Read an Excerpt
Closer Than You Think
The Easy Guide to Connecting with Loved Ones on the Other Side
By Deborah Heneghan, Linda Sivertsen
Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Deborah Heneghan
All rights reserved.
Gotta Have Faith: Dumping Doubt Through Prayer
Faith. What does faith have to do with communicating with your loved ones on the other side? My experience is that no matter what religion you follow, practice, or don't, faith has everything to do with fostering a spiritual connection. There are countless things I could say on the topic of faith, but simply put—if you don't believe (have faith) that you can communicate with and receive signs from those on the other side, you won't. (Oh, they'll still send you messages. You'll just ignore them or attribute them to coincidence.) With faith, however, the possibilities are limitless. Your loved ones in spirit, no longer bound by the laws of earth, may just blow the doors off your limited thinking and your hardened heart.
But I get it. Faith can be a tricky word, and the act of being faithful, illusive. Let's break it down, shall we?
Faith. You hear it all the time, don't you? The word itself is bantered about like it should be the most natural thing in the world:
Keep the faith.
You've just got to have faith!
But what if you don't have faith, or you've temporarily lost yours? What if you once felt faithful regularly, if not all the time, but after the loss of a loved one, you feel robbed of your faith? Faith is our natural state, but when we lose it with a loved one's death, we don't seem to be able get it back without going through the natural process of grieving (the topic of our next chapter). It's a must to work through whatever anger, depression, or pain has depleted your faith.
In this chapter, I share stories I've collected that are designed to inspire your faith, as well as a few considerations to think about anytime you're feeling low and need support.
First, I want you to know that faith waxes and wanes for most of us. Even Mother Teresa, through personal letters released upon her death, admitted being plagued by a crisis of faith throughout much of her life. When death touches you, as it did for Mother Teresa on a near-daily basis (as she administered to the sick and dying in Calcutta and some of the world's most impoverished locales for many years), it would be illogical to expect a person to have no doubts about the benevolence of the almighty.
I think we all ask ourselves questions after experiencing deep loss. Questions like: Is there a God? Is God really a loving God? If so, why do bad things happen to good people? And the big one: If we're all going to die anyway, what's the point of life?
I believe we're here to go through a variety of experiences (that appear both good and bad) to help us grow. If you're going through a crisis of spirit, my heart goes out to you. I understand what this kind of loss can do to your psyche and your view of life, God, and the Universe itself. Hang on. Things will shift. The feelings of hopelessness that often accompany grief do go away. My friend Linda used to describe the death of her mother as "the day the earth tilted on its axis," the day "nothing quite felt or looked the same way." While it took a year for Linda to feel the beauty of life again, no one could argue that her life wasn't forever altered. In her sadness, Linda never could have known that her mother was still with her and continued to enrich her life. She couldn't know that her belief in life would return. But thankfully, both proved to be true. As I believe they will for you.
My sister has been gone a long time now. I'm on the other side of grief, so you might think it's easy for me to be positive. True. I have learned to look beyond her death as a sad, negative, and emotional situation and see it now as a blessing in disguise. But that takes time. And it's not always easy going. I do believe, however, that you will find gifts in death when you look deeply enough. It may take some digging, but gifts are there. Maybe it's as simple as recognizing your own dreams again, or listening to your heart. Remarkably, even after twenty-five years, I still discover new gifts from my sister's passing all the time.
Even when something doesn't immediately seem like a gift, my trust in life allows me to lift my head and stare down whatever has stepped into my path. What I've come to believe and experience over the years is that my higher power, God, never leaves my side. God guides me and loves me unconditionally, as He does each of us. Most importantly, God knows exactly what I need, when I need it, and how I need it. So, when a decision I made turns sour, or the outcome isn't remotely close to what I envisioned, or something happens out of the blue and the life of a loved one is taken, I believe that everyone involved is being led down a path for their highest purpose. It may take time to see how each experience actually helps me individually, but proof always seems to show up and put me back in my place; a good place—a place of 100 percent faith.
It's interesting to me that faith is universal. All cultures and religions throughout the world have a faith in God (or Gods), Spirit, or a higher power. All have a belief that the personality or the soul continues to have life after death. I like to think they're right. I cherish examples that remind me to dump my doubt and keep my faith. Like this one ...
Synchronistic Street Fair
A dear friend of mine, Susan Kimutis—the author of Receiving Birth—and her husband, John, lost their nineteen-year-old son, Joe, to a tragic accident in March of 2011. As they were working through their grief, they began receiving signs of peace and comfort from Joe.
