Bonnie, a retired Registered Nurse, describes herself as “steeped in Western science,” so it’s with a healthy dose of self-doubt that she recounts the following experiences.
Last August, she helped nurse her dear friend Jennifer through the late stages of an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma. Bonnie sensed that her friend would soon die, but she and her husband had a long-standing annual commitment to host another couple at their summer cottage in Northern Ontario.
Like Bonnie, Jennifer was a practical, matter-of-fact person; so, when Bonnie explained she would be absent for a few days, Jennifer understood. And, when Bonnie asked her friend for a favour in case she died before they were able to speak again, Jennifer agreed. Despite her own skepticism, Bonnie asked that Jennifer pass along greetings in the afterlife to some departed loved ones: Jean, the mother of Bonnie’s God-children, who died more than 20 years ago; then, Bonnie’s parents, and the parents of her husband.
Just to make sure, Jennifer ticked off the names on her fingers before Bonnie left: “Jean, Don and Jean, Phyllis and Andy. Right?”
“Right,” said Bonnie.
While at the cottage, Bonnie would sit at a small desk in the kitchen to keep in touch with Jenifer’s family through phone calls and text messages. One night, she awakened suddenly and went to the kitchen thinking a cup of hot milk might help put her back to sleep. There, she found the light above the desk illuminated. This was strange, because Bonnie and her husband Kenn are sticklers for turning off lights that are not in use. Before returning to bed, Bonnie made sure to switch it off. The following morning Kenn, who’d been first in the kitchen, asked Bonnie why that light was still on when he got up. Bonnie said, “I think Jennifer was here last night! Twice!” Jennifer died later that day.
Three weeks afterward, Bonnie and Kenn settled into their usual seats at a concert hall in Hamilton looking forward to another performance by the philharmonic orchestra. They’d made a nodding acquaintance with the couple normally seated next to them but, on this occasion, those seats were occupied by someone else. The woman looked oddly familiar.
“I have an extraordinary memory for names and faces,” recalls Bonnie, “but I just couldn’t pull this one together.”
They spoke for a while, trying to place each other. Then, finally, Bonnie turned to her seat neighbor and asked, “Are you Dorothy, Jean’s friend?”
“Yes,” replied the woman. “I am.”
The last time Bonnie had seen Dorothy was at her friend Jean’s funeral two decades before. This was a coincidence too extraordinary for even a skeptic to ignore.
“Okay, Jennifer,” thought Bonnie. “First one off the list.”
Bonnie has a ring and a pair of earrings set with diamonds from jewelry left by her mother, who was also named Jean, and her mother-in-law, Phyllis. One evening in late fall after an early snow, she was wearing them—plus a cameo from Phyllis that she’d put on for the first time. She and Kenn had a date to meet their son for dinner in Hamilton but they had errands to run first, including a stop at the community mail box.
Finally seated at the dinner table, Bonnie realized one of her earrings was missing. Immediately, they searched under the table, then husband and son retraced their steps to the car and searched there but came up empty handed. Strangely, Bonnie felt no distress. She knew the earring would turn up. As she and Kenn drove home after dinner, they made a stop at the mailbox once again. There, he shone the headlights from various angles while Bonnie searched in the snow for the missing earring.
“Just as I was about to give up, what do I see sitting on top of the snow but my earring!” says Bonnie. “So I said, Thank you, Phyllis.”
Number two off the list.
“It’s like Jennifer is taking her time saying hello to these people,” says Bonnie with a smile in her voice. “And they are saying hello back to me.”
The stories move into early December now, and this one has Bonnie and Kenn getting ready to attend a funeral home visitation for Cameron, the middle-aged son of long-time friends, who died very suddenly. They’ve come to the point of picking a tie to go with the jacket Kenn plans to wear. Bonnie looks on as Kenn brings out his collection. A tie neither of them has seen before catches her eye. It has just the right colours.
When they turn it over to read the label, they realize it comes from a shop in Bermuda, where Bonnie’s parents often vacationed. Kenn must have acquired the tie after his father-in-law’s death, but neither of them recalls seeing it in the 17 years since. Perhaps this is a hello from Don at a time when reassurance from “the other side” means a lot.
A week later, after having attended Cameron’s funeral earlier in the day, Bonnie is out with friends where she relates her stories about Jean and Phyllis. As she returns home, despite their habit of not keeping lights on unnecessarily, she notices Kenn has left a light on in the hallway. She turns it off and goes to bed, leaving the house in darkness. The next morning when she comes downstairs, the Christmas Village scene in the family room is illuminated.
The message from these lights? “It takes a village to look after a family,” says Bonnie, thinking of Cameron, his grieving parents, his young widow and his two very wee children.
Having retired from nursing, Bonnie now has time to pursue another passion, which is writing. With one book published, she’s been working lately on her second. But, given the upheaval of the past few months, she hasn’t been particularly motivated or inspired.
For two days recently, though, all that changed. Bonnie wonders if it has something to do with a necklace she was wearing—because for those two days, Bonnie wrote freely. Normally, she doesn’t wear jewelry around the house, but she felt the urge to this one time. The necklace had been a gift from her mother.
“I had two exhilarating writing days. I was just over the moon ecstatic,” she says. “I wonder if it had something to do with her…
“As I’m saying this, it just sounds absurd to me,” says Bonnie, “but I’ve learned to trust in my experience.”
And, even though the skeptic “steeped in Western science” still questions whether her experiences were real, Bonnie looks forward to hearing from the one remaining loved one on the list she gave to Jennifer.
“It might take some time for the ones we love to get in touch,” says Bonnie, “but they will when the time is right.”
The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.