Spirits that Surround Me

“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion. Practicing spirituality brings a sense of perspective, meaning, and purpose to our lives.” ~ Brené Brown

I have always believed in spirits, ghosts, the afterlife, whatever you would like to call them, especially since I got older and had the opportunity to learn more about the subject. I believe in After Death Communication (ADC).  I have had many encounters, on what I like to believe, were the spirits of my deceased loved ones.   Whether it was a white mist, a talking doll or softly spoken words… these are just a few of the signs that I have experienced within the last twenty years and, most of them, within my own home, where I live today.

I have found myself to be a spiritual person, more so than a religious one, although I do believe in both wholeheartedly – the afterlife with God in his kingdom, as well as my own personal spiritual one that surround me and fills my world today. I believe it was important for me to accept the rights of baptism and confirmation. These two sacraments not only opened my eyes to how much I love God and how much He loves me, but it has also made me aware of what His world truly has to offer and all the spiritual beauty that He has created. Religiously, as a Catholic, I believe that there are certain rules and restrictions that are expected of me, requests that are asked of me, requirements that are set before me that I should live by and I hope that in every sense of the word I do.   Although, I respect the church and what my religion has to give, I believe that my spiritual side is stronger; it is more of personal one. My feelings as a spiritualist go deeper within my heart and soul and the connection that I have with my God. It is a strong one, a relationship that I truly respect and am blessed to have in my life. As I have expressed in the past, this relationship with God was not one that was taught through the education of a parent but, instead, one that was self taught and through personal discovery. Not only do I find a spiritual connection with God, Himself, but I also find a spiritual connection in the things he has created that surround me, such as the deepest magenta flower that blooms to perfection with beauty and grace. A tree that soars its branches toward the sky as it sways gently with the breeze as if it is waving hello. Or the swollen clouds that dance before me in the sky that embraces and reflects the perfect shades of crimson and payne’s gray, as the sun rests for the evening. These are just a few things that I connect with spiritually and, I do believe, that they were all at the expense of God’s hands.

Because of these spiritual feelings, I don’t believe in the thought that once we die our lives just end, hushing us into a complete darkness and a forever silence, where the life we once knew, the life we once lived and was so familiar with, is simply no more. No more thinking, communicating, no more touching, loving, feeling, no more existing, completely lights out.  There just has to be more once we pass on and I believe that there is, whether it is in God’s kingdom in the Heavens or spiritually through the wings of a butterfly.

As I lay in bed at the end of my day, I have a ritual where I go over my day’s events, things that went right… things that, perhaps, didn’t. As I lay there, I tick off in my head the tasks that I had completed and tick off what yet still needs to be done, trying to create a “pocket list” for the following day. This is my time to reflect on life in general and to assess everything. I then begin to think about who I have in my life, as well as those who I have lost and how much I am missing them.

My mind starts to wander to a dubious thought that I have had so many times before. I, once again, question how can we talk and walk, think and breathe without needing the aid of being plugged into an electrical current or connected to some sort of machine, where wires and cords give us the energy to work and perform, like when a television set is plugged in or a stove, computer, or even an electrical car!  All of these need some sort of energy source to perform.

I lay there and wonder in amazement… how am I capable of breathing on my own using a set of lungs that simply ask for clean, fresh air, but yet no requirement of wires?  How amazing it is to do my own thinking with an organ that does not need any “plug ins” to dream, to remember, to hold special thoughts and memories in my mind. My heart will beat a thousand times a day without the assistance of any electrical power. My heart loves and forgives, as well as learns about compassion. My heart is not only able to beat on its own, but is actually able to love and feel without an energy source spewing high voltage power directly into me, making all these vital organs work. I vision we should be like marionettes, where strings are connected to every part of our bodies, where a Master is now our energy source, instructing and pulling at our mind, heart and body strings, giving us the power, like electricity, to move, dance, talk and make our body’s operate.

electric

How can a heart, mind and soul function without the aid of cords zapping us with an electrical force, which seems to make everything work and function? How is it that we’re free to get up and move whenever we want, without unplugging ourselves from a pod of electrical current first?  I know that a person has to feed their body with traditional air, water and food in order to obtain that “power” of energy to keep moving forward, giving their body strength to do so, however, I still find it to be a miracle in itself. Think about it… my mind is thinking and writing its own thoughts and my heart is beating to every keystroke that my fingers type out and, all of this for “free of charge,”  no pun intended, of course.  I find it such a phenomenon that I’m able to accomplish all of this “wire free.” We are our own “energy.”  My body is one circuit of energy within itself. Each circuit of  energy within my body helps the other. These are just some of my odd thoughts that I have as I lay in my bed examining my day.

