house whenever we decided to have one.
Unfortunately, 5:30 pm on Friday, November 6th came, and my dad took a turn for the worse. My sister, my mother and I stayed the night at the hospital from Friday evening until Saturday morning. None of us slept. We just spent the night as a family. Last time we had done that we were on vacation, a stark contrast to the atmosphere we, the Volks, were currently in. While the reason we were gathered was not a good one, and it didn’t feel enjoyable, it did feel complete.
During the night I decided I didn’t want to do it anymore; I didn’t want to have to worry about the house. I DIDN’T CARE, I kept saying, I didn’t. My mom kept her foot down and told us that it must happen, that we had made it perfect, set the date, and dad was able to see pictures of my house completed. He said he was so proud of me. The last thing Dad would EVER want to do is cause something like that not to happen. David took the reins and put his realtor hat on and hosted the open house the next day, Sunday. By the end of Sunday night, we had 3 offers! I made sure to tell my dad each time one came in since we stayed again all day at the hospital. While there was no response from him, I knew he heard it because I would get the smallest twitch from his finger when I would talk to him.
Monday, November 9, 2x2x came. I hate that date. My mom, sister, and I spent all day with Dad in the hospital room. As you know that is hard because of covid so we were incredibly happy to have that time with him. Unfortunately, the time came he needed to be moved to another location where they were extremely strict with their covid rules. Unfortunately, there was a max of two people only allowed in the room a day, and three of us, so my sister and mom went up first. Around 6:15pm he was moved up to the next floor. I told him what was going on and let him know I would be up later as they rolled him out of the room. I took the somber ride down to the lobby. At 12:00am, I was going to trade places with my sister, that was the plan. It was cold and lonely down there. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I was allowed there, so I hid behind a pole clutching my dad’s belongings, not really sure how to process what really was transpiring.
Around 7:55pm my phone rang, and it scared me. It was David. He said, “We got another offer. This is it. No inspection. No contingency.” I couldn’t believe it, I just told my dad a few weeks earlier that that would be amazing so we didn’t have to worry about anything or any of the back and forth, in fact my mother and I were discussing it a few hours previously in the hospital room. I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders. After I took a breath, reality hit me again, where I was, what was going on. I needed to tell my dad. I called to tell him immediately, my mom and sister put me on speaker phone. While he was not responsive, I still told him about it. After I softly told my dad the good news, I was told horrible news. I needed to get up there before it was too late. But I was too late. He was gone. I was on the elevator up when it happened. My dad breathed on his own for 9 hours. He did it until we got the perfect offer. After I called and told him, he knew his work was done. He could finally be free of pain.
Nothing was easy over the next month. I lost Lily, my 15-year-old Pekingese. She was my life and my world. Everything revolved around her (and of course my dad) for the last 8 months because in March she started to get really sick. 2x2x strikes again, I lost her on Thanksgiving. I was shattered yet again. My heart is cut open from my dad passing, but apparently someone, somewhere wanted to take a knife deeper into the cut, just to make sure it really hurt. All I wanted to do was sleep. I didn’t think about anything else. Yet again, who cares about the closing on the house. I didn’t care.
A few weeks later closing day on our house came. Before we left, David looked at me and said he thinks we should bring my dad. Not sure what he meant, he looked over at my dad’s desk, at his business cards that are still there. I, of course, loved the idea. As we drove to the closing you could just feel it in the air that it was going to snow. As we walked in, I felt sad, not because we are selling the house, but because my other half was not there, my business partner, my helper. But I know he would not lead us into something that we could not handle on our own. After having a seat in the room, David placed my dad’s card on the table. While we waited we discussed where he would be sitting if he were here. On the ride home, David and I didn’t talk much, like I said we were happy, but it was like a puzzle piece was missing. Dad should be there, but he is not.
Finally, the first snowflake fell after I had signed back onto work after our closing (at home worker here). My mom yelled to let me know about the snow. It was beautiful. It was a sign from my dad. Dad LOVED snow; I mean he LOVED it. I know exactly what he would be wearing and what he would be doing had he been with us that day. After looking out the window talking about how excited he was, he’d pull back the curtain and probably rearrange the furniture so he could have a direct view of the snow from his spot on the couch. While sitting there, he would be drinking coffee and wearing a white tee shirt (which if it didn’t already, would inevitably get a coffee stain on it) and his pajama pants on and talking about how cozy he feels. Of course, not forgetting to have a fire going also.
