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JERRY DAVICH: As 'significance junkies' we search for meaning in rainbows, sunbeams and angel signs

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After Lee Zunica’s death on March 4, 2021, his wife waited for some kind of sign from the afterlife.

Weeks went by, then months. No message from heaven arrived, as she had hoped.

“I just wish we could have a sign from dad that he is OK,” Carol Zunica kept telling her children.

Her religious family believes that one day they will all be reunited through their faith and love of Jesus Christ. But a sign of some kind would have brought her the solace she deeply needed while mourning.

As 'significance junkies' we search for meaning in rainbows, sunbeams and angel signs

Lee and Carol Zunica were married for 67 years, until Lee’s unexpected death in March 2021. The couple have five children, 12 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren (and counting).

“It’s been said that when a cardinal appears in your yard, it is God sending a visitor from heaven, bringing a heaven-sent message to you from your loved ones,” said Linda Stahulak, the couple’s daughter. “Or when you see a butterfly, it is delivering a message from your loved ones.”

As the one-year anniversary of her father’s death approached earlier this year, the family talked about how to commemorate it, and possibly celebrate it, with some kind of message from Lee Zunica. And it would materialize that unforgettable day, not through a cardinal or butterfly, but through an “angel sign,” they say.

As I’ve believed for decades, we are a species of "significance junkies," an intriguing term credited to Carl Sagan, the late best-selling author, astronomer and science translator.

In our endless efforts to make sense of our mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world, we try to attach patterns and reasons to everything we see or experience. We search for meaning, purpose and significance. We attempt to connect proverbial dots like distant stars in a heavenly constellation.

This phenomenon took place last week as mourners gathered on the streets of Edinburgh. The clouds parted at one point to reveal a bright beam of sunlight descending directly upon the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II.

It was as if the heavens opened to send a divine message to the world: “The Queen has finally left for heavenly aboard,” one British newspaper wrote.

The image went viral, similar to images shared last week of rainbows appearing above Buckingham Palace, twice actually, as the queen’s body had been lying in state for mourners to pay their respects.

“The most incredible rainbow,” one British government official wrote on social media.

On any other day, it’s an ordinary rainbow. On that day, it was an extraordinary rainbow with hopeful hues of divine meanings.

On the one-year anniversary of Lee Zunica’s death, his family had planned on going to mass at a Munster church near his widow’s home.

“Then my brother, Michael, suggested meeting at St. Alexander Church in Palos Heights, where they used to live,” the couple’s daughter told me.

As 'significance junkies' we search for meaning in rainbows, sunbeams and angel signs

Lee and Carol Zunica married Oct. 9, 1954, at St. Catherine of Genoa Church, in Roseland. He was 22. She was barely 18. They had a wooden plaque made with the words, "ALL BECAUSE TWO PEOPLE FELL IN LOVE,” surrounded by family photographs. “That pretty much described their love story,” their daughter said.

Her parents got married Oct. 9, 1954, at St. Catherine of Genoa Church, in Roseland. He was 22. She was barely 18. They had a wooden plaque made with the words, "ALL BECAUSE TWO PEOPLE FELL IN LOVE,” surrounded by family photographs.

“That pretty much described their love story,” their daughter said.

They were married for 67 years, until Lee’s unexpected death.

“We are grateful he died after COVID restrictions were lifted so we could have the traditional wake and funeral he so deserved,” Stahulak recalled.

The night of the wake, after extended family and friends left the funeral home, Lee’s immediate family gathered around his casket. They danced to “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner because he was the best dad ever, his family said.

The couple have five children, 12 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren (and counting).

“As anyone who has been in a loving and long marriage could imagine, our dad’s death was a very difficult adjustment for our mom,” Stahulak said.

A sign of any kind from her late husband would give her the comfort she sought.

The family arrived in the church parking lot, next to a car with the license plate LEE 111.

“We were so excited,” Stahulak said.

They told their mother this is the sign she had been waiting for.

“It was my dad’s name, Lee, and my sister Sandy felt the 111 was for her birthday – January 11,” she said.

They took a photo of it and shared their joyous story with family and friends. One of Stahulak’s friends pointed out that 111 is an “angel sign.” She quickly did an online search. “Seeing the angel number 111 is a message from the angels that you are loved and watched over,” one website stated.

“That sealed the deal,” Stahulak said. “That was the sign my mom was waiting for — an awesome sign. It made her so very happy, and all of us too.”

A few months ago, Carol Zunica was in the hospital for surgery. Her daughter noticed her ID bracelet, containing the numbers 111.

“We felt our dad was there with us once again watching over our mom,” Stahulak said. “This angel number is a reminder that our dad loves us and is watching over us always.”

Whether you describe it as random coincidence or heavenly intervention, it has provided solace and significance to this family, just as a rainbow and a sunbeam touched the hearts of millions of people.

Belief, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Contact Jerry at Jerry.Davich@nwi.com. Find him on Facebook @JerDavich. Opinions are those of the writer.

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