It’s these thoughts that now take me to a higher plane. Although I believe that our bodies need valued nutrition in order to be energized and function properly, I also believe that there’s a higher power that allows us to walk, talk, and move around so freely.  This power, I believe, is no other than God.  I believe that God is the one who supplies our “power” and that it’s a miracle in which my brain thinks, my lungs breathe and my heart beats and loves unconditionally all on their own. If God can do all of this while I’m alive here in my physical world, then I believe that he can create the same miracle of power, keeping our spirit and soul alive after we die.

 “I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living sprint from the dead, that the souls of the dead are in existence.” ~ Socrates

I don’t believe that once our physical bodies die that our spirits and souls die as well and that all of these miracles abruptly come to an end. I believe that our spirits and souls are set free, to continue on with our journey but now only in another measurement of time. Just because my loved ones have moved on to a different dimension, or because their physical body is no more, it doesn’t mean that their spirits don’t exist or that they don’t surround me. Their energy and wisdom will move forward to continue on with their path, where they will now share their life lessons that they have learned here on earth, with others in the next dimension so that they may teach others what they have learned and possibly what we have not. As I believe in the same power that God gives us in our physical lives, I believe that He continues to give us this same power for our spiritual world as well.  Our spirits, souls and knowledge, I believe, will continue on, whether it’s to be shared spiritually here on earth or high within the heavens.

As I often do, I extend an invitation to my deceased loved ones, letting them know they can come to me in my dreams to visit and to talk. I have only one rule with all my spiritual family and that is NOT to appear to me in their physical form. They are more than welcome to leave me a sign, move things, send me special memories or communicate with me through my dreams. Although I believe that they can appear to me, I simply request them not to. Seeing them in this form will surely scare the living turds right out of me! They know the rules, therefore, they communicate with me in the ways I have mentioned above. Reading many books on ADC, I have learned that there are twelve forms of after death communication from a deceased loved one and I have received about nine of these:

Sensing A Presence: This is the most common form of contact. But many people discount these experiences, thinking, “Oh, I’m just imagining this.” It’s a distinct feeling that your loved one is nearby, even though he or she can’t be seen or heard. Though most often felt during the days and weeks immediately after the death, you may sense his or her presence months and even years later.

Hearing A Voice: Some people state they hear an external voice, the same as when a living person is speaking to them. However, the majority of communications are by telepathy – you hear the voice of your relative or friend in your mind. When you have two-way communication, it is usually by telepathy. In fact, it’s possible to have an entire conversation this way.

Feeling A Touch: You may feel your loved one touch you with his or her hand, or place an arm around your shoulders or back, for comfort and reassurance. You may feel a tap, a pat, a caress, a stroke, a kiss, or even a hug. These are all forms of affection, nurturing, and love.

Smelling A Fragrance: You may smell your relative’s or friend’s favorite cologne, after-shave lotion, or perfume. Other common aromas are: flowers (especially roses), bath powders, tobacco products, favorite foods, and his or her personal scent.

Visual Experiences: There are a wide variety of visual experiences, which we have divided into two broad categories: partial visual and full visual ADCs. Appearances range from “a transparent mist” to “absolutely solid” with many gradations in between. You may see only the head and shoulders of your relative or friend, or someone you love may make a full appearance to you, and you will see the entire body as well, which will appear completely solid. Some visual ADCs occur in the bedroom, next to or at the foot of the bed. Others may happen anywhere – indoors or outdoors – even in a car or aboard a plane. Typically he or she will be expressing love and well-being with a radiant smile. Loved ones virtually always appear healed and whole regardless of their cause of death. Verbal communication may take place, but not always.

Visions: You may see an image of a deceased loved one in a “picture” that is either two-dimensional and flat or three-dimensional like a hologram. It’s like seeing a 35 mm slide or a movie suspended in the air. Visions are usually in radiant colors and may be seen externally with your eyes open or internally in your mind. Communication may occur, especially during meditation.

Twilight Experiences: These occur in the alpha state – as you’re falling asleep, waking up, meditating, or praying. You may have any or all of the above types of experiences while you are in this state of consciousness.

