When the dots get connected

Whether called coincidence, serendipity, conjunction, synchronicity, chance, or accident, all of us have experiences that appear at first disconnected from our world and from reality. Then, days later, sometimes even years later, we “connect the dots” of the shared experience. By paying attention, we notice. What would otherwise have seemed to be random events, we notice how they converge in our lives.

I find such moments of awareness reassuring, and maybe simply because I am alert enough to notice.

Though the law of probability says the odds are there that some things will overlap in our lives. You are thinking of someone, and the phone rings as they call you. You have been looking for a pen and could not find it, and then you look down, and there it is. These events are happening to us all the time, and we simply are not paying attention.

When are they serendipitous?

But there are those occasions where such unrelated events converge and make us consider, “Is this a God Thing?” My cousin would call those mysteries that we place in the mental unknown or mystical pile, due to our limited understanding, a “God Thing.” We often find it beyond explanation and, most of all, find it hard to share the internal process of wonder that opens in us.

It is a moment when we express the “Awe… ”

Like all of us, I have been the recipient of such connections. Some are humorous, awe-inspiring, and beyond explanation, but most of all, allow a sense that something more significant than my finite self is involved in these coinciding movements. All of them are a snap to attention, and I am conscious of them, grateful to receive this message.

 Quite often, they appear random and not connected at the beginning. Then, as time unfolds, there is a connecting thread. In retrospect, we see each event’s pattern woven into our lives, but we are often unaware during the process. A tug at our awareness reminds us again and again that we are the ones living our lives. We are the actual connection.

Sometimes the thread of these events is woven through years and sometimes, seen immediately when you follow an impulse and life tilts to a place, you next to a friend you haven’t seen in years. Events that happen to us, and we make a note of them.

Before falling asleep at night, I practice a retrospective examination. A quick reverse living of the day. You step outside of the lived experience and stand as a witness, watching the day in reverse. You set aside judgments of good/bad and emotional movement and re-member the day. It is a quick review, say a minute or two, and is like an old newsreel run backward. Zip. The day is remembered and done. I mention this not because it is a coincidence, but wonder if this review of the day without judgment and emotion frees awareness. My experience is that it helps to clarify the events that otherwise go unnoticed in the great pile of life experiences.

Connection happens when we pay attention

 I want to share some of these experiences with you. Not because they are mine, but because they are there for all of us. With simple acceptance and allowance for the flow of life, we do not need to question the happenings. We can accept them as gifts of confirmation. In the end, these moments become “God Things,” a reassurance that we are part of a mystery we do not understand. 

Some stories have witnesses, making them more plausible as I do not have to rely on my perspective alone. They cross through years, countries oceans apart, different languages and cultures, death, life, cats, and other random words that don’t seem connected but are in the coinciding events. These seemingly unrelated events are those unexplainable God things that, while I do not understand with my mind, my heart and feelings resonate with their truth.

Connecting to the beginning of this cat tale

I was all set to get my master’s degree in psychology when my husband happened to find some Bengal cats. The Bengal cats’ leopard-like appearance was in high demand. We lived on 5 acres of land in Midwest Ohio and had the facilities to begin working with these cats. He had a degree in Animal Sciences, and mine was in education English, History, and Psychology. We wanted to have a project for our two sons to learn about responsibility and business. These special cats, Bengal cats, seemed the perfect solution. Raising cats was a family project we all would participate in together. But as reality set in, it was clear that breeding these cats was not a simple issue of putting two cats together and producing kittens.

Domesticated Bengal cat
Bengal cat on the prowl

The Asian leopard cat is a small cat found in Indonesia, Thailand, and other Asian countries. A beautiful cat, but not genetically domestic. It is not born seeking human companionship. The Bengal looked like its non-domestic ancestor, and its unique appearance created a high demand. I applied my background in human behavior to the genetics of the cat world—breeding and selecting for temperament, health, and beauty. I needed to be fully responsible for each pairing and placement of kittens—selecting the animals and the proper owners.

