Sequoia

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I dreamed of shadows and sheltered things

beneath the tree with golden leaves.

Today the mighty trunk sliced bare as bone,

the rings rough and splintered,

you take my hand as we count the lives together.

A thousand deaths, a thousand loves,

a thousand circles bound us with frayed fibers,

spinning its thread, the splinters cut deep.

Now and then at the wound’s core,

the sapling sprouts from a single seed,

always yearning and always bending toward love’s light,

free of pain again,

under the sequoia tree.

 

 

 

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The Bad Psychic

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Ronald MacDonald was a bad psychic.

Growing up on the hardscrabble streets of Punta Gorda, his childhood dream was simple: to help people understand that there is more to life than just the physical world.

And also — no, he’s not friends with the Hamburgler, so just shut the hell up about it.

Ronald’s first reading was brutally honest.

He sat down with a young woman who needed validation that her deceased loved ones were still around–but not watching her take a shower or have sex, because that would just be uber-creepy.

To begin the reading, Ronald lit some patchouli incense and gazed into his crystal skull of Sylvia Browne.

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“Okay,” he inhaled deeply. “I’m getting a sense that there is a father figure near you…”

“Yes! My dad! He died when I was 16!” the woman sobbed, wiping away tears.

“He’s showing me a sign for…..huh. That’s weird. He’s showing me thumbs down. Yeah. He’s got both thumbs down. Oh…and now he’s jumping up and down. He’s holding a sign that reads…”

“What? What does it say?”

“Disappointed.”

“Disappointed? What?” the woman yelled.

“Now he’s underlining the word disappointed with a red sharpie. And adding exclamation points. Yep, he’s not proud of you and never was.”

Ronald didn’t let his first reading fiasco stop him from crushing yet another person’s hopes about the afterlife. He read for his elderly neighbor, Ethel, who had recently lost her husband of 70 years.

Ronald began the session. Sylvia Browne’s skull glowed a fiery orange. “Ah, your husband Stan is here! He’s standing right behind you!”

“He is?” Ethel sat straight up in her chair. “How does he look? Is he okay?”

“He’s very excited about something. He’s pointing at you and shaking his head.”

“What does he mean? That it’s not my time yet? That we’ll be together again someday?” asked Ethel.

“Well… now he’s showing me a huge plate of pot roast. He said that’s what killed him. Your leathery, disgusting pot roast that he had to pretend to like for decades.”

“He didn’t like my pot roast?” Ethel’s voice quivered.

“Now he’s opening and closing his hand rapidly to indicate talking…now he’s showing me the sign for choking someone…” Ronald closed his eyes and drew a deep breath.  “Oh! Okay! He’s saying your nonstop bitching slowly killed his soul and he would have rather died than to listen to another second!”

Ronald slowly exhaled as the incense swirled around him. “Oh!” he continued. “And now he’s saying the only thing that scares the crap out of him in the afterlife is the thought of you dying and your soul finding him on the other side so that you can continue your relentless blabbing on and on about politics and that godawful show, The View. And he says that by the way, all of the women on The View end up in hell. Especially Joy Behar.”

Sadly, Ronald MacDonald’s psychic career pretty much tanked when it was discovered he really couldn’t read anyone and basically made everything up as he went along. Yet curiously, he delighted in causing others needless pain and suffering.

He now has a successful career as a politician in Boca Raton.

 

 

The Final Curtain

 

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This is a true story that happened over 13 years ago.

 

“Say your goodbye,” the emergency room doctor suggested, his eyes brimming with compassion. But the deep wrinkles etched across his brow revealed the weariness of all the pain and death they had witnessed behind the hastily drawn curtain.

Say your goodbye.

The beeping of machines dissolved into the background. The relentless ticktock of the clock on the ER wall paused as if waiting for my response. I felt myself sinking into black nothingness. My fingers shook as I clasped her limp hand and traced her wedding ring, its sharp edges jolting me awake. The abyss beckoned me: Don’t be afraid! Lean in! Peer into the darkness!

Say your goodbye.

I leaned over to kiss her pale cheek for one last time. I knew my mother was minutes away from leaving her body, but never expected the stark coldness, the unforgiving finality, the emptiness lying beneath my lips.

