Death is not extinguishing the light;
it is putting out the lamp because the Dawn has come.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
Life and More Life
My father, whom I adored, died two years ago today. Interestingly, he chose November 11th, Remembrance Day, to move on to the next phase of life. He enjoyed a long, happy life knowing that he was deeply loved by his family. And although he is no longer physically with us, I must assure you that I am not saddened by his passing because—and this may sound strange—he does not feel lost to me.
I understand that there will never be agreement as to what does or does not transpire after we die—some believe that there is something more after we leave this body and some do not. And, while I have no desire to alter anyone’s beliefs, I admit that I fall into the camp that believes life is eternal—that our consciousness continues on in some fashion after we depart these bodies. Though I can’t say I understand how it plays out, I have an unshakeable knowing in my gut that death is simply a natural part of the continuation of life.
I was very close to my father, so when he died I wondered if I’d experience any signs that he was still around me in spirit—whether I would feel his presence around me in some way. And, yes, I can happily say that I immediately noticed many small signs, all very playful and humorous (my Dad loved few things more than a good joke). But the most powerful and beautiful experience came a few weeks after his death when my partner and I made the long trek to my small prairie hometown to visit my mother.
Stories in the Coffee Shop
One evening during our visit with my mother, we all went out for tea to a cozy little coffee shop. The place was largely empty and we sat at a corner table nestled at the back of the room. We chatted about my father over a hot cup of tea, which felt particularly comforting on that cold, blustery November night. We talked of how everyone who met him loved him; we spoke of how fun he was to be with—of how he laughed easily and often, and of how, when he laughed, his eyes would crinkle up and disappear into two half moons. We spoke of his kind, gentle and generous nature and of how he was a soother of ruffled feathers, always trying to make the best of things, and of that way he had of making you believe that somehow everything would be alright.
We sipped our tea, speaking affectionately and appreciatively of my father, until a natural lull in the conversation stretched into a comfortable silence, which morphed into a deep sense of peace. Breaking the spell, my mother abruptly leaned forward, reached around to the back of her neck and unclasped the gold necklace she was wearing. On this necklace hung two small hearts.
Happily married for nearly 60 years, my mother and father were inseparable, especially in their later years, their last two decades together. They openly displayed their genuine warmth and affection for each other, holding hands whenever they walked together, lovingly teasing each other, addressing each other by pet names, and laughing—laughing a whole lot. They were fun to be around. People often referred to them as “The Love Birds”. My Dad, who was not generally a big shopper himself, happily accompanied my mother on any kind of shopping expedition, frequently encouraging her to, as he said, “get something nice for yourself”. He was a particularly patient companion whenever my mother shopped for clothing, I think because it delighted him to buy her anything she loved.
And so it was on an ordinary shopping trip that my father quietly stole away from my mother as she was trying on clothing and returned a short time later with a little gold heart. It wasn’t fancy; it was a small gold heart with the simple words, “Love, Ed”, inscribed on the back. My Mom was totally delighted and deeply touched. She loved that heart as if it were the most precious gem on earth. She immediately added it to the gold chain she wore, on which another heart, her favourite amber heart, was already suspended. My mother has a strong affinity to amber jewelery and she had purchased this particular amber heart pendant for herself some years earlier. From the day she added my Dad’s gold heart, it became a familiar sight to see her wearing that necklace, the two hearts dangling side by side on her breast. “This heart is me”, she’d often say to me, pointing to one of the two hearts around her neck, “And this one is Papa,” pointing to the other. “We will always be together.”
Over the past few years, my mother developed a strong urge to pare down and simplify her life and began to give away her jewellery and other personal treasures to her family, saying that she wanted to experience the joy of giving her children the things that mattered most to her while she was still alive. For some time, my mother had been wanting to give me her gold chain with the two hearts on it. But, while I was deeply moved and loved the chain and the two hearts and the beautiful story attached to it, I was reluctant to take it because I knew how special it was to her and I simply wanted her to keep wearing it.
Now, just a few weeks after my father’s passing, my mother, my partner and I are enjoying a moment of peace in the coffee shop when my mother suddenly reached behind her neck to unclasp her gold chain with the two precious hearts. Clutching the necklace, her hand extended toward me as she told me that now was the time for me to have it. In truth, I was a bit shocked. I wasn’t at all ready for it and immediately told her, No…no, not yet, Mom—keep wearing it. I’ll take it later, I promise. But, no, she wasn’t having it. This time, she was extremely determined. In fact, she was so unusually adamant that I quickly relented and graciously accepted—if it was that important to her that I should have it now, then happy would I be to receive it. I knew it would be something I would cherish forever.
We both stood. Facing my back, she reached around from behind me to carefully place the gold chain and the hearts, still warm from the heat of her body, onto my chest, and closed the clasp at the back. I was not expecting what happened next. The moment the necklace touched my body something incredibly beautiful and completely unexpected occurred: instantly, almost overwhelmingly, a warm surge of energy and an indescribable feeling of love flowed into every part of me, while at the same time I had the distinct physical sensation of feeling my father’s arms wrapped lovingly around me. It was like getting a huge hug from the inside-out. I also felt as if my mother’s arms were wrapped around my body (which physically they were not). A powerful stream of love flowed through me, a simultaneous and total blending of love from both my parents. It was an indescribably beautiful experience, like the most comforting, warm blanket of love was wrapping itself around me. If I ever had any doubts that my father was truly still around me, they vanished forever in that moment.
I wear this precious necklace often. And every time I put it on, I remember that loving hug and I get warm tingles rushing down my spine all over again.
A Beam of Rainbow Light
And here’s a little aside—as I prepared to take a photograph to accompany this post, I asked my Dad for help in getting a good shot of the necklace and pendants. When I uploaded my photos and reviewed the shots I got, I saw to my surprise that they each contained a small band of rainbow light that I could not see when I was taking the photographs. As you can see in the photo, the rainbow runs perfectly across the words, “Love, Ed”. Coincidence? For many it may be. But not for me. Thanks, Dad.
Two Hearts, by madlyinlovewithlife; © 2014 madlyinlovewithlife