My focus was always on creating a loving pet that would enhance the owners’ lives. These cats were going to connect me to people worldwide though, but at the beginning, I did not know this.

I want to share two stories. One begins across the ocean, the other a few miles away.

Serendipity in Thailand

One day, a young person in Thailand, Nuttaporn, contacted me about getting a breeding cat from my lines. As I mentioned, the Asian leopard cat is native to Thailand but does not make a good pet. Nuttaporn wanted to work with the breed and was familiar with the cats. He had seen some of my cats and wanted very much to begin with these lines. We spoke several times, and as he did not speak English and I did not speak Thai, we communicated through his friend. 

As it happened, I had a cat I thought he would like. I made videos and photos and sent the information to him with details, a contract, and what I expected regarding his responsibilities. We concurred on everything, except for one point. It was expensive to ship a cat from the US to Thailand. And the cost of the cat meant that it was prohibitive for a young person. So, I offered to send him a pregnant female, he would pay for shipping, and when the kittens were born and sold, he would send me payment. We made arrangements, and I shipped the cat to him. I felt a kinship with Nuttaporn. It felt right.

The Gift of Trust

A few months later, the kittens were born in Thailand.

I was surprised one day when a package arrived from Thailand. Nuttaporn had sent me a gift as well as the payment. The first was two pins.

Ornate golden pins from Thailand
Thailand golden pins

When the next check came, there was another package. Another gift. This time a porcelain bowl and lid.

Then one more final payment and a gift of beautiful silk material. 

I understood a close bond of friendship across generations, language barriers, and cultures. But a genuine friendship and feeling of “rightness” is the only way I can describe our relationship. Somehow it was serendipitous. There was a reason we met.

Asian porcelain bowl
Beautiful porcelain bowl

I put his gifts in a secretary that was in my library. Whenever I saw the pins and the porcelain dish, I would remember him and the trust I had in him and he in me. Trust that went beyond an understanding of words.

A room for living, a room for dying.

The year is now 2010, and my mother is living with us: my son Jay and his wife, Sami, and Theo, our younger son. At 92, my mother chose not to do chemo or surgery for her brain tumor. She knew that her days were few and wanted to live within the heart of her family.

Our home was certainly that. There was room for my brothers, and extended family members and friends were welcome. We were a house full of laughter, love, tears, and joy. Mom’s days with us were so sacred always, but now even more so as we knew her time with us was limited. 

Her room was the library with a hospital bed and easy access to everything she needed. The library was filled with flowers, and light poured in through the windows, but most of all, a deep sort of sacred awe filled the room. We read from her Bible daily; she would speak of the joy of living and the ones who had gone before her. She was a person of deep faith and did not fear death; she just loved living.

I was with her at her last breath. I had awakened from a deep sleep to relieve my husband and son to sit by her side. She seemed to know I was there. I told her we loved her, she would always be loved, and I would care for everything. She could go. At that, her last breath came.

Connection: the traveling jar

As I helped prepare her body, I removed her and Dad’s wedding bands from around her neck and the gold necklace Dad had given her for their 50th Anniversary. The bands had the word MIZPAH engraved, meaning “May the Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from the other.” Genesis 31:49. For these last few weeks, she had worn Dad’s wedding band around her neck and had always been looking for it; even when she could no longer talk or communicate, her hand would search for the ring.

Bowl from Asia with chain and ring inside.
A special place to keep special things: Serendipity again

I looked for a place to put them that was appropriate to hold what Mom had cherished. In the room stood the secretary. And in the secretary the porcelain jar. Seeing the jar, I placed the rings within and shut the lid. I carried them with me everywhere for that week.

Always, the jar and their rings.

Serendipity again.

Connecting Sparrows

Her graveside service on Sunday was also a day of connection. I shared the story of Mom giving sparrow statues and a verse from the song “His Eye is on the Sparrow” to people in need of prayer. Her mother and sisters had done this; it was a tradition of prayer and grace. As I spoke about the sparrow and Mom, I heard a gasp as family and friends pointed behind me to where a sparrow sat on the family headstone. It seemed to have come to witness this moment.