I wasn’t sure what to do next. I never had the chance to say goodbye to my dying dad. How do you say goodbye? What do I say? Thanks? Thanks for raising me? For teaching me hard lessons? I’ll see you again someday? Catch you on the flip side? Don’t go? Don’t leave me here all alone? Fear gripped my heart, squeezing the air out of my lungs. I was suffocating right along with my mother. A torrent of tears spilled down from my eyes onto her face. My entire body shook as I held onto her hand.  I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this. I can’t say goodbye. I’m not ready.

“Mom…I love you,” I sputtered into the abyss.

“I’m…..fine….don’t….worry,” my mother gasped, her breath gurgling between each word. “I love you…tell….your brothers…I love them.” She closed her eyes.

This was it. I can’t believe she’s dying. My mom! Dying! It’s just not real. It can’t be real. An ER nurse gently ushered me away from my mother as the doctor closed the curtain around the stretcher once again. She walked me to a small windowless waiting room separate from the larger waiting room outside the ER. This must be the private room for family members waiting for someone to die? Will they move me to an even smaller room when they tell me she’s dead? “We will try and get her stable,” the nurse said. “For now just wait in here. I’ll come get you if anything happens.”

It was midnight. Only bad things happen at midnight.

Only a few hours before I was drifting off to sleep next to my snoring husband and one-year-old son in our upstairs bedroom. A heavy rain pounded on the roof of our house. Without warning, I felt the atmosphere shift; the particles in the air pulsing and bright. Something is off, the universe whispered. Something big is happening.  Electricity surged through my body. The only other time I’ve felt this way was the night my dad suddenly died in a hospital bed 3,000 miles away.

I sat up, listening intently to the steady thrumming of the rain above our heads. I nudged my husband awake. “What was that? Do you hear that?”

“What? I don’t hear anything,” my husband whispered. “It’s just the rain. It’s nothing.” He rolled over to snore again.

But the rain wasn’t right; the wind urgent. Something was wrong.

I crept down the hallway and stairs into the dark kitchen. I wasn’t sure why I was checking, but I knew I had to check. An unseen force propelled me to walk through the kitchen to the door leading to our attached garage. I slowly opened the door, the wind howling outside in response. A low grown escaped from the shadows on the floor. There was my mom, lying on the bottom steps below her in-law apartment above the garage.

“I…can’t…breathe,” she whispered, her tiny frail body wrapped in her nightgown and bathrobe. She was still clutching her phone in one hand. She had managed to make her way down the steps to get help, but didn’t have the energy to remain standing long enough to knock on my door.

Now I was in a hospital, with my mother and The Abyss hiding a few feet away behind a thin white curtain. Soon two of my older brothers arrived and we waited, the foggy early morning hours bleeding into each other. Finally, a nurse entered the “Waiting For Death” room where we had sat for hours like stone statues. “She’s turned a corner! She’s stable!” she informed us.

We were stunned. The ER doctor suggested many times to me that she would probably die that night as she was drowning in her own fluids, her lungs almost completely filled from the congestive heart failure. But now she was suddenly stable. “If you hadn’t found her when you did…” he said to me, his voice trailing off.

My mom almost died that night back in 2003. I said my final goodbye, but the universe had other ideas. They transferred her to Maine Medical Center in Portland and a week later she underwent a quintuple bypass and valve replacement surgery at the age of 69. After the ten hour operation, she emerged feeling like a new woman. “I have a new heart now!” she told me in recovery. The surgeon informed us the average lifespan after such a surgery was 10 years.

Of course, her Mainer stubbornness proved him wrong. I’m thankful to have spent an additional 13 years with my mother and counting. She’s 83 now and enjoys relatively excellent health. I’ve let a lot of things go since she almost died. Peering into the abyss will do that to you. Our once stormy relationship has softened over the years to one of forgiveness, respect, and love.

Often we talk about those final moments; the time she was almost pulled over the edge. I’ve asked her more than once if it hurt to not be able to breathe, or if she was scared to die.

“Oh no, not at all,” she insists. “There was no pain. It was very peaceful. I saw your dad, you know. He was standing at the foot of my bed with two really big angels on either side of him. I knew I would be okay. Not scared at all. I was ready to go.”

I’ve seen death up close before when I was 21 and viewed my dad’s lifeless body lying in a coffin. I’ve carried the burden of not being present when he left us. I felt cheated out of saying goodbye to him. Yet the years of guilt, anger and sadness gradually faded away, transforming into acceptance and gratitude.