ADC Experiences While Asleep: Sleep-state ADCs are much more vivid, intense, colorful, and real than dreams. They are very common. Both one-way and two-way communications are typical. You usually feel your loved one is with you in person – that you’re having an actual visit together. These experiences are not jumbled, filled with symbols, or fragmented the way dreams are.  Sleep-state ADCs are similar to those that occur when you are wide awake. Your relative or friend can come to you more easily, however, when you are relaxed, open, and receptive, such as while you are in the alpha state or asleep.

Out-Of-Body ADCs: These may occur while you are asleep or in a meditative state. They are dramatic experiences during which you leave your body and often visit your loved one at the place or level where he or she exists. These are extremely vivid, intense, and real – some say, “more real than physical life.” The environments usually contain beautiful flowers and butterflies, colorful bushes and trees, radiant lighting, and other lovely aspects of nature – and are filled with happiness, love, and joy.

Telephone Calls: These ADCs may occur during sleep or when you are wide awake. You will hear a phone ringing, and if you answer it, your loved one will give you a short message. Two-way conversations are possible. His or her voice will usually be clear but may seem far away. If you are awake, you will probably not hear a disconnect sound or a dial tone when the call is completed.

Physical Phenomena: People who are bereaved often report receiving a wide variety of physical signs from their deceased relative or friend, such as: lights or lamps blinking on and off; lights, radios, televisions, stereos, and mechanical objects being turned on; photographs, pictures, and various other items being turned over or moved; and a long list of “things that go bump in the night.”

Symbolic ADCs: People frequently ask a Higher Power, the universe, or their deceased loved one for a sign that he or she still exists. Many receive such a sign, though it may take some time to arrive. Occasionally these signs are so subtle they may be missed, or they may be discounted as mere “coincidences.” Common signs include: butterflies, rainbows, many species of birds and animals, flowers, and a variety of inanimate objects such as coins and pictures. (1)

Just as I believe spiritually, I strongly believe in the spirit world as well. I believe that my loved one’s spirits come to visit me, surrounding me with their guidance, protection and love. I’ve had deceased loved ones offer me advice through a dream, thank me or just extending a hug.  I don’t call what has happened to me as coincidences, I believe that they all happened for a reason and that there’s a meaning and message behind each and every one of them.  I have always welcomed my family to communicate with me, via ADC, and with the stories I mention below, I believe, they have.

The Sweet Smell of Tar

One of my first encounters of spirits was by smell.  My grandfather, Raymond, was a roofer and he often would bring home his big red roofing truck, which smelled like tar and, of course, himself, too. It was one of those pleasant memories that when I smell tar today, I think fondly of my grandfather.  However, what’s strange is that whenever I smell tar, there would be no tar truck around nor were any buildings being worked on.

The smell literally appeared out of nowhere. Such as, when I was planning to go into the hospital to have Arla by cesarean, I smelled tar inside the car on the way to the hospital.  This same smell repeated itself when I was on my way to the hospital the second time to give birth by cesarean to Tanner. Again, there were no tar trucks or buildings around me that indicated work was being done.  When having Tanner, the anesthesiologist was having trouble inserting the needle into my back for my epidural. I was told that if they couldn’t get it by the third attempt, they would have to put me under. I have a fear of going under anesthesia, so I had prayed to my grandfather, “Grandpa, please guide the physician’s hands to help her insert the needle into my back so that I don’t have to go under. You know how much I fear going under…” No sooner when my prayer ended, the anesthesiologist, Dr. Childers, was able to complete the procedure and the needle slid directly into my spine with ease. “Thank you grandpa!”  Frank commented that when I was in the hospital to have Arla, that there was an elderly man working on the sink just outside the operating room.  Of course, Frank didn’t give it a second thought… until the next time when I went to the hospital to have Tanner.  Once again, I was the same operating room as the first time and there Frank said was the same elderly man, underneath the sink, working on it.  I personally didn’t recall this man, but Frank insisted that he was there both times of delivery, working on the same sink. I do know that I smelled roofing tar for no apparent reason on both of these occasions and, along with this elderly man, I believe that this could have been grandpa stopping by to make sure that I was okay and it was his way of saying that he was there with me, protecting and watching over me.  To this day, I still continue to smell roofing tar and, when I do, I peacefully say, “Hello grandpa, how are you?”

