Well, don’t anyone try to convince me there’s not life after life. I’ve had too many experiences to believe in the silence of dark mouldering eternal sleep. The world is too full of life—and mystery. And by the way, of LAUGHTER! At one level it’s all laughter!
My first cousin died recently. On the Saturday morning before I had heard of his death, I found myself staring at the books in my bookcase, reached out and plucked a book I hadn’t noticed before. “Where did this come from?” I thought, regarding a volume of Italian short stories, in Italian, printed in 1999. . . .and then from the pages fell a yellowed invoice of long ago, with handwriting in faded ink. . . revealing something bought for $5.00. The name at the top was that of my Uncle, and there was his address in Cumberland, Maryland–except he had died decades earlier, long before this book was printed. And where did the book come from anyway, not to mention the invoice?
A few hours later, the phone call came through saying that Bill, his son and my first cousin, had died. Was my uncle waiting for him on the Other Side? Was this a message to me, to be forewarned? To rejoice?
At the funeral, I told Bill’s wife the story, and she laughed. “That’s nothing!” she cried. “The night he died we were woken up all night long with the smoke alarms going off, one by one. It was just like him!” (Oh, funerals are so much fun!)
We all agreed he was probably at there with us, having a grand time and filled with pride as he watched his handsome sons memorialize him.
And while on the subject of Mysteries and Strange Protectors, here’s another one, told in a news clipping by Louise Hick of Durham, N.C. I don’t know when it happened, but I found the clipping (also mysteriously) among some old papers where it didn’t belong.
It was after midnight when the young girl (Louise?) caught the bus at the end of her shift at the bakery. Nobody else was on the bus. She took a seat toward the back.
“Mind if I open the window?” she asked.
“Go right ahead, Miss,” said the driver. “Maybe the breeze will give me a peek at your pretty legs.”
As if that weren’t enough to raise her hackles, the driver then announced, “Know what? I’m going to take you for a little ride!”
He veered off the usual route and pulled into a dark country churchyard. She was terrified. Lord, help me please, she prayed.
The driver turned off the ignition, removed the keys, and rose to move toward her, when suddenly there was a knock on the door.
Cursing, he stomped back to the front, and switched on the lights. An elderly white-haired couple got on.
“Had some engine trouble,” the driver lied. “We’ll be on our way now.”
The couple took two seats across the aisle from the trembling young woman, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to board a bus in a churchyard after midnight.
The driver resumed his regular route. At the next stop as several people got on, Louise jumped off, but not before turning to look back at the elderly couple. Apart from the few people entering at the front, there were no passengers on the bus.
Now what in the world are we to make of things like that? And how is it that in novels or even nonfiction (too often in our own lives) we don’t notice that gifts are raining on us all the time. Apart from “Jane Eyre,” which was written in the 19th century, after all, when people were more attuned to intuition, the spiritual, mysterious Voices and coincidences, I hardly know a single novel where the spiritual plays any part (except, of course, for ghost stories–it’s all right to read or write about the dark side). In modern novels the characters never enter a church or synagogue, wouldn’t dream of praying, don’t even seem to be aware of anything beyond the material and their own self-reliance. (This may be why my forthcoming novel, “Love, Alba,” where Alba, the cat, sees into realities that evade the 2-leggeds whom she loves, had such a hard time being published. But more about that another time.)
Meanwhile, let us share our stories: when was the last time something wondrous, delightful and unexpected landed in your lap. We all need to remember the Rules of the Universe: It’s not that nothing bad will ever happen in our lives; it’s that when it does, we’re not alone.
or this one: Gifts are poured upon us all the time. Do you notice and remember to say thank you? The more you give thanks, the more wonders happen to you.
and this one: Sometimes “No” is God’s way of saving us from something frightful. Give thanks. Always and everywhere give thanks.