Let’s Talk About ELEPHANTS

It’s no secret that I love elephants. I mean, 🐘I love them, like more-than-life-itself love. 

But, I never have explained why. 


If you look up at that picture ⬆, what do you see? 

Hopefully, you are saying, “An elephant in the shape of a cloud,” and I am over here jumping up and down shaking my head saying, “YESSSSSS, that’s exactly what you see and what I see tooooo … Yay! Let’s be friends.”

OK, seriously, what you don’t see is that this cloud was at my aunt’s funeral. Her name was Cindy, and she gave me my love for elephants. 

The oldest — and arguably the sassiest — of seven girls, Cindy was a total spitfire. She lived life full of joy and without fear (Hello, GOALS). She loved elephants, and she passed on her love for elephants to me. (Luckily not her massive collection ... I’m a minimalist people. I would die.) 

I don’t remember much. She died when I was in middle school. But, what I do remember is this: My first stuffed animal, my most favorite toy, was an elephant that Cindy had given to me. It was a stuffed elephant puppet, and I had it forever. I LOVED it in a way I don’t love things. It instantly bonded us. That elephant entangled us in a relationship, however short, that would impact me for the rest of my life. Since she passed, her sisters have told me that I am just like her. I’ll happily take that comparison!

  • She was sassy. (I am very sassy.) 
  • She was fearless {I try and be fearless}. She would take me on all of the biggest roller coasters, and we would ride them next to each other trying to keep our hands up the whole time. 
  • She took me to get my first manicure; I got ladybugs on my nails. (You can thank her for my preference for the glamour lifestyle.) 
  • She was a sun worshipper. (Hello?! Can I be too tan?) 
  • Her laugh shook a room.
  • She would take us to the zoo so we could see the elephants. 
  • She made everything she did with us special. 
  • And … she loved elephants, and she passed on that love.

As I sit here overcome with emotions, I realize I never got to ask her why she loved elephants so much. I’d love to know that answer, but the really amazing things is, I don’t need to know why. I’m pretty sure every time I stand by an elephant I know why she loved them: the grace, the love, the gentleness they offer, the energy transfer between us. It’s pretty amazing, awe-inspiring and emotion-curating (at least for me, and I think for her too). 


So anyway ... the photo.


We’re at my Aunt Cindy’s funeral circa 2000. We tried to have a Chinese fire drill in the limo on the way there (after being stuck by a train for what felt like 50 minutes, but I am sure was only like 10 minutes). My family is the type that laughs until you cry at the most inopportune times. The priest had just mispronounced three words in a row. That was it. We were laughing (most of us anyways) until we could contain ourselves no longer. (I’m fairly certain my mom leaned forward and threatened us death if we didn’t stop laughing.) The inevitable tears came pouring out, and the returning aches burned in our chests. We regained our composure as the priest finished and the bagpiper started his final walk.

Just as the bagpiper crossed over the walking bridge, the elephant cloud appeared. (I mean, damn, that still makes me have instant goosebumps and an overwhelming feeling of emotion.) What a gift. Thank you God to whoever noticed it first and even more gratitude for how long that cloud stayed there, right overhead as clear as day. It was as if Cindy’s spirit was saying, “It’s OK. I know this life was short, but I am OK, and I am safe, and I am here with all of you.”

Are you crying? Because I might be crying! What A GIFT. Want to know what’s even more amazing? In 2000, we didn’t have cellphones that took pictures, but someone there that day happened to have an old-school camera in their car and, even more of a miracle, had enough time to walk to get the camera and offer us an everlasting peaceful gift of Cindy. 

Thank you God for the grace you offered us that day and for the gift of being able to carry it for a lifetime.

My love for elephants, which I didn’t think could be any stronger, multiplied by infinity when Cindy died. It has been my gift to carry Cindy on in life and memory by loving elephants so much. I am sure it would make her proud. The reality is, I really just love elephants that much, but the honor of loving them that much for her makes me feel proud. (No lies, every time I see one, I’m like, ”Cindy, is that you?”) I mean, she sent us a cloud; it’s totally possible!!!

That’s the story of my love for elephants. I hope it makes you proud, Cin.

– H