Coming to Say Hello

As I have shared in the past, my grandfather and I were very close, especially in the latter years when he was battling his final fight with cancer.

While visiting with him and my grandmother in Madison in the early 1980’s, I realized that his condition was deteriorating, making me realize that he may not be with us too much longer.  As I sat on the couch with grandpa, we started talking about this and that, catching up on lost time. It was moments later that grandpa stood up and, with the help of his cane, he walked slowly to his bedroom to collect something from his drawer.

Sitting back down beside me, he handed me a man’s gold diamond ring, sharing with me that he had found it in a car wash decades ago.  He asked me if I would like to keep it, so that when I held it, I would think of him.  Knowing that it was a part of him, I said, “Yes, I would love to have it as a keepsake.”  Grandpa commented that he had the ring for many years and that I should never give it away and to keep it always.  I distinctly remember the moment when sitting close beside him on the couch that warm summer afternoon, playing with the ring that he gave me, twirling it around my finger. There was reminiscence in the air, along with our conversation, as we started to talk about the farm in Stoughton and all the fun time we had while living there. I could tell that this was a fond memory in grandpa’s heart. It wasn’t long when he shared with me that he wished my mother would have named me Arlaraye, like he asked her to. But, he told me that she absolutely refused. I told him that I was sorry, as I knew how important this was to him. It was then that I made a vow to him and said, “Grandpa, if I ever have a daughter in the future, I promise that I will name her after you, for you, and call her Arlaraye.”  With that, he put his arms around me and gave me the strongest hug. The strength in his arms told me that I had just made him a very happy grandfather.

Grandpa’s death came just a couple years later and it saddened me to know that he would never be around to see my promise to him become a reality, naming my first daughter for him. Almost ten years later, when I realized that I was pregnant, I was ecstatic!   I was expecting to have my first child in April 1992.  From the moment that I found out I was going to have a baby, all I wished for that it was going to be a girl.  One evening during the night, I prayed my wishes to God, expressing how much I wanted to have a daughter so that I could honor my grandfather in the way that my mother would not.  After pleading my reasons, I felt something in my belly, twisting and turning, almost as if the baby did a complete 360 flip inside me.  The feeling that I experienced that night was different, almost bizarre, as if God was answering my prayers the moment they left my lips.

My daughter, Arlaraye Niccole, was born on Monday, April 6, 1992.

It wasn’t long before Frank and I got in the routine of nightly feedings, changing poopy diapers, with a side order of not enough sleep!  At the time, we always lived in the back room.  It was our main family room, where we watched TV and entertained guests and simply hung out.  Today, this room is considered the art room. But, when Arla was a baby, this was the room we utilized the most when first moving into the house.  This family room was an addition that was built onto the house decades prior to us moving in. It’s a nice size room and it overlooks the backyard, with many windows wrapping around. The main bedrooms were on the first floor, with Arla’s room being directly across from ours.  Because the back room was an add on, Arla’s bedroom had two doors; one that originally would have led outside to the backyard if the addition wasn’t there and the main bedroom door, which leads into the hallway by the bathroom and our bedroom.

One evening, Frank and I were sitting in the back family room, enjoying some quite time, as we had just laid Arla down in her crib for the night. As young parents often do, we made sure that the noise level was at a minimum so as to not wake up our new baby girl. We made sure that both doors were tightly closed so that our cats wouldn’t disturb Arla while she slept.  Settling in for an evening of TV, it wasn’t long before we heard the unexpected. I was sitting right outside Arla’s door and Frank was lounging on the couch. It was moments later that Arla’s main door to her room, the one that faced the hallway, opened and within a few seconds it closed again, slamming shut. Suddenly, Frank and I both looked at each other simultaneously, as we spun our heads toward Arla’s bedroom.  We both knew that we were the only ones in the house. As if on cue, both Frank and I said in harmony, “Grandpa Johnson!”  Frank went to Arla’s room and, there as it was, just the way we left it, her door was completely shut. We knew that Arla didn’t open the door, as she was just a newborn, not even able to roll over yet, let open a bedroom door.  Frank and I absolutely believed that grandpa had stopped by for a visit to say hello to his new great granddaughter, his namesake, the one I promised to name for him, in honor of him.