I don’t know why I went out to the garage that night. But the universe has a way of balancing things out. Saying my last goodbye to my mom that rainy October night prepared me again for the final curtain. I know when the time truly comes for my mom or me, I’ll be ready to jump into that abyss with less fear and more love.

Listen

When I lie down to die
I hope you make a feathered nest
of downy white flicked with silvery gold,
and its velvet strands will be enough
to cradle my fading heart.

When I lie down to die
and the last tear slips across my cheek,
I hope the doves will gather to coo
a melody strung with faded memories
into my soundless ears.

Then I will know the path out of the woods
is to follow the pulse carried aloft on the wind
as it dances and twirls beyond the moon.

And I will smile as the dove’s wings open
for the song humming among the stars
has echoed in my soul for centuries.

And I pray you will hear this too,
when I lie down to die.

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This poem is dedicated to my father on the anniversary of his death.

 

Happy Impending Death Day!

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Our culture doesn’t do so well with death. We don’t like to talk about it or even think about it.

Except for people who were born and raised in Maine. We’re more down-to-earth types who treat death like it’s a bad dentist appointment. Yeah it’s gonna happen to you one day so you might as well suck it up, deal with it, and move on.

My 80-year-old mother cheerfully sat down with me last week to go over her old family photo albums again because, “I might not be here tomorrow.” She has told me this every single day for about 15 years.

Anytime I try to plan something with her, she gives the same response.

“Hey, Mom! Want to drive up to Bar Harbor and see the ocean this August?”

“Sure! But I might be dead by then.”

“Hey Mom! Wanna go to L.L. Bean’s with me this weekend?”

“Sure! But I might be dead by then.”

“Hey, Mom! Want to go out to dinner tonight at that Italian place?”

“Sure!”

“What — you’re not planning on dying later today?”

“Well, I’m hoping I die during the meal. Serves them right. They don’t serve Sanka. What kind of a place doesn’t have Sanka?”

So once again last week we sat down to sift through old family pictures because she might die at any second.  Her albums are full of faded sepia toned photos displaying the typically stern, emotionless faces of my relatives from the early 1900s.

I’m convinced the photographer must have yelled out the directions, “Frown! Frown harder! Look miserable! You’re sullen! No, I need more sullen! Dour! Do dour! Great! Hold that pose! Yes! You’re sad! Profoundly sad! Hold it! Hooold it! Perfect!”

Basketball is just so 'meh'. (My grandfather is the particularly ecstatic boy sitting in the front to the left)
(My grandfather is the particularly ecstatic boy sitting in the front to the left)

And most of my relatives died young of a horrible disease.  It’s a miracle I exist at all. My mother points her shaky finger to every person in the photo, tells me his or her name and how they died like she’s rattling off her grocery list.

“This is Charlie, died of tuberculosis. He was 35.”

“This is Charlotte. She died of tuberculosis. She was 15 years old.”

“Oh, and this is Sarah. Died of tuberculosis. She was four.”

“What happened to the dog?” I ask. “Please tell me he made it at least.”

Welcome to the early 20th century when even the dogs looked depressed. (My grandfather is the one holding the dog)
Welcome to the early 20th century when even the dogs looked depressed. (My grandfather is the one holding the dog)

After a few more photo albums filled with tuberculosis, my mom likes to throw in a zinger, probably to see if I’m really listening.

“Oh! And this is your great-great uncle Fred,” she smiles brightly and points to a handsome young man sporting a snappy blazer and smoking a cigarette.  “He was a pilot and flew his plane straight into the side of a mountain, killed instantly.”

“Wait — are you sure it wasn’t tuberculosis that got him?”

“Darla!” she scowls at me. Then she clears her throat. “Well, actually yes. The coughing is what made him crash the plane.”

My eyes bug out.

“I’m kidding! Kidding! Oh no, the poor man just slammed straight into a mountain! Boom! Never had a chance!” my mom yells, throws her head back and cackles.

And they say death isn’t funny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Starry Night in November

November 17, 1991.

What was it about the air that day? Sharp and bright, laced with the scent of burnt amber leaves. The sweet promise of decay and death infused my senses, yet a bitter taste lingered on my tongue. Something wondrous and beautiful tugged at the frayed edges of my mind. Those worn gossamer threads were unraveling, and it chilled me to the bone.