May the magic of the love that exists between worlds touch you through this story.
In Susan's own words:
One Saturday I was headed to my local health food store for a quick stop, but my plans changed when the main road was closed for a street fair. I weaved my way, blindly following the cars in front of me until I found myself again on familiar ground. I popped into the store, got what I needed, and was out. I had to park across the street in a funeral home parking lot because street parking was a premium, due to the street fair.
I called my friend Lisa and asked her if she was at the street fair and could she meet with me. She was not. I had no idea why I did that or why I stayed, since street fairs are not my thing. But I walked toward the center of town anyway, passing booths promoting the Rotary Club, the public library, and the funeral home, where I had just parked. I didn't stop. I was disinterested and soon decided to get back to my car and head home.
As I began walking back, however, I became slightly annoyed with myself because the new flip flops I was wearing were giving me a blister on the top of my foot. What am I doing here? I don't even like Disney World; why am I at a street fair? Those thoughts were hanging in a bubble over my head when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I turned around to see a young girl, maybe nineteen, standing in front of me. She was holding a bright pink business card, which she quickly pushed into my hand. She had an accent and beautiful black hair. I was reminded of Joe when I saw her. "Would you like me to read your palm?" she asked. I hesitated, surprised. We discussed the cost and options, one palm or two. I decided on both palms.
The young girl grabbed my hands with purpose. She was pushing her thumbs deeply into my hands to better reveal every line. She began telling me a few facts about me. Yes, facts. Things about my life growing up. Then she did it.
"You have recently suffered a great tragedy," she said. "Someone very close to you has passed. Three of you have been affected greatly, but his passing has devastated many. Many, like a tribe of people. His life affected many." She used the word tribe, which I have heard many times describing the wonderful people who have circled my family since Joe's death.
"He is fine," she said. I realized in that moment that tears were running down my face, and I was not breathing. I took a deliberate, deep breath as she continued.
"Someone has been sad lately. He [Joe] knows this. He sees this man when he is sad. When the man is sad, he kisses the top of his head."
I started to get dizzy. The noise and commotion of the street fair was all around me. I was standing, growing roots in the center of the street, as this young girl continued to squeeze and look into my hands.
John had been having a difficult week. He was missing his beautiful boy. It was Father's Day. John was about eight inches taller than Joe. John was always kissing the top of Joe's head. I knew immediately what this meant.
Let me say that I, on occasion, dream about people who have passed. I am very open to everything she was saying to me. She could tell that I was open. She looked me in the eye and said, "You know this."
She then told me that he was watching very closely over someone who was younger than him but taller in this life. I knew of course, that was Sarah, his sister. She is 5'9?. He was 5'7?. He was fiercely protective of her.
"Please know he is fine. He is happy," the young girl said one last time.
We were done. I went through the motions of paying her. I continued crying as I walked back to my car.
When I got home, I gave John his Father's Day present from his son, who is fine, kissing the top of his head.
All is well.
* * *
Wow! Susan followed her inner guidance and found herself wandering through the fair, even though it wasn't something she typically fancied. The beauty of this story is that it's only one of many experiences that Susan, John, and other members of their tribe have been blessed with since Joe's passing.
They have faith. They are open. The grace of spiritual connections continues on and on for them, just as it does for Vicky in this next story.
Touched by Angel Clouds
My very good friend Vicky was in her thirties when she lost her mom to a sudden, unexpected heart attack. They were very close, and she was crushed to receive the call from her father late one night. Vicky hurried to the hospital, but she didn't make it in time. She tried moving forward from her loss by taking time away from her everyday life and booking a flight to vacation in Arizona with me.
We flew on separate planes, and during Vicky's four-hour flight, she sat in a window seat. A grandmother and the woman's four-year-old grandson sat next to her. The boy was outgoing and energetic—"as cute as a button," Vicky told me. He pointed out the window and, with such innocence, turned to Vicky saying, "There's an Angel out there. She's your mom. She wants you to know that everything is okay." Chills went up and down Vicky's spine. Tears poured from her eyes as she stared out the window, hoping to see this Angel, her mother. She saw nothing. The boy was surprised she and his own grandmother couldn't see what was right in front of them.
Although this child was only four years old, Vicky believed he was a wise soul. He did not give specific details about the Angel he saw, but he did say that she had a beautiful smile and was very happy." Vicky's heart exploded with love and appreciation. Since her mom had passed, Vicky always wondered if her mother was happy and at peace. At that moment, she knew. She cried and hugged the little boy as if he were her mom. The boy held her in his arms, comforting her, just as a mother would do. Vicky had faith the boy saw the truth, and she cherished knowing that her mother was happy and in a heavenly place.