It was a couple years later, once we had our Golden Retriever, Kassy, that this room attracted additional attention. One evening, as Kassy laid quietly on the floor next to my feet in the family room, she suddenly poked her head up, looked toward Arla’s room, and started a low toned growl. She immediately got my attention as I, too, looked toward Arla’s room.  The lights were off and Arla’s back door was slightly opened. At the time, Arla was not in her room, but in her basinet beside me. Kassy is now standing on all fours and is directing her complete attention to the open door of Arla’s room, growling making her presence known. I began to ask Kassy what was the matter and asked her to go and investigate, with a quick “who’s there girl, watch ‘em!” command. Kassy slowly walked to the open door, as if she was on a cautious hunt, but she moved no further nor did she walk inside the room.  It was if she got spooked.  Immediately turning around, she shared a small whimper and came back to my side, hugging close to my legs, which is where she remained for the remainder of the evening.  It was apparent that there was something going on in Arla’s room and that Kassy was scared.  Animals can be such intuitive animals and I believe that there was something in the room that grabbed her attention.  Although I never did learn what stirred Kassy into such a frenzy, I can only believe that it was simply another visit from grandpa, looking to say hello to his Arlaraye.

The Light in the Window

One evening, I was home by myself and Frank was out with the Arla, who was a toddler at the time. It was a rarity that I was alone, not to mention with my own thoughts. I decided to call my friend Donatta to catch up on life. I was in our back family room at the time. Doing things between both rooms, running back and forth from the kitchen and family room, and instead of resting within the chair, I decided to sit and prop myself on the arm of the recliner chair. I faced the windows toward the backyard, with my back resting toward the kitchen. It was evening out and I could see the room’s reflection in the darken window. Midway through my conversation with Donatta, while starring toward the window, I saw a large white light that suddenly took over my attention. Like a mirror, this light was being reflected in the darkened window. My reaction was somewhat puzzling, but yet uneasy, as I couldn’t grasp at the moment where the light was coming from.   The light was noticeable and prominent for at least a good ten seconds. It appeared as if something was being opened and closed, as I saw the light slowly disappear.

I immediately went to the window to investigate, thinking it was the weather, perhaps lightening, but I soon realized it wasn’t. Turning back toward the kitchen, I stood there thinking maybe Frank and the kids were home, but they weren’t. The house was quiet. There were no other lights on in the kitchen except for the accent light underneath the stove, which wasn’t in the path of the window.  Still standing in the back room, my eyes then drifted through the kitchen to the fridge. As I expected it to be, the fridge door was closed. Walking only a few feet into the kitchen from where I was standing, I went directly to the fridge. Holding the phone in my left hand, I was still on the phone talking with Donatta, explaining to her what was happening. Placing my right hand onto the fridge door handle, I turn my head to the left, where I look directly toward the back family room, to the same window where I was just at moments before. The distance between the fridge and the back room window is approximately twenty feet.  Studying the layout and the path between both rooms, the fridge was in direct alignment with the darkened window. Clutching the handle, I slowly open the fridge door, as I watched what played out in the window.  Moments later, I gradually brought the fridge door to a close.

Opening and closing the fridge door several more times, it was then that I had the evidence I needed. I was convinced that this was the exact same light that I had witnessed just minutes before while sitting on the arm of the chair starring at the back room window.  This is when Donatta asked me if I was sure I was alone. Walking through the house, I made sure that nobody else was there with me. I was completely alone… or so I thought. The only explanation that came to mind was that, perhaps, it was my grandfather’s sprit, who was coming to visit me once again, just like the time when he came to visit Arla in her bedroom. But, this time, looking into the fridge for a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Everywhere a Sign

My grandfather’s favorite beer was Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) and whenever I see a PBR beer sign, I think of him. On the way home from the hospital, after taking my mother off of life support that one September afternoon, we parked on a side street so that Frank could run an errand into the corner convenient store. I decided to stay in the car with the kids. Looking out the window, my mind started drifting off and I was back in the hospital, where I was at only moments before.  Looking up to the sky, there I saw high above my head on the top side of the building was a PBR advertisement sign. It was then that I felt my grandfather was with me at the time of my mother’s death and going through the emotions with me.

Not only do I receive signs like the above, I also receive signs by smell, such as the tar smell I spoke of earlier.  One afternoon, while walking into my bedroom, I immediately smelled my grandfather’s aftershave, as if it was just freshly slapped onto his face. I knew it was him right away and I spent the next few minutes taking in the smell of his aftershave. Moments later, it dissipated.

