Since her father's death in October, Aubrey Street has looked for signs that he's watching over her.
From a hawk flying overhead or a cardinal outside her window, she's seen many.
But, last week, Aubrey received the most bittersweet sign of them all — a bouquet of flowers.
The bright, colorful arrangement carried on a tradition started by her father, Bill, when she was five years old.
“He'd always buy her flowers for her birthday,” Aubrey's mother, Rhonda said, explaining that it started as a special way to recognize her July 2 birthday, since it was so close to a holiday.
Knowing it would be a tough birthday this year — the first without her father — Rhonda knew she couldn't let the day go by without giving Aubrey a sign that he was still part of her life.
Bill took his own life on Oct 13 and though there was no explanation left behind, Rhonda knew that he'd want his “little girl” to still feel special on her birthday.
“I knew for a fact that he would want that to continue,” Rhonda said.
So, Rhonda, with the help of Country Gardens in Blair, made sure a bouquet of flowers was delivered to her daughter.
Typically, Bill would pick the flowers out himself, but this time, Rhonda asked the Country Gardens staff to do it.
“I prayed that the grace of God would guide them in what flowers to choose to be part of the arrangement,” Rhonda said.
Aubrey's brother, Dakota, joined his mother in ordering them. Aubrey said he, too, understood what it meant to his father.
Seeing the flowers led to a flood of emotions.
“I was really surprised and upset because of the fact that they were from my dad, though he was not here physically,” she said. “But, I was also very happy.”
The card's message — “My little girl's all grown up” — followed by the signature “From Heaven” also had special meeting.
“Growing up he used to tell me all the time that 'His little girl's growing up' and I didn't like that he would say that because I always wanted to be his little girl. So, I believe that's why my mom added that on the flowers,” Aubrey said.
Flowers aren't something Aubrey typically likes to receive.
“To be honest, I have a boyfriend and I tell him not to get me flowers because they are going to die anyway,” she said.
But, it was a different story with her father.
“It was very meaningful to get them from my dad every single year, because it was a tradition,” she said. “It meant a lot to me, just the fact that he thought I was special enough to be able to give me flowers.”
The flowers weren't the only sign she received from her father that day. As she arrived at the daycare center where she works, Aubrey heard the song “Down With the Sickness,” the type of rock-n-roll song her dad loved.
“I just knew instantly it was him and I smiled,” she said.
The smiles may not come as easy as the Street family tries to navigate the “firsts” that have come since Bill's death and as they have tried to bring awareness about mental illness issues, which Rhonda said Bill struggled with, to the forefront.
But, with her birthday flowers in front of her last week, Aubrey said there is a feeling of calmness.
“It was like he was there, in a sense,” she said.
Her arrival home would be one final birthday sign.
“As I was taking the pictures of the bouquet, a butterfly landed on it,” she said. “They say that is a sign from somebody in heaven. So I thought that was neat.”
She had no doubt the sign was from her dad.
“My boyfriend had bought me a bouquet of flowers too and the butterfly wanted nothing to do with that one,” she said.
Rhonda plans to continue the birthday flower tradition in honor of her late husband, who, in recent years, also began giving them to Aubrey's sisters and his granddaughters.
Aubrey also hopes to also carry it on when she starts her own family.
“I feel as if I will definitely do it to honor him,” she said.