Last weekend I was telling some house guests about how my golden retriever Bear woke me up at night with his booming bark several times after he died. When I was finished, the husband nodded with solemn knowing and shared his story.
They had an orange cat that was very attached to him. When he was outdoors it would sit on a low table by the pool and watch him. One day after the cat died he was working by the pool and glanced over at the table and there it was, staring at him as it always had. “It wasn’t my imagination,” this very down-to-earth man said. “This was real. I looked away for a minute, and when I looked back, he was gone.” We all nodded with solemn knowing. We believed him.
Some years ago we re-connected with a high school friend with a history of mental illness. A delightful charismatic actor, writer and scholar, he was living with a lovely woman, also a writer, to whom he was devoted. When he was on his medications he was great fun to be with, but occasionally he’d think he was well enough to stop taking them and before long he’d be in trouble. One day while Fran was at the corner store he shot himself in the head.
In Fran’s words, “Then, just 26 hours after his death, Bill came to visit me. Suddenly, a space opened in my mind, as a door in a wall would open. There, as close as the air, was Bill in another form. I was still somewhat aware of the room and the people in it, but my attention was riveted on Bill. He was himself, my love, the man I knew, but not in a body with flesh. Instead, he was a lovely, soft, white being, full of pulsing lights that slowly appeared, peaked, and extinguished to be replaced by others.
“Bill wasn’t alone. His spirit seemed bonded, or somehow fused, to another person in the same form. This spirit was an older man, I thought, whom I had never met. Their relationship was like that of a child at a party and a loving grandparent looking on. Bill was ecstatic — full of pure joy and terribly excited to be with me. The older man was joyful, but calmer and not at all surprised by what was occurring. Months later, someone suggested that the gracious old spirit might have been Bills’ beloved “Grandpa Tom,” whom I had never met, and who had died two years earlier.
“I think that Bill went to some trouble to let me know the truth about what happens after the death of the body. He wanted me to know that the spirit goes on in a most lovely and ordinary way, and that people stay the same in essence. Even in his “second skin,” featureless, Bill was immediately recognizable to me. He also wanted me to know that he was not alone, but experiencing intense joy, love, and freedom from pain.
“Just before he left me, Bill wrote a message in my mind. I cannot overstate the importance of this message, which seems to me to hold one key to understanding a human continuum between earthly life and immortality. I suspect he chose the written word because he knew I would take his writing seriously, as I had done in our life together. His words appeared slowly, one at a time: ‘Nothing exists except love.’”
I don’t know about you, but as I read Fran’s moving words I’m nodding with solemn knowing.