Rise and Shine

The lady blowing up balloons at the grocery store today was very interested in the way my sister-in-law Laura died.


“Did she have headaches?” Maria asked as she pulled an orange balloon over the helium nozzle. “Any sign at all that her brain was bleeding?”


“She had terrible headaches,” I said. “She even had a brain scan, but it came back fine. A few days later she was dead.”


Maria pointed to her arm to show me her chill bumps. “The same thing happened to my sister’s neighbor, except she didn’t have any headaches at all,” she said. “One day she was fine and the next … gone.”


Jude and I were there to get 6 balloons to release later—it’s something we’ve done every year on the anniversary of Laura’s death and her birthday since she left us three years ago. But just as Maria was tying her last knot, I noticed a big butterfly balloon at the end of a nearby aisle. A true free spirit, Laura loved butterflies and whenever I see one I like to think she’s come to visit me. It felt like a sign, so I bought it, too.


Have you ever tried to load 7 balloons into a trunk while making sure a toddler doesn’t step into traffic? I don’t recommend it if you enjoy a close relationship with sanity. Somehow I managed to get the balloons in the car, out of the car at home and past a variety of rosebushes in one piece, only to do the whole thing all over again when Dom got home.


We drove to a quiet spot on the beach and hadn’t taken 10 steps on the sand before I realized the butterfly balloon was gone. Even though the ribbons were tangled together and the other balloons remained, the butterfly had broken free was soaring overhead.


“Dom, look!” I yelled, and pointed to the shiny dot flipping end over end in the ocean breeze. Dom looked at it, then back at me, and neither of us said anything for a minute. I assumed that he was also reeling from the symbolism … but not so much. A few seconds later, he looked at balloons in his hand and was shocked to find the butterfly missing.


“Of course it’s missing,” I said. “What the hell do you think I’m pointing at in the sky?”


“I thought it was another butterfly balloon,” he replied, laughing. “I couldn’t believe the coincidence.”


And that is totally something Laura would’ve said.


He and Jude kept walking towards the water, pretending to step on each other’s shadows, but I just stood there smiling until that butterfly was out of sight. There she goes, I thought, always heading in a different direction than everybody else and making it look good.


She’d done it again, leaving us long before we were ready to let her go.


Sending balloons to heaven helps keep Laura alive to Jude, who was born 10 days after she died.

Sending balloons to heaven helps keep Laura alive to Jude, who was born 10 days after she died.




  1. Brenda Walsh says:

    Memories of Laura’s infectious laugh rang in my ears when I read Dom’s remark!
    She would have loved it almost as much as she loved you, her family and dearest treasure.
    Brenda W.

  2. You nailed that one !!!!! you are terrific….Keep up the great work !!!

    LOVE TO YOU AND THE TWO MEN IN YOUR LIFE….Texas is still calling …

  3. Perfect, as usual! You always seems to know exactly how everyone is feeling and manage to make me laugh and cry at the same time! Love you!

  4. Must you make me cry so early in the morning? And could that picture be any more beautiful??

  5. Just perfect!! Love y’all!!!

  6. Thanks Danny,
    Great way to start the day. Smiling! 🙂
    Xo, Kim

  7. What a great story!!!! And so true…. She did things her own way .and on her schedule!!!!

    • Cynthia Tenisci says:

      Danny what a beautiful story! When you write about Laura it brings tears to my eyes, not only that she’s gone but what a beautiful life she had when she was with us. Short as it was, she touched so many people. Thanks for the tears!

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