Although 3,000 miles away, I already knew you were gone from this world. The moon and stars whispered to me as I crossed the dark field alone. Your universe has shifted, Dear One. I paused and looked up at the sky.

So much magic within that pause!

Standing over your grave, this air continued to fill my lungs, forcing me to breathe in spite of my urge to jump into the cold ground with you.

Why was the day we buried you so lovely? Why was the sun still there? How dare it burst through the clouds, igniting the caked soil on our feet with its dappled brilliance as we stood huddled and abandoned at the edge?

It was a fitting departure for you, Dad.

November was your favorite month.  It meant football games blaring in the background, turkey roasting in the oven, icy mittens melting on the radiator.

Now every year when November comes, the old familiar ache of dread begins again. First, it was a twisted knot of fear boring a hole deep into my gut.  Then for years only tired sadness would creep, casting heavy shadows in my eyes.

Finally, it gave way to something bigger than I ever imagined:

Peace.

For your luminance has roosted, nestled permanent and deep within my wounded heart. Keeping these bones of mine warm with the hope you’ll carry me through the many pauses yet to come.

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Deep Thoughts by Little Miss J

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My daughter is six and a half years old and tends to be a wee bit dramatic at times. She’s also much smarter than I’ll ever be.

The other morning she flew into my bedroom, eyes ablaze, and wailed, “Oh, Mommy! It’s just not fair! I mean, seriously! Seriously!” She threw herself onto my bed. “Like, seriously!” she cried again.

“What? What is it? What happened?” I rushed over and started stroking her long brown hair.

She lifted up her tear-soaked face and sobbed, “It’s this!” she blurted, dramatically handing me the board game cover she was holding.

“Oh! Of course,” I shook my head. “Scrabble. Wretched game. Just terrible.”

“No! I love it! I was winning with the word, QUIET! But it says Ages Seven and Up, Mom! Seven and up! So I can’t play it anymore!” and she continued her writhing, moaning, and gnashing of teeth.

When I was her age, I spent most of my days either eating Scrabble tiles or jamming them up my nose.

So it’s no surprise that my girl is also interested in other typically light, playful subjects such as life, death, afterlife, God and reincarnation. And she usually interrogates me with rapid-fire questions right as I’m tucking her into bed at night.

This wouldn’t be a problem if I were half as smart as she is or knew any of the answers.

“…and so Big Bird and Elmo played baseball and they all lived happily ever after…” I read aloud to her then closed the book.

“Man, I love Big Bird…” I sighed and stared off into the distance.

big bird

“Mom?”

“Is this a question about why Elmo has no ears?…. Please?”

“Oh, Mom! Elmo’s not real,” she wrinkles her nose. “He’s imaginary. This book was fiction. That means it’s made up. Mrs. Bouthot [her kindergarten teacher] said so.”

“Well, she would know,” I frown. “Pffft.”

“She does know. She knows everything!” her eyes widened. “Mom? What happens after you die?”

“Um, you go to heaven. OK, good night!” I kiss the top of her head.

“How?”

“You just go.”

“What do you take with you?”

“Um, your soul. Okay! Good night!”

“And where do you go? Is God there?”

“Yes. And it’s very nice and beautiful and wonderful,” I pull the covers up to her chin. “Sweet dreams! Think of Big Bird! I know I will!”

big bird

“What’s God like?”

“Umm….he’s a pretty cool dude. He loves us no matter what.”

“Even when I don’t brush my teeth?”

“Even then.”

“So….we’re babies again after we die?”

“Uh, I’m not sure…”

“Do we stay the same after we die?”

“Uh…”

“How old are we?”

“Well….I don’t know exactly…”

“Where do we all live? Are there houses? Do we eat food? Is there candy there? Can we come back? I’d like to come back as a baby again. That’s what we do, right? We get to pick new families and keep coming back down here?”

“Sure, I guess….maybe, but I’m not sure…”

“I want to come back as a princess ballerina veterinarian!”

“I want to come back as Mrs. Bouthot. Or Big Bird.”

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Parents: How do you handle heavy questions from your kids? Do your kids know more than you do, too?
Others: What happens after you die? What’s the meaning of life? Why does Elmo have no ears?

