The Picture on Google

As many of you know, my sister Mary Ann passed away in early December. She was my only sister and my best friend. She was diagnosed with cancer the day before Thanksgiving and she died ten days later. Her death was a shock for all of us who loved her. (I wrote about her death on my post for January 9, 2017).

About two weeks after her funeral, my nephew’s wife wanted to verify my address. So she googled it and up came the street map with my house clearly marked. But on the left there was a small oval marked “street view.” She clicked on that, and to her great surprise, this picture appeared.

It is a picture of my sister and me walking on my street. According to the caption, the picture was taken in September 2013, but it wasn’t posted until 2016. I remember clearly the day it was taken. As Mary Ann and I were walking in the neighborhood, we saw the Google car with the 360 degree camera on top coming towards us. I said to her, “There’s the Google camera, Mary Ann. It’s taking our picture. Someday we’ll be famous!” Then I forgot all about the incident. Three years later, the picture appears on Google right after my sister dies.

As soon as I saw the photo, I started to cry softly. But my tears were coupled with joy, for the picture brought me immense consolation. I felt as if my sister was saying to me, and to all of us who loved her, “I am walking with you still.”

I made a copy of the picture, framed it, and set it on my desk where I can look at it often. The picture recalls the many times Mary Ann and I walked together—in my neighborhood, in her neighborhood, or in a park. But more than that, the picture reminds me that she walks beside me even now.

Here is a little prayer I wrote based on this picture. Perhaps you might be able to say it to a loved one of yours:

My beloved one, you have preceded me in death. While you were being born into eternal life, I could only watch helplessly and tearfully. Your leaving left a hole in my heart that no one else can fill. Your leaving left me to walk the rest of my earthy life without you.

But I know you haven’t left me. Not really. At times I sense you are walking beside me, bestowing comfort and encouragement. Even the pain of my grief is a gift from you, for it reminds me of the strength and depth of our love that nothing—not even death—can destroy. Beloved one, please continue to guide my steps here on earth until we walk together again in eternity. Amen.

The song for today is called “I’ll See You Again” by Westlife. Perhaps you can pray the words of this song to someone you’re missing…

What do you think… about this reflection… this song… Do you ever sense a deceased loved one is near you? I invite you to respond below.

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  1. Kathleen Magiera on August 7, 2017 at 5:45 am

    What a beautiful reflection Sr. Melannie!

    Yes, I think our beloved ones can still walk with us even in death. I have a sense that they still pray for us especially when we are in great need.

    God bless.


  2. Radda Leong Gray on August 7, 2017 at 9:38 am

    Dear Sister Melanie,
    Thank you for sharing authentically. May our blessed God and the many Angels and Saints, earthbound and Heaven dwellers, continue to help us on our Paths on Earth as we make our way back to the Beloved.

    In faith. Keeping the Light on,

  3. Patty on August 7, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Dear Sister – Prayers for you. May these words, by Sister Joyce Rupp, bring you solace: “God never sends us where He is not already waiting our arrival.”

  4. Sue on August 7, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Sr. Melannie,

    Thank you so much for this timely reminder. Today is the anniversary of my father’s death and I still do miss him so very much.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 7, 2017 at 12:59 pm

      Dear Sue, My sympathy to you on the anniversary of your dear father’s death…I fully understand that you still do miss him very much… Sr. Melannie

  5. Skip Meadows on August 7, 2017 at 10:09 am

    This is so beautiful and comforting at the same time. I can’t imagine losing one of my sisters. I hope you can feel the hugs I’m sending you. love, Skip

  6. Bobbi on August 7, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Thank you Sister for sharing that with us. I believe they let us know they are with us too!

  7. Betty Nagel on August 7, 2017 at 10:26 am

    Melannie, As always your words are insightful and touching. What a blessing for you having the picture of you and your sister being published so unexpectedly and 3 YEARS LATER, and for it being “found” so unexpectedly. God is so good!
    I have a picture of me with my parents that was taken on a visiting day when I was in the convent in Chardon. My parents were 50-something at the time. They look great, and this is how I picture they might look in heaven. Quite often, I look at this picture when I am praying in the morning, and I invite them to pray with me. It is a mystery how we can feel connected to our loved ones, but I believe it’s a great gift from our loving God. God is good, very good!