A Word of Comfort

As my grandfather’s scent had permeated my bedroom, believing that he was there for a visit, there was another time recently that he stopped by again. I was upset and crying very hard to myself. Someone I knew hurt me very deeply. As I walked into the bedroom, I closed the door behind me. I wanted to be alone. Sitting on the edge of the bed on my side of the room with my back to the bedroom door, I sat there sobbing, where my emotions were simply uncontrollable. My deepest emotions were coming out and I was practically drowning in my own emotions. Through my tears, I heard a soft voice behind me, a voice that uttered a reassuring “Ssssshhhhh…” My eyes looked up and I hushed myself from crying. I quickly turned around toward the door and to the other side of the room. The door was still closed. I felt like I was no longer alone.  It was then that I knew my grandfather was there with me, asking me to shush my tears, consoling me.  I will never forget this spiritual contact. I heard this Ssssshhhhh as clear as could be. My spiritual family is with me always and hearing grandpa hush me to silence made me stop crying and wipe my tears. There is no doubt in my mind that my grandfather was there helping me get through this rough time.

I have received other signs, as well, such as when doing an online search or needing to complete an online form. On several occasions, there was already a name populated within the search field or the name field before I even began typing.  The name Johnson would automatically be within these fields prior to be starting the form.  Coincidently enough, Johnson was my grandparents’ last name.

I have also encountered flickering lights while sitting next to a lamp or the light bulb would suddenly blow out while touching to turn on a light switch or turn the knob of a lamp. There was a time when the bulbs were constantly being changed because every time I reached for them, they would blow out.   These times were during when I lost a loved one, where my feelings and emotions were at their highest level. Was it my own energy source that tapped these lights dry or was it someone else, my spiritual family, letting me know that they were with me?

When I began to write my memoirs, I knew that I wanted to share and express not only the hardships I have had in my life, but also the tremendous amount of love I have experienced as well.  The day that I finished writing about my Uncle Bob and expressing how much he meant to me in my life, that evening, he came to me in a dream. Uncle Bob stood there before me, just as I remembered him, with his face full of beard wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. He had a look that seemed to come right out of the 1970’s. Standing before me he said to me, “Thank you for individually thinking of me.”  I remember telling him that he was welcome and that I loved him. Uncle Bob started to cry and I started to cry even hard. Shortly after, I woke up and knew that Uncle Bob came to visit me.

I continue to ask for signs and welcome my spiritual family to visit me at any time during my dreams. I enjoy when they visit, except for the time when granny took her hug a bit too far or the time when she offered me words of “Peace” that she shared with me in my dream. I will share these moments with you next time, as well as when my mother who made an appearance but this time it wasn’t in my dreams, it was a physical manifestation right there in front of me while I was sitting in church…

 “Perhaps they are not stars but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pour through and shine down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~ Eskimo Proverb

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Today, as I sat in my yard writing my blog, I had the company of two yellow butterflies playing with each other throughout the day. Bouncing from one flower to the next, they did so in unison, not once parting from each other’s side. I can’t help but to wonder… Could these two butterflies be my grandparents as they glided from one pollen pod to the other? Was it my mother and Uncle Bob, chasing each another around as they once did when they were little kids? Perhaps, it was Geno and his father, as they journeyed together catching up on life’s distant past.  Regardless of who these two butterflies may have been as they shared my whole day, I was happy to know that I was able to have this spiritual connection. I watched them both dance to the fragrance that my garden had to offer, as I listened to the birds sing in the breeze, the beautiful clouds that painted the sky and the air that carried a calmness. These are the moments that make me aware of how my body is energized; not through electrical energy, but by the power of God and my spiritual connections…

… Yes, I truly enjoyed my Spiritual Sunday.

References:

1. http://www.after-death.com/

http://www.adcrf.org/

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Riding Free

 Everyone copes differently; some cry for the loss of a loved one, others smile because they know they’ll see them again.” ~ Author Unknown

“He was behind us at one point when I checked my side mirror and, when I looked again only moments later, he was gone. As I kept looking into my mirror, I realized that he wasn’t catching up with the rest of us, so we decided to turn around and head back to see if he was okay. This is when we saw the ambulance blocking the road, with its lights flashing and the EMT’s working on Geno.”

Geno and the other riders were on their way back home to Chicago from having a day of riding in Waukesha, Wisconsin. There were several of them riding in tandem and Geno was towing behind the others, surely enjoying the beautiful scenery that surrounded him.