Vicky, the grandmother, and the grandson spent the rest of the flight talking and getting to know each other. Once she arrived in Arizona, I picked her up at the airport and we headed straight to the hotel pool. It was a perfect, eighty-five-degree, sunny Arizona day. Vicky shared her story with me, and we laughed, cried, and reminisced. As we floated on rafts in the pool, gazing at the majestic mountains surrounding us, we couldn't believe our eyes. There, up in the crystal-clear, blue sky, were three perfect angel clouds, more intricate than any painting or drawing. One angel was playing a trumpet, another was simply flying through the air, and the last held a harmonica. We gasped, frozen in place, knowing exactly who those angels were—Vicky's mom, grandfather, and my sister.
We had never felt anything like this before. An indescribable calm, serene feeling came over us. More powerful than any connection we'd ever experienced.
Years later, Vicky still cherishes the bond she feels with her mom. "My mother has never left my side since. She has helped me through many challenges with her unconditional love and guidance whenever I need her."
I asked Vicky to share how she knows when her mother is nearby. "Oh, that's easy," she said. "I smell her favorite perfume when she's around, helping out." I thought about that, remembering a time another friend told me of smelling her grandfather's cigar in her apartment in college, the day she heard he had died, five hundred miles away. I hear that a lot from people—that they smell roses or perfume when a loved one passes or comes back from the other side with a visitation or a message.
"I also hear Mom's favorite songs when I need a hug," Vicky continued. "When I'm overwhelmed with feelings of sadness or anxiety, I will see her favorite movies on TV, even though they're oldies." Vicky knows it's more than the coincidences that make her certain her mother is sending her messages. "It's the feeling that comes over me when I smell, hear, or see these things. It's a peaceful, comforting feeling that washes over me, and it's very real."
It's the combination of signs and messages like these that continuously increases Vicky's faith, just as it does for me.
We all want to feel assurance from a departed loved one. We all want healing. People flock to dramatic signs that God or the Virgin Mary or Jesus or other saints could really exist in order to feel better about their place in this world. Thousands have reported seeing the Virgin Mary through apparitions in the sky, or they tell of seeing her statues weep, bleed, turn color, or move. Maybe you've heard of Lourdes, France, where five million pilgrims make the annual trek to visit the cave and drink the water where a peasant girl by the name of Bernadette Soubirous had eighteen Virgin Mary sightings in the late 1850s before she became a nun.
What I love about faith is that if you're open to believing, you can receive signs, or proof, that life continues after death anywhere, not just at a church or a sacred site far, far away. We are always getting messages from those who have passed on that they're here watching over us and loving us, even in the most unlikely places.
Restoring My Faith in Reality TV
I have a love-hate relationship with reality TV. I love getting caught up in these over-the-top shows, but I also think some of them go too far, disrespecting the participants and their audience. They can be incredibly shallow!
And yet, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have been known to catch my interest—yeah, mine and about 15 million other Americans'! There was something very special and powerful about the last episode of The Bachelorette in the summer of 2010. Ali, the lucky lady doing the choosing, was standing at the altar in Tahiti, ready to proclaim her love for one of two men left standing. The man she did not pick, Chris (who had to pack his bags to go home with a broken heart), had previously shared his gut-wrenching story of quitting his job to help his father take care of his dying mother, a death that had only occurred within the last two years. Time and again, when Chris and Ali were together, he would speak of his mother and the wonderful relationship they had shared. He talked of the importance of family values and relationships.
During one episode, Chris mentioned that right before his mother passed away, she told him to look for her in rainbows—that she would come to him through them.
When Ali broke up with Chris, he was devastated. But there was a wonderful twist to the story. Not five minutes after Ali let him go, he stepped outside and what did he see? A huge, perfect rainbow! Chris was in awe, as was the audience, because it had not rained at all that day. All he could do was shake his head and look up to the sky toward his mother.
Ali had also seen the rainbow as she walked back to her hut. She, too, cried and smiled, completely astonished. She said she was so thankful that Chris's mom was there to help him through this trying time.
The best part for me was that the host of The Bachelorette, also named Chris (Harrison), talked about the phenomenon with the rainbow and how touching it was during the "After the Final Rose" show. He mentioned how everyone affiliated with the production of the show had acknowledged the rainbow and its connection with Chris and his mother, remarking at how amazing it all was.
Excerpted from Closer Than You Think by Deborah Heneghan, Linda Sivertsen. Copyright © 2012 Deborah Heneghan. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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