|A friend suggested I take photos whenever Rob was pointing to the ceiling. I did once, about 48 hours before Rob died. 40+ images, like the one above showed up in my photo feed.|
In the mid 1980s my Aunt Margaret, my mother's only surviving sibling, died. My mom and dad were on holiday in Italy and my brothers and I decided not to contact them, but rather to make arrangements for the wake and funeral and to then wait to tell my parents when they returned home the following afternoon. We were nervous about telling them, but to our surprise, my mom said she already knew. She had dreamt of her sister's death on the day her sister died.
My mom told me in her dream she had returned to her childhood home, a railroad apartment in New York City. The apartment consisted of a series of rooms that could be accessed from a single hallway with a kitchen at the end of the hall. The hallway and rooms were dark and the only source of light was a kitchen lamp. As my mother walked towards the back of her home she could see her mom, her three brothers and her sister, Margaret. They were gathered around a kitchen table and seemed to be welcoming Margaret. Everyone looked well and happy. My mom said she was so pleased to see how healthy her family looked especially given that her mom and brothers had all died and her sister was suffering from Alzheimer's. She walked quicker towards the entrance to the room and Margaret turned and stopped her, telling her she could not come in. My mother woke and quickly roused my dad, telling him her sister had died.
My mom was a very devout Catholic and she retold many stories from her own youth that illustrated After-death Communications (ADC). Some were stories she had been told by older relatives and others were experiences she knew first hand. I never knew what to make of these stories and as I grew older I dismissed these early stories my mom told as more Irish folklore than truth. But I had no logical category to place the story of the dream my mom told when she returned. How could she have possibly known? It was then that I began to wonder if there might be experiences for which our capacity to narrate was limited by the confines of language. How do we name what is largely unknowable? What is true?
I tucked away these questions and rarely, if ever gave voice to such inquiry even after my mom, dad, and father-in-law each died within a span of six years. By the time I was 46, all three were deceased. But matters of the spirit were best left to another day, I thought.
When Rob returned home this past February, I was sitting next to his bed one evening when I saw quick flashes of white light. It was late and Rob was two weeks from death and I thought I was seeing things as I was over tired. I looked away from the flashes and continued to read as Rob slept. But the light flashes persisted and finally I looked up and when I did I saw the back of a woman in a white night gown quickly walking down the center hall of our home towards the front door. I had an overwhelming sense--a voice if you like-- that confirmed the woman I had seen was my mom. Later that night Rob woke and told me rather matter-of-factly that he had seen my mom, his dad and a group of men. I did not tell him about the flashes of light but did say that perhaps my mom and his dad were there to guide him. He looked at me and shook his head, no. He said, "Your mom is here to comfort you."
Since Rob's death two persistent questions have plagued me. First, I so want to know where he is. What happened to my husband after his death? In the span a second he was present and then gone. At death there is little ambiguity that the body that remains present no longer hosts the person loved. The body is meaningless. His indomitable human spirit lives on somewhere else. Where does he now reside? Where is he?
The second question is even more compelling. I want to know that wherever Rob is, he is okay. My love for my husband did not end with his death. It continues on and with it my concern. For the last five months of Rob's life I held his welfare in my hands. Oddly, his death did not remove that responsibility.
Towards the end of The Inner Voice of Love, Henri Nouwen writes about love, friendship, and death. He comments:
You have to trust that every true friendship has no end, that a communion of saints exists among all those, living and dead, who have truly loved God and one another. You know from experience how real this is. Those you have loved deeply and who have died live on in you, not just as memories but as real presences (p. 81).Rob lives on in me not just as memories, but as a real presence. A real presence I want to contact. And so perhaps you will be less surprised then to know that a week from now I will be sitting opposite a psychic and medium. If someone told me a year ago that I would not only initiate such a meeting, but look forward to it, I would have found that highly doubtful--not because I thought such things were folly, but rather because I felt little need to communicate with the dead.
What changes in a year keeps me humble.