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? 


Beckypdj said...

I've not been one to look for "signs", but have experienced them nonetheless. There have been many nights that I knew I dreamed of Peyton and it was very comforting, even though I couldn't remember the dreams.

One of Peyton's friends was having a very low day and she pulled up behind a truck that had a "Peyton" sticker in it's back windown. This was not a sticker we had made. It was a baseball with Peyton's name AND #7, his baseball number :)

Another time my best friend and I were watching American Idol and a large posterboard was in the audience with Peyton #7 and the name of a baseball team he used to play on. My friend and I had just been talking about him minutes before it appeared on screen.

I have had several dreams about him that feel so very real. We are connected to Heaven in a way that I couldn't imagine, but it is a very real connection and I am grateful to know it.

karen gerstenberger said...

Thank you for writing this very meaningful post, Karen. It comforts me to read what are the signs that have comforted you & your family. Though they are "on the other side," I know our love & relationship w/our kids is unbroken. I feel your warmth & love reaching across the miles. Hugs & love to you, my friend!

Anonymous said...

I know we share signs and upon reading Karen's book it was refreshing to know it is okay to except this things.

My granddaughter Hannah was so close to Angie and has had many things happen that she only shares with me now because she says others just roll their eyes. I think Angie is protecting her?

For me, as you know Karen, it is a moment I can not help but feel Angie was reaching out to me. We had a baby monitor in our room so she could call out when she needed up many times through the night. We were only right next door but wanted to make sure we heard her. She would say MOM and then up we both would be to see to her needs. After we lost her a few months later I was making the bed and as clear as day I heard her call MOM! I ran to the family room and my heart was pounding so hard. It was real and needed and I wish I could hear it again.

When we get to heaven she will say I remember, just wanted to see if you were still listening. xoxo Sharon

Marina said...

Butterflies. Kaia had butterflies in her room at the hospital and at her Maui memorial Alana decorated her picture collage with butterflies. During Kaia's Maui memorial a butterfly flew by us on the beach, a rare site, but we knew it was a Kaia sign. In January of this year we had family pictures taken in Paia, we were all walking together on the street and a butterfly flew past us. Our Kaia sign, a part of the family even though she is not physically present. Alana and Jared bought me a beautiful butterfly magnet that is on my fridge. Butterflies are Kaia's sign.
Love you Karen

Anonymous said...

On the morning of my husband Curt's memorial the brightest rainbow I have ever seen appeared over Hope Chapel...stretched across the entire sky. In Kihei, where it rarely even rains, this brilliant reminder of God's mercy and glory remained intact until the service began. We were all outside looking up...absolutely in awe of such a beautiful display!

My daughter Julie was here visiting about a week ago. As we spent time driving around Maui together, she surprised me several times by calling out, "look Mom, there's Dad's rainbow!" And sure enough, when I looked, there one would be in the sky above us - a reminder of God's promise and power.

In a vision from God, the prophet Ezekiel compared the glory of God to a rainbow: "...and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord." Ezekiel 1:27-28

The morning we gathered to celebrate Curt's life, that beautiful arch of color overhead was an unmistakable declaration of God's power over death, His tender mercy toward us who remain behind, and the indescribable beauty and glory of the Lord.

Our family will always be reminded of this whenever we see a rainbow in the sky!

Love you,
Patti Franks