Connecting Crickets

On Monday, John and I went to the cemetery to bury her cremains.

I felt the pain of loss and sorrow and the responsibility of my last words to her “I will take care of everything.” All day I wondered if I was fulfilling this promise. Kneeling at the grave, I reached into the hole and raised a little cricket from the bottom. The significance of this cricket: my son Jay and his wife Sami had found out she was pregnant right before Mom had died. They had asked Mom two weeks before her death to “watch over Cricket” the nickname given to the life growing within Sami. There the cricket was, in the palm of my hand. 

Found a cricket…. Serendipity again!

Gratitude prayers

Burying the ashes and saying prayers of gratitude for a life well lived had filled most of our day. We left the little town just south of Lexington, Kentucky, and headed home to Ohio.

Connecting the jar, the promise, the wonder

We were exhausted from all the activity and emotions. But I had to check on some things with the cattery before turning in for the day. As I sat by my computer, my phone rang. A foreign voice said to me he had to call me.

I asked him to please send me an email as I could not understand, and we hung up. Seconds later, the phone rang again. I answered, and the caller explained that she was calling for Nuttaporn. They had awakened in the middle of the night and felt compelled to contact me; they had gone to my website to get my phone number, so strong was the need. 

I looked at the jar by my computer

As they spoke, I looked at the jar I had placed by my computer. A deep reassurance and sense of peace filled my heart as I realized the wonder of time, space, language, and trust that there is something far beyond what my senses can comprehend. It seemed to be the transcendence of serendipity.

Nuttaporn sent me an email after speaking with me and finding out what we were going through.

Dear Libbie,

I’m praying for your mother.

With Deepest Sympathy

My sincere sympathy

With Heartfelt Condolences

Our thoughts and prayers are with your mother

She will never be forgotten

The memory of her will always be in your and our heart.

Please accept our sincere condolences for the passing of your mother.

May this call from Thailand and the connection of us, you, and your mother

help console you during this difficult time.

So, I leave you with this thought. We cannot know the threads we are weaving always, the moments that come and go in our lives. I think I was hyper-aware during this time, taken from my normal meandering mind into a state of alert openness. I am working on making this a much more permanent state of being! Meanwhile, I wish you, MIZPAH “May the Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from the other.”

Prior to publishing this, I contacted Nuttaporn to let him know I was sharing this story and to ask his permission to do so.  He very kindly wrote the following. I feel the gift again and again… with so much gratitude. 

A connection renewed

“I remembered around one year after my university’s graduation in 2004, I contacted Libbie about Bengal cats as I really felt the love that Libbie had for all her cats by looking at her website, since there was no Facebook at the time, all the information, pictures and videos showed the quality of the cats and how sweet of temperament they had.  For a young person who did not have a job, getting a Bengal cat and to ship to Thailand was very expensive.  Libbie was very kind to trust and helped to offer a pregnant cat, as mentioned above, to a person across the ocean who she had never met before. Because of the kindness that Libbie gave to me, it also taught me to help and be kind to other people. And I felt the connection between us.

Many years later in one night, I was looking for a new cat for my breeding program, so I went to her website.  Somehow, I felt I should make a phone call instead of sending an email to Libbie, which is the usual way I would contact her because my English speaking is not very well.  So, when I called it was the time Libbie has shared in the story about her mum. 

I think there was a special force that night which inspired me to call her.  I believe that everything that happens in our life has a meaning and purpose why it happened.  There is no coincidence. It was meant to be anyhow. People who are around you such as family, friends, life partner or anyone who you have meet in your life are those who you have met before in previous life or another dimension. This is one of the most beautiful and memorable stories that will be in my heart forever.”

From Thailand, by Nuttaporn Chamnankit

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Libbie is a graduate of Ohio State University where her degree has proven a flexible base for writing, teaching, and exploring life. She facilitates the weekly Sunday eDialogue.