Dear Dad

Part of a parent’s job is to make us feel safe. Comforted.  Accepted. Loved. Hopefully, this gives us the ability to venture out into the big bad world with little fear.

You did that for me. Thank you.

When I try to visualize your face, I see your smile and your twinkling blue eyes — like we’re sharing a secret joke no one else would understand.   “See? Life is funny!” you chuckle.  “Isn’t it ridiculous? Let’s laugh about it. It’s gonna be all right, Punky.”

You helped me to always find the humor in life. Thank you.

When I think of the person you were, I remember a quiet, intelligent, loving man who stood up to do the right thing. You always wanted to help others. No matter where their life’s path had taken them or their circumstances. You weren’t scared, you just did it. Actions speak louder than words. You weren’t looking for praise or attention. You did it because it was the right thing to do. You once told me, “Who knows, one day they might turn around and help you when you need it most.” What you put out there will come back to you times a hundred.

You taught me to reach out and help others. Thank you.

You gave me the power of having an open mind, to see all sides to things. You allowed me to discover my beliefs on my own, to keep questioning and learning while always practicing respect for another point of view. You taught me that being gentle to myself and others takes strength. Kindness is more important than being right.

You gave me the gift of compassion, trust and faith.  Thank you.

Compassion for others starts within. If you’re not kind to yourself, you can’t be kind to others. You will never resolve negativity you feel with others in your life — anger, resentment, jealousy — until you resolve those issues within your own mind, your own soul. The ability to love myself is crucial if I want to fully love and be open to others in my life.

You showed me to trust in myself. To love myself. Thank you.

Today  would have been your 75th birthday. And I know that wherever you are, in my mind you’re still chuckling, calling me Punky, and telling me it will be all right. And I know it will.

Thank you for everything you taught me.

I am the person I am today, I am the mom I am today, because of you.

Happy birthday, Dad.

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My Exclusive Interview with Death

Wee Hours of the Early Morning Show with Darla
I’ve got my eye on you, buddy…

[Zippy music intro ends, audience applauds]

Me: Okay, and we’re back! Thank you so much for being here, Mr. Reaper. I know you’re a busy man.

Grim: Hey, no problem. Thanks for having me. I don’t get that a lot.

Let’s start out with what you’ve been up to recently. Seems you’re pretty busy?

Always.

So why, Death? What gets you up in the morning? What’s your motivation?

Man, going for the tough questions right off the bat, huh? I guess I’m just trying to keep people alert, on their toes. Frankly, what I do isn’t easy.
[points to mug on the coffee table]
Hey, is this water? Good God, I hope not! Hope it’s tequila. Death is an exhausting business, dude. And I be takin’ care of bidnezz, every day, ya dig?

[slurps from mug]
Ooh, yeaaah. That’s the stuff.  Takes the edge off. Smoooooth.

Well, I did some research and looked back over your amazing and prolific career, so first off let’s talk about some of your duds.

This is about John Lennon, isn’t it?

Well…sure…let’s start with that one.

Look–hey, it was a mistake, okay? A colossal mistake. And I paid for it back at the bar later that night. The other guys, man, they wouldn’t stop ribbing me about that one. I’m sorry, really. After that happened, I swore I’d never do something crazy like that againBut let’s be honest here, everyone’s allowed one screw-up, am I right?

What about Jimi Hendrix?

Well…I…uh…

James Dean?

Um…oops?

George Carlin? You could’ve at least given him at least a few more years! I mean c’mon!

I’m sorry, okay! What do you want from me? Now that dude was OLD. 

Larry King?

Pfft. Why should I bother? He may already be dead, who knows really?

Donald Trump?

[cold stare]

Rush Limbaugh?

Hey, I don’t wanna discuss this, you promised me we wouldn’t go there.
[nervously sips from mug]

Okay, let’s switch gears here. Tell us a little bit about what happens after you show up. Life after death stuff.

Oh, ho ho! [chokes on drink] Sorry. Uh huh. No can do. Hell, no.

Just a little? We’re all dying to know.
[audience laughs]

Good one. OK…let’s see…there’s this tunnel, then a bright light, soon you’re enveloped with utter peace, unconditional love and happiness…blah, blah, blah… It’s all actually quite nice.
Beats a 7 day poop cruise on the Carnival, am I right?

[audience roars with laughter]

Really? Death isn’t that bad? It’s actually nice?

