Life tosses us a bevy of challenging questions. Who do you trust to give you reliable financial advice in a world full of manipulation, hidden agendas, the notorious fine print, and downright fraud? Where do you find health care that is truly about your health and not about making health care corporations rich? What happens after death—is it the end of life or the beginning of a new life?
My mother died a shade over two months ago. I had often previewed this eventuality because she lived to be 12 days short of 93. I had years to think about her leaving and what it might mean to me. I also love reading about what happens after death from people who say they know, either through near-death experiences or communication from beyond whether via their own perceptions or a psychic they hired.
Here, for example, from Raymond Moody’s Paranormal: ”In the moments before his death, my brothers who were there at his side said his breathing picked up and they were amazed to see his eyes open; the doctors had told them he was in a coma from which he would not regain consciousness. He was wearing a beatific smile as he looked into their puzzled faces and said: ‘I have been to a beautiful place. Everything is okay. I’ll see everybody again. I’ll miss you, but we will be together again.’ With that proclamation, he died.”
Watching Mom in her final hours was like looking into a philosophical mirror. I was projecting my hopes, beliefs, and desires into her death experience. I was living my eventual death through her, and once she had made her way through the tunnel, the death canal as opposed to the birth canal, I was hoping she would wave or something. “It’s magnificent! No rush, but you’ll love it here!”
I was hoping that she would be greeted by her mother or father or sisters on the other side or that she would see something that would make her beam in ecstasy even if we couldn’t see what it was. OK, none of that happened.
WAITING FOR MOM TO SHOW HER STUFF
I’d read Hello from Heaven, the classic book about after-death communication by Bill Guggenheim and his former wife Judy Guggenheim. I’d read stories about clever ways that the newly dead signal back their safe arrivals in heaven. Sometimes they show up visually, sometimes audibly, sometimes with scent, sometimes in dreams, and so on. I guess Mom never read that book.
A great many of the accounts of after-death communication are pretty dramatic. My mom was a skeptic. I am caught in the middle. I have delicious romantic visions of how great and wonderful the universe is, and then I have a healthy dose of skepticism, which ironically is thanks to Mom.
Something I have difficulty accepting is the whole orb phenomenon. Orbs are lights that show up in photographs, especially when taken with a flash. A few hours after my mother died, I took 5 rapid shots of the living room at my parents’ house. In one of the shots, an orb appeared.
Well, OK, on one hand, this was very cool. Thrilling even. Here was this magnificent blob of light appearing from out of nowhere. For believers, an orb is a spirit emanation, a sign of intelligent life, not a reflection of a floating dust particle caught out-of-focus and enlarged in the flash.
I have never been wildly captivated by this phenomenon because it is so vague. Some orb shots on the Internet come out as hearts, which to me, in the era of Photoshop, seems even farther fetched. I get extra skeptical (thanks, Mom) when any ol’ photographic anomaly becomes hyped as a sign flashed from the great beyond.
BLUE HERONS ON THE ROOF
When I created the invitation for my mother’s celebration of life party held on the day that would have been her 93 birthday, I put a graphic image of a blue heron on the bottom. I had always liked blue herons, and Mom was a bird lover. It fit.
Several days after the party while I was out shopping, my father and sister went to a neighbor’s house to return some dishes. They noticed something watching them from a perch on a nearby suburban rooftop–a blue heron.
Coincidence? Sure, but …
DAD AND HIS SIGHTINGS
Around 11pm on Christmas Eve, Dad was asleep in his chair in front of his TV. He was startled out of his sleep when he heard my mother say, “Time to go to bed.” He said she would often wake him up that way when she was alive. He opened his eyes and noticed her still with her walker, which she had with her for the last two years inside and outside the house. She was never without it.
After she had said that, she was gone. Dream? He couldn’t say. My logical mind hopes that she isn’t using her walker in the afterlife.
Several weeks later he fell asleep on the sofa in the den. He often naps in the day now after lunch. He said he awoke and looked over and saw Mom smiling at him from the chair she always sat in. He demonstrated it for me and the sighting would have to be less than two seconds. He said it was not a dream.
None of the things that happened to me during the first week were woo-wooy. The most profound happened during the time that Mom’s body was being cremated. My father, sister, and I sat in a circle in our den holding hands and offering up words of love, similar to what we said as we witnessed her death. I saw a vision of her as a woman in her thirties. She smiled radiantly at me from within.
After that I also saw a vision of her mother, my maternal grandmother. She was standing in her typically regal way not looking directly at me (she also looked away whenever her photo was taken). She was standing in front of a beautiful painting of ocean waves crashing over a huge rock, a painting I do believe I used to see as a kid. These were wonderful and comforting visions, but the skeptical side of me (Hi, Mom) would say that it was nothing different than when I am writing and I see mental pictures.
At another time I was wandering around the living room and I had another vision of my mother, again in her thirties, dancing as if in a Busby Berkeley movie. Of course, this is how I love to think of her—in her thirties, dancing in the streets of heaven, thrilled to be on her feet and mobile again. I have heard and read some great accounts of other environments that near-death experiencers visit
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
It may not be just you asking this. It’s me, too. Why would it matter if something more tangible happened? What would it accomplish?
For me, a most compelling reason to settle the existence of afterlife question is that religion aside, society is set up to ignore the consequences. As a matter of law, for example, my mother does not exist anymore. If she showed up in some perceptible form, it’s one more sign that she still exists—as will we all.
Society mostly operates on the principle of when you’re gone, you’re gone. As much as some people talk about planetary stewardship and leaving the earth in a better place than it was, the power elite has been terrorizing and destroying the planet. If it ever became verifiable that humans actually come back to life on earth, we might wise up. The planet we injure in one lifetime could be the planet we inherit in another lifetime. The generations to whom we leave the planet could be ourselves.
Seeing a physically deceased loved one alive and well is another sign that we should be mindful of what we are doing with our gift of life. It puts life into a different context if it turns out that consciousness (and our spirits) live on. If we are evolutionary accidents, there’s not much motivation to live a decent life. However, if we’re here for a reason, if our evolution is planned or spiritually consequential, there’s much more reason to do good deeds and work towards global harmony.
Naturally, there is another major reason, and it is a personal one: she’s my mom and I’d like to know that she made a successful journey. A hello from heaven would be sweet. Especially since my mother’s death, I have become aware of personal stories of loss and grief where the survivors long to know the whereabouts of their loved ones.
While the orb photos, rooftop blue heron, and sweet visions were not proof of anything, they all accomplished one thing: they felt good. Each event offered an energy boost. To that end, hardcore proof of soul survival is not required. The lovely reminders of Mom and how she fit into each of our lives is what matters most.