An hour or 2 later while working, I just happened to turn the on the radio. I love music. I love all kinds of it. From classical to rap to country to oldies. Music is a big part of my life and I connect a lot of memories and events in my life to it. So naturally I have been avoiding it, because I was afraid how I would react to it. At that moment something told me to just turn on the radio. After a few songs, the DJ spoke about a song that had been released 30 years ago on this day from the Rain Man soundtrack. Never seeing that movie, I had no idea what to expect so I just continued to work. But then I heard the beat and immediately got goosebumps. The song playing was called “Iko Iko”. I can probably guess that you may not know the song. But the Volk family does. This song never plays on the radio, at least the not the stations I listen to. My dad and I would randomly sing that song all the time. I felt happiness and bliss and joy and I just could not stop the smile. I was singing and smiling so much and kept turning the volume up until it hurt my ears! I screamed for my mother so she could hear it. She didn’t hear me, and I could not leave the room because I HAD to hear it all. I took out my phone to record this moment. This was another sign. As soon it was over, I ran up the stairs so fast, tripping on the landing, but I gained my footing. My mom was baking some cookies for my nephews for Christmas in the kitchen and I told her about it. I played the video for her as the smile grew on her face. She stopped baking the cookies and we talked about how he used to dance to the song. My dad was telling us hi.
Right after, my mom pointed out how much snow had already fallen. As soon as she said that I happened to look in the backyard and across flew a cardinal (yet another sign). I ran to the window and it landed on a branch, stayed there for a while! So, the camera was whipped out and I took pictures. I couldn’t believe it. They say that seeing a cardinal is a sign from a loved one whom has passed. Since I had yet to see one since his passing, I took it as a good sign. He stayed perched on the tree for a few minutes and flew off. That is until about 15 minutes later as I was working, I noticed something outside of the snow-covered window. There, right outside my window the cardinal was there, just hip-hopping a long right by the window. I just sat there and smiled until I snapped out of it to make sure I got a picture to always remember the moment.
Before those events transpired, I had yet to have any type of “sign” since he passed. Something to know that maybe he was thinking about me or he really was around somewhere. Now granted some may say that this was nothing, but at that moment I believed. I felt this feeling, like he was here, he was guiding me and saying we did the right thing by selling the house and saying that he was proud just like he would be if he was still with us on Earth.
Throughout the days after, I would catch myself glancing at the clock at, you guessed it, 11:11. Anytime myself, my sister, or David sees it, we try and snap a picture and send it to each other. I love it. I know he’s just checking in with a quick, “Hi baby” when I see that.
Christmas came. I was dreading this day. As you would guess it was just not the same. My dad was the Christmas king, as everyone knows his love of it. We were all obviously feeling down and were just existing that day, not really celebrating. While I was in the kitchen, David screamed that it was snowing, but I didn’t believe it. It’s Christmas, why on earth would it be snowing, that would be too good to be true. I don’t remember the last time even a flurry fell on Christmas day. So many snowflakes, it didn’t stick, but it was there. It was falling from the sky. It was my dad trying his best to make me feel like he was all around me. I sat outside in the snow alone for 15 or 20 minutes. It felt like I was just hanging out with him like we used to do. It felt good in the moment. I closed my eyes and just tried to etch the feeling and picture in my mind so that maybe I can pull that memory out in the future if I was feeling sad. I just sat and breathed deep. Shortly after, you guessed it, cardinals passed by. Hi Dad! You are on a roll today!
The most recent sign from dad was this week. I went through Dad’s hospital things. I obviously was not looking forward to it. David sat with me and we got through it, not without tears shed by both of us. After I was finished, I didn’t want to just remember him sick, so I decided to look back at my old videos and pictures, and it made me smile. Just hearing his voice. At that moment, I realize I hadn’t heard it since September. It warmed my heart. After reminiscing, I went to take my dogs outside and I flicked the outside light on. Before I say what happens next, here is a back story. My dad put in a red lightbulb out back for Christmas about 2 years ago. He never changed it back. I would always joke with him that it was like we were “open for business”, if you know what I mean. You know, the Red-Light District. He loved that it annoyed me. 😊 After I flicked the light on for the dogs, it didn’t turn on all the way, it just flickered constantly. That NEVER has happened before. I stared in amazement and the goosebumps came. Naturally, I took out my phone. I always and forever want to remember these moments as well as want to share them.
