Sometimes the greatest gifts from our loved ones come after they have passed on. And, sometimes, those gifts are unspeakable to others; they cannot comprehend the communication of feelings or wisdom contained in our private symbols.
Perhaps this is why most people who have comforting experiences with their departed loved ones choose not to share them with others. In sharing, they may feel their experience diminished in others’ eyes, or they may even feel ostracized. (See more on this from a previous post.)
This is what happened to 11-year-old Lynn when she tried to share with her school mates a precious experience with her mother at the moment of her passing from this life. It’s taken Lynn 49 years to find the courage and faith to tell her story again. Here it is:
“Mom was going to the hospital for minor surgery. It wasn’t supposed to take long. It was November 1968.
“She had been rushing around preparing all the meals in advance, cleaning the house from top to bottom, organizing cupboards and drawers, making sure we had every possible thing taken care of while she was away. She had even rallied the neighbours to support dad and care for my brother and me if the need arose.
“It was a Friday at noon when she left for the hospital. We were about to return to school after lunch. She gave us each a hug and a kiss and told us she loved us.
“On Monday night after an anxious day in school, dad told us the surgery had been a success and that mom was okay. We wanted to see her but, in those days, the hospital did not allow child visitors. So, we stayed at home while Dad went to the hospital with our hand-made cards and little, artful gifts.
“The next day Mom called just before we left for school and told us she missed us, reminded us to be good for the neighbours and said she would be home as soon as she could, possibly by the weekend. My brother and I left for school feeling little lighter and happier. We had been through the worst and Mom would soon be back to take care of our every need.
“That evening, when Dad announced he was going to see her, we insisted on going with him. Even though we knew we would not be allowed into her room, we wanted to be as close to her as possible; so we waited in the car, which was parked facing Mom’s hospital room two floors up.
“An hour later, as dad emerged, he pointed to her window. In the darkness, we could see her standing there, surrounded by yellow light. She waved, and in our excitement, we jumped from the car to be sure she could see us flailing our arms and dancing about. We sent waves of love to her as we formed a heart with our arms to show our love.
“Thursday began with dad being late for work, which meant we were all behind. Dad left in a hurry, telling me to make sure my brother and I were not late for school. The house was upside down that morning. It seemed we had been able to hold it together, but now we were in overtime and the game was falling apart.
“As I was about to leave the house, the phone rang. I wanted to heed Dad’s warning, but at the last second my curiosity got the best of me and I picked up the phone. It was Dr. Williams, our family doctor. He wanted to speak to Dad and wasted no time on niceties. I told him Dad was at work, and he gave strict instructions to have him return the call. My legs turned to rubber. I knew this was very important, that something was wrong.
“I had never called Dad at work before, but I found the phone number and gave him the message. I told no one else about this call.
“After school one of our favourite neighbours was at the house waiting for my brother and me. She had already picked up our pyjamas and told us we would be spending the night at her home because Dad was at the hospital with Mom.
“This was a treat as we rarely stayed away overnight. We had a fun dinner and everyone was so nice. Too nice. I began to feel there was something really, really wrong.
“At bedtime I was assigned to share a large bed with my girlfriend. Before long the house grew quiet. I could hear adults whispering in another room against the ticking of the clock on the night stand.
“My attention soon went to the large window next to me. It was a night full of stars with a bright moon. There were clouds in the sky that floated by ever-so-quickly. I became mesmerized by the light of the moon that felt like it was shining down on my face. The stars seemed to twinkle and wink at me.
“I became aware that the sky was talking to me. Then I opened my conversation with God: With tears streaming down my face, I cried as quietly as I could, because I knew God was making it possible for me to talk to Mom.
“I asked her if she was okay and, just as I asked this, clouds covered the moon and the stars. When I asked again, the clouds moved off and the sky was clear. I felt a sense of relief. I continued to feel the light from the moon on my face. I felt so loved.
“Then I asked God: ‘Are you telling me she is okay?’
“Now clouds moved in from nowhere. They covered the entire sky. I was overcome with sadness and knew without a doubt that Mom was gone. Through my tears I saw the clouds once again move off—this time leaving the sky lit up by what seemed a trillion stars. I saw the brightest moon I’d ever seen.
“I knew this was God with Mom. I knew she was not alone, that she was happy, and that this was her saying Good-bye. I was filled with love for her and bursting with the knowledge that this experience was only for me. I was living this moment beyond the explainable.
“I lay there on my side staring out the window for what seemed a very long time. When I looked at the clock, it said 9:43.
“An hour or more later my brother and I were wakened, told to dress and return home. We entered a dark and empty house. Our neighbour told us to go back to bed while she went into the kitchen and put on the coffee.
“My room was at the end of a long hall at the back of the house, facing the front door. We had been home for only twenty minutes or so when that front door opened. It was Dad with a few of the other neighbors. I jumped out of bed and began running toward him. He stood still as soon as he saw me. I stopped too. We both began to cry. I ran to him with my younger brother right behind me. He hugged us both and told us he was sorry but Mom was gone.
“The house quickly filled up with neighbors, and my brother and I sat quietly while Dad explained that Mom had caught a cold on her way to X-rays the day after her surgery. The cold had turned to pneumonia and then double pneumonia. By Thursday afternoon she struggled for each breath. The strain on her heart was too much. The doctors told dad that she had a cardiac arrest and was technically dead but they were able to resuscitate her and—just as they thought she had stabilized—she had another heart attack. They could not resuscitate her a second time. All this had occurred at approximately 9:30 p.m.
“This was my affirmation that my experience with the moon and stars earlier that night was, indeed, my direct contact with God. It was the greatest spiritual experience of my young life.
“When I returned to school a week or so later, my first assignment was to write a story. I wrote this one in hopes of sharing my wonderful experience. When I read it aloud to my Grade Six class everyone, including the teacher, went silent. Years later a good friend told me how much my story had scared her and many of our classmates.
“I wrote the story again in Grade Eight and, after reading it, my teacher told me she was concerned that I was introverted and that I spent too much time alone. The wonder of my experience was lost on all of them.”
All the same, says Lynn, that experience profoundly affected the way she has lived her life since.
Recently, while taking part in a spiritual study group, Lynn came upon a quote from a spiritual teacher that said sometimes we procrastinate out of fear. This struck her as timely, since she had been planning to contribute her story to The Meaning of Forever Project but had been putting it off.
Finally, though, Lynn was able to find the courage and the trust to share her story once again. We’re glad she did.
If you had a special spiritual experience with a departed loved one that you’ve felt timid about sharing, please consider sharing it with us. Here, you will find others who have had similar experiences, perhaps felt similar fears, but who have found that in the remembering and telling of their stories, their lives have been made that much richer.
To find out more about The Meaning of Forever Project, please see our Website, our Facebook Page and take a look at previous posts on our blog. Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org