A 56-year-old man sits on his deck by a fire in Northern Michigan all alone. It's a cool crisp night in early April but the heat of a fire is enough to keep him warm. He focuses on the snapping of the wood as it burns and the twisting and turning of the flames consuming the logs. The trees are still bare, the leaves on their branches having not yet awakened from their winter slumber.
As he sits, he begins to reflect on all he has accomplished, his regrets and failures, the passage of time and the recognition that he is running out of it. Sitting there by the fire his mind drifts to the family he remembered from his youth, the family that raised him. Many of whom died at around the same age he is now, and he felt very sad about their loss.
There was his great grandfather Luigi who immigrated from Italy and died at the age of 62, his grandfather Lawrence aged 63 in the yard after racking leaves and his uncle bearing the same name at 62 suddenly as he climbed his own basement steps. His grandmother Beatrice died at 82 in his house but outlived her own son by a few years. Finally, he buried his own mother last year at 78 after three bouts of cancer.
There sitting on his deck broken and defeated, he starts to remember the old family stories he was told since his childhood but never quite believed. Miraculous stories about his grandmother's family coming back after death to communicate to their loved ones that they were ok, together, and to provide reassurance to those left behind. The man searches his memory deeper to remember some of those old stories his grandmother used to tell him.
His grandmother said: "Shortly after my sister Rosella died, she came to me in my bedroom. I was sitting alone and saddened by her death when she suddenly appeared and sat on the edge of the bed next to me."
"Rosella, you died! How did you get here? You were buried two weeks ago."
"I am okay, Beatrice. I'm just in a different place, free from my pain and suffering. It's a good place and our parents are there."
"Are you okay, Rosella? I miss you and hope that your finally at peace."
"Yes of course little sister, the family wants me to tell you that they are okay, that someday you will join us and we will all be together again."
"Please stay a while and talk to me there is so much I want to know."
"Beatrice, it's hard to remain here. I just knew that you would be sad so came back with to see you and leave the family message."
After which, Rosella simply faded away leaving his grandmother in her room alone crying. This was not just a single occurence but ran through the family like an umbilical cord connecting the living with the dead in an unbroken chain of communion. This family message was one of hope, reassurance and continued existence in a better place. It always occured after the death of a family member or loved one.
His grandmother claimed as time passed three more of her sisters, two brothers, and several other family members came to her after their deaths. She was not alone in these beliefs, as the man had spoken to several other members from the family that believed the same thing. The West's were such a close net family that they literally bought up large sections of a cemetery that they are still giving lots away to relatives and friends from. The message was clearly one of continued communion.
Sometimes the messages extended beyond the immediate family to close friends. The man remembered Kay a neighborhood woman calling his grandmother's house soon after she died. He remembered hearing with his own ears the old white rotary dial telephone ringing just before he picked it up. The voice on the other end he recognized but didn't.
"I need to speak to Beatrice."
The voice was weak and shallow but when his grandmother picked it up the message was clear. The message was for her two adult children. My grandmother told me that Kay, the woman who died of cancer, was very insistent that she tells her son she forgave him. Later, when this happened, the man cried confessing he smothered his mother because he could no longer endure her being in such pain.
At the time the man never gave a second thought to any of this. He was brought up submerged in the family culture, which was a combination of Huron Indian, Northern European, Gypsy, fortune tellers and spiritual claimants. You see, it was always known to the man that his grandmother's people were spiritually connected to one another. Much more than that they had a true family gift, that could traverse time, distance and walk between two worlds or seemingly two plains of existence.
After the death of his grandfather his grandmother came to live with him at his home in Northern Michigan. He heard for years how his grandfather returned to visit her sometimes as an apparition and other times as some kind of ball of red light. Later, after his uncle died suddenly, he too was said to be seen around their house and leaving his grandmother messages. The man never seen either deceased relative, but he also knew that his grandmother never lied and was quite sincere in her belief.
His grandmother died as a result of a stroke and him not being able to get her to the hospital on time. She never came back to him with any messages of hope, inspiration or word of an existence in another place nor did his uncle who was for him his best friend. He hoped that his grandmother, grandfather and uncle were there at the hospital for his mother when she died ater her third bout of cancer in September of 2022.
He remembered how his relationship with his mother became more strained towards the end of her life. He tried to do all he could to make her comfortable, but he had to work a lot, she had given up and was not fighting much anymore. He was saddened and realized that all the people that had loved and raised him as a child, those closest to him in his life were either gone or soon to be gone.
You see his mother was no longer eating and only talked about going home or visits from her father, mother and brother. Unfortunately, many of these communications also contained messages for him. Reminding him about things he was doing wrong, family disappointments, what he should be doing better or could be doing to change.
The truth is since his youth there were many things that hurt the man cognitively, emotionally and spiritually. Despite a lifelong search, he never quite found his way. That man surprisingly enough became a clinical psychologist and a Doctor of Philosophy. That man is me; I just blew off all those family stories as superstition or fable. I did that internally because of being pissed off for decades over personal losses, people that have hurt me knowingly or unknowingly, real or imagined. In short, despite what might seemingly be many successes, kids that have become more and better human beings than I am, there are still pieces missing.
So here we are, I find myself again sitting at a deck the fire still burning. All too often, feeling sorrowful, downcast and forlorn. None of my deceased family comes back to visit me, I get no messages of hope, inspiration or reassurance that something exists beyond this. Rather, the only thing I do have is the dire realization that likely nothing exists beyond this life. That my remaining years will not provide me the peace of mind, security, happiness or self-understanding I worked so hard for. There will be no more family reunions that await me anywhere except within the prefrontal cortex of my own mind.
Please realize, the reason I am telling this story is because the same fate awaits us all. Within thirty years or less after we are gone no one will even remember that we ever existed. In the end, the only thing we ever truly accomplish is quite possibly only folly. We waste our time chasing dreams of an eternity that will never happen. Everything we accomplish is temporary and therefore has no point or meaning. Thus, where we begin and where we end is simply a hopeful illusion. At least that has always been my conclusion, or might there be something else?
Finally, in that I have the answer to the family message. You see, we are all faced with one of two choices. First, we can put our faith in the material world, physical reality, the five senses and the interpretations of the mind or second, we can believe in a divine deity, that we can live eternally and be happy together again in some spiritual place. So, I ask you, when your turn comes and you're faced with these choices, which story will you choose to believe?
Update to the story,
"I forgot to tell you, I seen mom last night. I can’t remember It 100%, but I remember her saying that she loved me, or don’t worry I love you. Mom was mom and we may have had our little differences occasionally, and the way she was looking at me as she was dying has been really bugging me. I wasn’t the perfect son by far! But mom was always there. I miss mom, and will forever, but I feel A little bit better now."
The above message was received by me on 04/18/2023 from my younger brother around 10:00Am. Did it truly happen, I do not know. What I do know is it provided hope and inspiration for him and in the end, I guess my brother's wellbeing is all that matters.
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