  8. Carolyn Shalhoub on August 7, 2017 at 10:28 am

    What a bittersweet surprise to see the picture of you and your dear sister on Google Earth! I lost my sister to cancer five years ago on July 27. She was my only sibling. For a while after she died I kept winning prizes at events which I attributed to her. I often think of her when I want to share some family gossip or just what is happening on our favorite TV shows. Holidays have been very hard but I do feel her near from time to time and ask her to help me in life challenges, like I know she would have if she was on this side of the veil. I guess we will just have to keep doing our work here, knowing they wait for us. Thanks for posting this today.

  9. Sr. Regina Hlavac on August 7, 2017 at 10:51 am

    My parents are so present to me everyday from heaven. Their presence is so tangible and real. Sometimes they show themselves to me through butterflies, birds and several signs of nature which they loved so much. Thanks, Melanie, for your words, songs, prayers, etc. I love receiving your Sunflower Seeds. You are amazing and I am grateful.
    Sr. Regina, Daughter of Charity

  10. Mary Fran on August 7, 2017 at 11:23 am

    Dear Melannie,

    So glad you were able to share this.

    Mary Fran

  11. john hopkins on August 7, 2017 at 11:31 am

    Dear Sister Melannie,

    What a beautiful consolation! So much more than a coincidence! Yes, your sister walks beside you still. As I write these words, the song you picked is playing, and my eyes are welling.

    God bless you!

  12. Kari on August 7, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Sister Melannie,

    Thank you for this very timely post, I lost my Mom a week ago today. She is the person who influenced who I am the most, especially in my faith. She battled Alzheimer’s for over 10 years and I thought I had already said goodbyes to the woman I knew as my Mom but when she passed I realized we aren’t ever really prepared for that.

    Your words will help me through this difficult time. I lost an earthly mother but feel I have gained an angel.

    May you continue to feel your sister’s presence in concrete ways through the years. Thank you for your blog.


    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 7, 2017 at 12:53 pm

      Dear Kari, My deepest sympathy to you on the recent death of your dear Mom. I’m sure my readers and I will remember her and you in our prayers… Grief is a strange thing. It hits us when we least expect it–or after we thought we had no tears left… I pray you are gentle with yourself as you mourn your mother’s death… Sr. Melannie

  13. Anne on August 7, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    What a timely reminder. I was having a sad day. My husband died a few months ago and I know he is with me everyday.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 7, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Dear Anne, My sympathy to you on the recent death of your husband. I promise my prayers for him and for you. I’m sure my readers will join me in this prayer… Sr. Melannie

  14. Marian carter on August 7, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    Dear Sister:
    I read your blog every Monday, and i’am encouraged by your words. I too lost a sister, in February of this year. We were always close and talked just about every day, and spent many days together since we were children. She also was my best friend. Our family are grieving over losing a special person, but we know she is with Jesus. Thank for always touching our lives in such a positive way.

  15. Jill on August 7, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    Dear Sr. Melannie,
    This is also a very timely post for me, and I thank you. I lost my oldest sister (and dear friend) quite suddenly in June and the grief is something I have never experienced. I recalled your post from January and have read it a few times in the past several weeks. I have been praying for my sister and your sister, as well as you and your family, as I know we are feeling similar emotions from these great losses. The song and lyrics do help. I pray she is with me.

  16. Nancy on August 7, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    My good friend passed away and his funeral is Wednesday. He and his wife had been married 60 yrs. Your prayer is so timely and I will pass it on to her. God bless you.

  17. Jan on August 7, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    What a gift!! They continue to walk beside us every day.

  18. Rose Anne Ryken on August 7, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    Thankful for your sharing. The other day I was going through a little book of blessings and found a note addressed to me from my husband. It was a beautiful reminder he is with me as I had never seen this note before. What a gift you are to all of us!❤️

  19. anita compagnone on August 7, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    An amazing and heartwarming account. sometimes in stressful times I wonder where is God? Are my prayers going unheard? Stories like this enrich my faith that God is right there and willing to let us know we are not alone.

  20. Colleen on August 7, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Sr. Melannie,
    Thank you for sharing this story. It gave me goose bumps. I think our loved ones send us special messages… we just have to watch for them!
    I pray to my parents every day and I like to think they are watching over me and my entire family. That picture is a special gift!
    Love, Colleen (McFarland) Schuster

  21. Annie on August 7, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    How beautiful! Your story brought tears to my eyes.
    Hugs of sympathy to you.

  22. Sister Pat Sipan,SND on August 8, 2017 at 10:26 am

    What an amazing miracle for you to find that special picture.
    Thanks again for helping us realize that we are one universe and
    our loved ones are with us ( though we continue to struggle in grief to sense them in their other dimension of life) Thanks for your sensitivity to
    all those in loneliness and pain.