A witness from a passing car saw the entire accident. “I saw him riding and then watched him just drive off the side of the road, as if he was making a simple turn, as if that turn and road was a part of his journey, as if he was meant to continue on in that direction… he calmly drove off the road.”

One Samaritan who saw the accident stopped and immediately called 911, while others pulled Geno’s motorcycle off his chest where, once they did, his color came back to his face.

Official reports said that Geno took a turn, didn’t negotiate it properly, and slid off the side of the road. As Geno was thrown from his bike, he hit a metal telephone box and then a road sign before landing on the ground, where is motorcycle landed on top of him and when the ambulance arrived at the scene, the EMT’s found Geno unresponsive. He was taken to the nearest trauma center, Waukesha Memorial Hospital. The medical staff worked on Geno for hours in the E.R., but they couldn’t save him. Geno had severe body trauma… a fractured spine, broken leg, cracked ribs, a torn aorta, and bleeding in the brain. His injuries were so extensive that if he did survive… what quality of life would he have been left with?

Geno's Memorial Marker Waukesha, Wisconsin

Geno’s Memorial Marker
Waukesha, Wisconsin

Because of all these massive injuries, one would believe that Geno was traveling at excessive speeds of 60, 70 or even 80 mph when he came upon hitting that phone box and road sign. The reality is that Geno was going less than 20 mph when he went off the side of the road, when he hit those obstructions, he was traveling under 20 mph when he met his fate. He was going a snail’s pace, barely moving, and not even enough speed to start up a gentle breeze through his hair. It left many of us questioning… how such a speed could leave so much damage.

“There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be…” ~ John Lennon

  Geno's Mass Card

 

It was Geno’s request not to have a traditional funeral service and his family honored his wishes. Carol, his wife, had him quietly cremated at a funeral home in Mundelein near their home. About a month later, the family had a memorial mass for Geno so that we could all have some sort of closure, to say our final goodbyes, to make peace in our hearts in our own individual ways. Carol brought Geno’s ashes to St. Michael’s church in Chicago, where Geno’s brother, Joey, who is a Catholic Priest, carried out a beautiful mass that Saturday afternoon last August honoring Geno, as so did the Army’s honor guard, acknowledging that he was a veteran soldier who fought for his country. Playing taps for the congregation and while the honor guard spoke to Carol on the behalf of the President of the United States, you could hear some mourners weeping openly while others chose to cry to themselves, as their tears left their eyes, quietly rolling down the their cheeks.

After the mass, we continued to celebrate and remember Geno’s life. We all cried together, we all laughed together, while everyone shared their own personal “Geno Stories” to the point where we were laughing from the deepness of our bellies, only to follow up by shedding more tears. The stories that others shared were truly entertaining and one of a kind, a story only fitting for Geno and always at his expense.

Eugene, Geno, Bro, Ponch… no matter what we called him, he was known more importantly as husband, son, brother… friend! Geno was a very outspoken man, his personality infectious! Geno brought to the family what a butterfly brings to a garden… beauty, smiles and, at times, one hell of a free spirit! Below is one of my own favorite Geno Stories.

“Hey, come over here, kid, learn something. You never know, you might have to cook for 20 guys someday. You see, you start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; ya make sure it doesn’t stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs; heh…? And a little bit o’ wine. An’ a little bit o’ sugar, and that’s my trick.” ~ The God Father

The Red Hat

One day, when her children were young, Bubby was making her homemade spaghetti sauce. Bubby, made everything from scratch when cooking for her big family. One of her specialties that everyone enjoyed was her homemade spaghetti sauce, where the pot of tomatoes and spices would simmer on top of the stove all day, cooking for hours, with an occasional twirl of the spoon around the bottom of the pot, making sure it wasn’t burning. Surely, one could smell the sauce wafting all through the house, while at the same time the kids’ bellies filled with anticipation, just waiting for the spaghetti and sauce to be served up for dinner.

As Bubby’s sauce continues cooking to perfection, she tends to other things around the house. Geno decided to take a stroll through the kitchen, with his red knit hat in hand, twirling his hat high into the air with one hand only to catch it with the other, like pizza dough, not once, but several times, over and over, as he watched it spin back down. Geno continued his game, challenging his red hat to twirl even higher into the air with every toss he gave it, catching it every time as if on cue. Geno’s game finally ended when he spins his red hat into the air one last time. Watching it make its descent from the ceiling, he soon realizes that his red hat would not be landing in his hands as it did so many times before. Geno watched his red hat spin uncontrollably away from him, only for him to see it land directly into the large pot of homemade spaghetti sauce that Bubby had been simmering on the stove for hours!