Nah. It’s not at all nice. I was kidding.
[audience gasps]

You were kidding?

Yeah. There’s nothing after death. Just a big, black void of emptiness.
[audience boos]
What? What did I say? Sheesh, tough crowd.
[smirks, shrugs shoulders]

Would you care to clarify that statement? Are you saying it’s nothing but a vast meaningless abyss after we die?

Ha ha! Oh, no, no, no! I was kidding. Kidding! Again! There’s no big black void! But if you could see the look on your face right now, it’s priceless, man!
I never get tired of pulling that one on people.
[waves spirit fingers in the air, whines mockingly]
Ooh! boo hoo! It’s all nothing! It all means nothing! There is no purpose to life! Woooo! How terrifying! Wah!
God, that always makes me laugh.

What I find fascinating, is you are everywhere.  All the time. You could strike anyone at any moment.

Yeah. That’s right.
[nods smugly]
I’m good.

So any of us could go at any time?

I’m afraid so.

And you might give no warning. None whatsoever.

None. Zip. You just never know when it’s your time.
[long pause]

BOOM! [suddenly lurches forward and grabs my arm] Gotcha!

Ahhh! Holy [bleep]! What the [bleep] was that?! Let go of me!  Holy [bleep] [bleep][bleep]!
[jumps out of chair, audience goes wild]

Oh, I was just teasin’  ya!  Relax! Your audience thinks it’s funny!
[audience laughs]

Nice, well, we seem to be running out of time, Grimmy.

[looking down at notecard]
I want to thank you Mr. Reaper for coming here tonight and–

You don’t know how right you are about running out of time, my friend. You don’t know how right you are. Mwa ha haaaa–

Anywho. So ladies and gentlemen, the Grim Reaper can be seen on his upcoming tour dates at the Shady Pines nursing home in Pensacola, then he jets off for a three night show in Las Vegas.  Be sure to check him out. Or…not…I guess.  In the meantime, all One Billion seasons of Death are available right now on Blu-Ray–

MWA HA HAAAAAA! I’m coming for you, Darla!  No one can escape me!

You are so stupid. [laughing]
We’ll be right back, folks. If I don’t die during break! Up next–Carrot Top!

Oh, God, you had to bring him up!
[Band starts to play. Grim leans in, whispers to me, we laugh uproariously and it cuts to commercial]

Signals from Beyond

When someone you love dies, you tend to wonder where they are now, if they’re still ‘around’ in spirit, that sort of thing. It’s only natural.

My late father was a big goofball, very funny, but in a dry-as-toast humor kind of way (explains my sense of humor, I suppose). Before he died, we used to joke with each other about him possibly haunting me. Naturally, I told him not to ever scare me or freak me out once he was dead. I know, such a strange conversation to have, but us Mainers aren’t known for mincing our words.

He promised me he would only haunt me in the funniest or mildest way possible. And only if I asked him to, of course. I was and still am Daddy’s little girl, so I know he would never intentionally freak me out in any way.

Still, I ask him for signs here and there. Not often, maybe once every few years or so. Usually, when I’m thinking about him or missing him, like when it’s his birthday or Father’s Day, I might casually ask him how he’s doing…hey, what’s happenin’, Daddy-O?…stuff like that. I tell him about my life and what his grandkids are doing. Then I test him. Ask him to show me a sign he’s heard me and to prove that he still exists somewhere. (I’m a Virgo, cynical by nature, what can I say?)

When I’m alone, I actually talk to him out loud. This is key, I think. And before you think I’m a bit loony,  let me say this: I loved my dad more than any other man on the planet, save my husband. He meant the world to me and to lose him was devastating, as it is to anyone who loses a parent. So, to occasionally talk to him, like he’s around? It’s a normal thing for me, a way to grieve, stay connected and remember him.

He’s been gone now for 21 years–today is the anniversary of his death–and whenever I’ve asked him for a ‘sign’, he delivers. In a way there is no mistaking it was him. He was, and still is, a clever guy. He apparently hasn’t lost his sense of humor, either.

A few years ago, my husband and father-in-law were helping my mother move from her apartment in another town to come live with us. I had silently asked my dad for a sign that morning. Suddenly, my phone rang and it was my father-in-law, a man who isn’t inclined to believing in ghosts or signs.

“Darla, this sounds crazy but….”

Long pause.

