Saturday, March 24, 2012
My friend, Karen Gerstenberger, recently released this incredible book. It's the story of her family's challenging journey through pediatric cancer, which eventually took the life of her precious daughter Katie. It is full of truth, wisdom, faith and hope, and I recommend it to anyone who is dealing with a long-term illness in their family, or with the death of a child. I have previously written about it here, and you can find other reviews and order the book here.
I've been wanting to share my favorite part of the book since I first wrote about it, and finally have the time to do so. After Katie passed away, Karen experienced some phenomena that many bereaved people have reported experiencing in some form or another. In her case, immediately after Katie passed away, Karen felt a wind passing through Katie's room repeatedly, ruffling the pictures and posters on the walls, even though the air outside was moving in the opposite direction. She also describes another scene during which she was crying uncontrollably from missing Katie so much, and a ball of sparkling light came down the hallway into her room and hovered in front of her bringing her comfort.
I love that Karen shared these two stories. Though I would have been a profound skeptic before Joey died, and might have, upon hearing such a story, given a condescending smile and a wink to anyone else in the room, now I am not so foolish. The new me is an open ear for all such stories, and I have come to call these common experiences "Signs". I have learned that many of us who have lost someone essential to our existence have experienced some customized version of our own signs-- reminders that despite their absence, our loved ones are very alive and doing very well.
I don't believe in ghosts, or restless spirits or any of the scary types of things you see in movies. The Bible says when people die, they move out of this world into the next one, so that is not what I am talking about here. In our family's case, we have had repeated dreams of Joey that have brought us great comfort, even guidance on one occasion. We have also experienced the appearance of cardinals over and over again in special moments, most recently last week when we went to visit Joey's best friend Kevin, and had a cardinal on a wire singing to us as we sat in the backyard on our first night at his house. At first I attributed these things to coincidence, but after the 10th or 20th time it happened, it was difficult to continue minimizing them.
In the Bible, God gives lots and lots of signs, one of His most spectacular being a rainbow. So it's not particularly far-fetched that a loving God would comfort us with natural signs concerning our loved ones. I tend to think of it this way: the veil between earth and eternity is apparently a thin one. Moses and Elijah crossed it to visit Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. The veil was lifted so that others could see the invisible armies and chariots of God that were arranged on the hillsides in the midst of an Israelite battle. Stephen saw the throne of God and Jesus standing at God's right hand as he, Stephen, was being stoned to death. There are numerous biblical accounts of people seeing Heaven, i.e., Daniel, Ezekiel, John. So yes, a thin veil.
Scripture also indicates that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses--and those witnesses, made up of the angels of Heaven and those who have gone on before us, are witnessing the great cosmic spiritual drama being played out here on earth. So it's not a big stretch to imagine God, or our loved ones, seeing us here on earth, sensing our grief, and in certain moments, striking that veil in such a way as to send a burst of energy. And that energy, on our side of the veil, charges a cardinal or sends a dream or a wind or a ball of light into our room. It reminds us that they and Heaven and eternity and God are not so far away as we think in our rootbound earthly way.
So that's my theory. I don't see that it violates
Scripture, though I will admit it is pure conjecture. How about you? Have you experienced a sign about your departed loved one? How do you explain it? What does it mean to you? Does it help you as it does me? Will you share it to give comfort, as Karen did?