From now on, my eyes will be open, all my senses will be heighted, just trying to find things, occurrences, whatever it maybe, to help me smile, to help me cope. For a split second when I see or hear something, I feel him with me, in my soul, and in my heart. My dad never wanted me to feel sad, but with him gone, he knows I will be a lot. His work is cut out for him to keep me happy with the signs, but I know he is up for the challenge because he loves me so much. Look around you, see if you notice anything, it just may be someone dear to you letting you know they are near.
**Sign image from: https://www.mercedesoflittleton.com/blogs/1765/fun/history-traffic-signs/
Hi Abby! Your mom and dad were good friends of mine many years ago in Columbia SC, where I worked with your dad at Rich’s. I spent a LOT of time with him before your mom and Megan joined him. In fact, I hosted a baby shower for them before you were born! I had reconnected with him not long ago, and he talked about you and his family with such love! I will always have such warm memories of those times, and he will always hold a special place in my heart. And never doubt the signs!
Hi there! I read this comment to my mom and she had the biggest smile on her face. Thank you for this. I am so glad you got to reconnect before his passing.
I just read your story, and, ironically, my number also is 11:11!!!
I am from Duquesne, too.
Sorry for your loss, but as you said, they are always with us.
Thanks for sharing. 💜
Abby, I cannot express adequately in words what an amazing blog you have written. Your work, in itself, is a sign from your beloved father. I know he would want you to keep writing!
So well written, lovingly and softly. I lost three good friends this past year, one most likely from Covid just before the lockdown hit. Then in early November we lost our dear kitty of 15 years due to cancer; he so loved Christmas so this year’s tree lost some of its sparkle. I keep finding feathers, which are supposed to mean a loved one who is no longer with us visited. I love finding them. God bless you in your sorrow.
Thank you for sharing. I do believe in signs also. Keep on writing, you have your dad’s gift. Really enjoyed it. Your dad is with you and is very proud.
I cried along while reading this beautiful story. I never realized Growing Up would mean leaving them behind .
Thank you for sharing.
What an absolutely beautiful tribute to your father. I had to read every word you wrote, because what you wrote was so moving and powerful. Thank you for sharing these special memories with all of us. Your Dad and I weren’t close, although we knew each other growing up — going to Serra HS and living two blocks away from each other — the Volks on Martin St and we Ragans on Goldstrohm Lane.
Thank you for sharing that with us. I know your Dad is glad you are keeping up his work.
Knew most of the Ragans..Great family!!
What a wonderful tribute to your Dad. You write every bit as well as he did. Prayers for you and your family.🙏m
So beautiful, so touching, so caring. Reminded me of signs I get occasionally from my mom. Always welcome seeing cardinals. Thank you for carrying on his blog!
Hi Abby:This was very, very touching. I personally didn’t know your father (I graduated from Duquesne in 1957) but LOVED reading his posts.My mom’s birthday was Christmas Eve and I know how different holidays are when your loves are no longer here with you. BTW, I usually have around 10 to 15 cardinals on my deck a lot of times!!! I agree with you, they are loved ones visiting and I make sure to smile and thank God.Have a Good New Year,Lillian Kelly
Your dad would love that you are looking for signs to remember him. I hope you continue to find them and that they bring you comfort.
Your doing your Father proud. Guess it was time for another eye wash for me, Thank You.
“All in the universe are bound together by strong forces…WE are of stardust”
Such a deep and abiding love ….so enviable.
Very nice article I always loved reading your dads news letters it was like being back living in Duquesne again God Bless you and your As for signs from loved ones who have passed on i experience them especially when i am struggling through things and most of the time it is the red cardinal that is around me or the smell of flowers (my mom loved flowers)
Thanks for sharing and reminding us the signs are there if we only let our soul accept it.
Crying tears if sadness and joy for you and your family… Know so well the loss that you experience. Thank you for sharing. Hugs…
Amazing. Brought back all the memories and feelings we had on our roller coaster ride. I sure do miss him.
Ps. Don’t think I missed those remarks about me in there….
Very well written with emotion. I hope you carry on your Dad’s blog.