“Did you ask your dad for a sign today?” he asked.

I felt my heart stop.  “Yes, I did! Why?”

“Did he have a connection with electronics? Like, say…with fuses?” he laughed.

My dad was a typical father back in the ’70s. He was always puttering around the house, fixing things, rebuilding things. We used to tease him because he had drawers full of junky old fuses, odd and ends. Always ready to fix anything at a moment’s notice.  He’d wanted to be an electrician while in the Navy, but his color-blindness had ended that dream.

My father-in-law continued chuckling on the phone, “Because we got out of my car, went inside to help load up the U-Haul…. came back and there was this old-fashioned fuse that looked like it was from the old days just sitting smack in the middle of my car seat. It wasn’t there before and we can’t figure out where it came from.”

My dad struck again.

Another year, the day I had asked my dad for a sign, I was playing a video game with my then five year old son. After I won the game, he turned to me and yelled, clear as day, “Good job, Punky!”

“What did you just say?” I asked. A chill ran up my neck.

“I don’t know,” he shrugged and turned back to his game.

I hadn’t heard anyone call me Punky since I was about eight years old. It was my dad’s nickname for me. Even my husband didn’t know my dad had called me Punky. Say what you will, maybe it was coincidence. But I know it was my dad’s way of saying he was there with me.

There are loads of other ‘signs’ he’s left me over the years, too many to go into here.

This brings me to this year’s sign.  Probably the best one yet. Definitely the most unbelievable.

I always have a very difficult time when his anniversary comes up, so to fight the darkness, I asked my dad for yet another signal: “Hey, Dad. How goes it? If you’re not too busy, how about showing me a sign you’re still around again? This time, make it a really good one, so I know it’s definitely you.” I laughed to myself because I knew he wouldn’t disappoint.

That night, I had a vivid dream he was talking to me, but I couldn’t understand what he was trying to say. At one point, I started to slowly wake up from the dream, still foggy in that bizarre transition from dreaming to waking, when I heard him say plain as day, in a firm voice, directly into my ear:

I will call you.

As I stirred awake, I heard him say it again and again a few more times. I was fully awake now, my heart pounding. Keep in mind, this is not a normal occurrence for me. I don’t think I’ve ever received a message from my dreams, especially one that vivid before. I usually wake up in a complete groggy state and forget my dreams within seconds.

I will call you. His voice still echoed deep in my mind.

Hm. I thought. He’s gonna call me? Ha! I’d love to see that happen! I couldn’t help but giggle at the ridiculousness of the very notion. I didn’t even tell my husband what my dad said in my dream. I shook it off and went about my day.

So I pushed my dream to the back of my thoughts. Later on that day, my husband was in the living room and I was in the bedroom. Suddenly, my cell phone rang. Which is odd because I have an old pre-pay flip phone and rarely use it. I have it for emergencies only. No one ever calls me on it, unless it is the school with an emergency about my kids.  I don’t think I’ve received a single phone call on my phone in over a year. I didn’t even realize what ring tone I had until it went off that night. Yet, there it was, ringing and ringing, cutting through the silence.

Neither of us made a move to answer it.

“Is that your phone?” asked my husband, laughing to himself.

“I don’t know, I guess. Who could be calling me? Where is it?” I yelled from the bedroom.

“I think it’s coming from your purse.”

“Huh. That’s odd.”

It stopped ringing, so I went back to reading my book.

About an hour went by and when I walked into the living room, my husband asked, “Hey, who was calling you on your phone anyway? Did you check?”

Oh, yeah! I walked over and dug my cell out of my purse and flipped it open to see who had called me on caller ID. I scrolled down to “missed calls”.

It was my own cell phone number.

Calling me.

Calling myself.

My cell phone called my cell phone? Is that possible?

“What the hell? It’s my own number?  How could my phone call itself?” I asked my husband. “Maybe a button was somehow accidentally pushed in my purse?”

Granted, neither of us was anywhere near my purse when the phone started ringing.

I stood there trying to figure it out. I decided to dial my cell phone number on my cell to see if it would ring (as crazy as that sounds) and of course, it went straight to my voice mail. How can a phone dial itself? I’ve had this phone for years and years and never once did it ‘call itself’. I was positive it must be a glitch.  Right?

It took several minutes before it dawned on me.

I will call you.

And you know what?

I think he did.

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