  23. Melannie on August 8, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    I knew as soon a I saw the name “Mary Ann” that I’d probably have tears before I reached the end of the blog. Yet it brings me happiness to learn more about your very special relationship with her. It is so uncanny that this picture would arrive when it did. In addition to all your beautiful words about how she still walks with us, I am reminded about how seemingly ordinary times with loved ones can become so precious. I see Mom every time I look in the mirror so I know she is always with me.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 8, 2017 at 9:10 pm

      And every time I look at you, Melannie, I see your Mom… Readers: Melannie is Mary Ann’s daughter, my niece…

  24. CHenry on August 9, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Sister Melanie,
    This post really hit me as well…I often feel the same way about my Grandfather, that he is “walking” with me. He used to teach me to look down at the street in the hopes of finding spare change. To this day, when I do pickup a coin, that’s his spirit “walking” with and guiding me.

  25. Nancy Connor on August 9, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    What a comforting column and beautiful song. Thank you, Sister Melannie.

  26. Madeleine on August 9, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Blessings, thank u for this wonderful sharing. With the past fewmonths two sisters & a good friend passed on. Your choice of music was right on! Many thanks. Prayers to all

  27. Marie Barth on August 10, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Yesterday was my 59th wedding anniversary, and once again we celebrated apart as my husband died in Jan. 2016. We will celebrate together again when the Lord calls me home.

  28. Jean Canatsey on August 12, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Dear Sr. Melannie,
    Thank you for the beautiful reflection on love and the reminder that love never dies. Our oldest grandson, Jason, committed suicide 4 yrs. ago this September. My husband and I read this together this morning and listened to the beautiful song with Jason’s mother, Lynda, who now lives with us. I don’t know his widow, Sarah Ann’s, email but I shared it on Facebook with a note to her. I know she is struggling.
    Please remember Lynda, Sarah Ann and her son, Baleighan in your prayers.

    • Melannie Svoboda SND on August 12, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      My deepest sympathy to all of you on the death of Jason. I can’t begin to imagine your pain and loss… I’m sure others who read your words, will be holding all of you in special prayer too. Sr. Melannie

  29. Georgia Auckly on August 13, 2017 at 9:27 am

    Dear Sister Melanie,

    I love this reflection. It brought to mind one of my favorite quotes: “There is no such thing as a coincidence, it’s a miracle in disguise.” I couldn’t find the source of this quote. I too feel like our loved ones walk beside us even after they die. I lost my husband of 47 years and I feel like he is still with me, helping me with little concerns in daily life.

  30. Janet K on August 13, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Dear Sr. Melanie,
    May husband died after a prolonged struggle with cancer in May 2016.
    During that summer after he died we were checking out different properties just to see what other family homes looked like from Google maps. Well, at my husband’s parents property there was a picture of my husband and his dad. My father-in-law died 2013, one week before my husband’s diagnosis. The photo took our breathe away. And my car was there as well, just a reassuring reminder that we were always supportive of his parents. And that father and son are together with The Lord.
    Thank you for sharing your story. Blessings.

  31. Dutchie Brandon on August 15, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    What a thrill it must’ve been for you to see this picture of you and your sister on Google! Thank you for your beautiful prayer and song. My husband of almost sixty years passed in February and I certainly identify with your grieving. I feel his presence and his guidance in many unexpected ways. I love it!

  32. sister Marilyn T.Sabatino on August 16, 2017 at 9:26 am

    Dear Melanie……I understand your experience of loss and your dear sister still walking beside you through life….August 6th was the 59 anniversary of my father’s death…new life in Christ…still the ache is in my heart…yet joy at his …no more pain and suffering. Several times in my life I hear his voice call my name and I even turn around at the sound of his voice….and I know my dad walks with me… I wish you blessings in your walks with your sister…..

  33. JOANNE ROVIARO on August 20, 2017 at 5:15 pm


  34. Carol Kapostasy on August 22, 2017 at 9:28 am

    Look at all the posts! Wow…did this speak to me! I, too, lost my only sister to cancer. We had four years to make the most of our limited time together. As her caretaker to the end, that experience taught me to create this mantra that shapes each and every day…”live life with few, if any, regrets”. So much of our daily life does not afford us any ” do overs” so I work hard to not “blow it” with the people and situations I am blessed to encounter each day. When God calls me home, I want to be able to face Him with the knowledge I took advantage of as many opportunities that He gave me.

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