Standing before the pot and, of course, not wanting to “fess up” to his wrongdoing, Geno decided to tuck his red hat deeper into the sauce. Taking the spoon, he pushed the red had underneath the sauce, completely submerging and covering it up, hoping that everything would go unnoticed. Geno quietly walked away and out of the room, not mentioning anything about the extra added ingredient to his mother’s spaghetti sauce.

As dinnertime arrived and, with all the kids that bordered the table, they all waited patiently as Bubby began to serve up her infamous spaghetti sauce that everyone had been waiting for since the moment Bubby tossed that first tomato into the pot. Surely, it was at this moment that Geno was praying his red hat had somehow mysteriously dissolved into the pot of spaghetti sauce. Spoon in hand; Bubby takes a stir of her sauce only to discover that the added ingredient was not a part of her original recipe. She soon realized that it was Geno’s red knit hat, which laid perfectly camouflaged, as it stared back at her from the pot. It was Bubby that was now simmering on a low flame. Bubby realized that she couldn’t serve up the sauce because her sauce was not the only thing that was cooking in that pot all day. Tossing out the homemade spaghetti sauce, along with the hat, Bubby ended up walking to the local Certified Super Market on Clybourn Avenue, where she was forced to purchase canned spaghetti sauce to serve with her spaghetti. It was at this point that Geno was never allowed to twirl anything in the kitchen again while Bubby was cooking.

It was many years later, when Geno was out on his own, living in his own apartment, when he decided to cook the same spaghetti dinner for his date. Cooking the sauce the way Bubby did, he cooked it to perfection… except for one minor change. Instead of boiling the water for the pasta, Geno figured he’d save a few steps and cook the pasta within the sauce. It was only a few minutes later that he realized he didn’t have a wonderful spaghetti dinner, but a pot of concrete instead. Not only did he toss the sauce into the trash, but the pot itself went into the trash as well.

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ~ Julia Child

Frank shared one of his favorite stories with us as well.

The Widower

One late evening in the early 80’s, Geno decided to grab the telephone book, after having a few beers, where he would start rummaging through the M’s for all the Morin’s within the city of Chicago. He was curious to know exactly how many Morin’s there were. Surprisingly, there were only two… his family and one other person by the name of Morin was listed. Geno decided to call the phone number only to discover that it was registered to a little old woman who lived on the northwest side of Chicago. It was then that he shared that his last name was Morin, too, and thought perhaps they were related. Being the charismatic person he is, Geno carried a conversation on with this woman and chatted with her for the longest time, where he discovered that she wasn’t a relative after all, she had been a widower for many years, and that she liked to talk just as much as Geno did. After a lengthy conversation, Geno decided to end their conversation, while wishing the widower his best. With that, they hung up.

Approximately another year had gone by when Geno took the phone book once again, looking for all the Morin’s in the city of the Chicago. Tracing his finger under the M’s, there it was for a second time, the same number that he had called just the year before. Picking up the phone, he dialed the number only for the same widower to answer the phone. Geno shared that his last name was Morin, too, the same as hers, commenting that there aren’t very many Morin’s in the phone book. The widower went on to tell Geno that her husband had died, never once remembering their previous phone conversation from just the year before. She would share that her husband used to do this and that for her, and how she missed him. However, Geno let her talk on, repeating almost everything that she had said the year before. So, here, a tradition was born, where every several months, Geno would call his widower friend to have a simple chat, making sure she was okay, only for her to repeat the same stories over and over again to Geno. Surely, it gave one old woman time to express herself about the past, reminiscing about the love she once shared with her husband, only for her to be left thinking of fond memories of what use to be, memories of what was once hers.

As we all continued to share our stories one after another, we couldn’t help but to feel numb inside. Of all the years the Morin boys were riding, this was the first horrible tragedy that the Morin family had ever encountered and, from my own heart, why Geno? It just didn’t make sense to me, especially by the means of his demise. I can only believe that Geno’s life lessons here on earth were complete and it was now time for him to begin his life with God. I admit that I am selfish and I wished Geno was still here with us, living and being a part of our everyday lives. But, I realize that God had called and must have needed him more.

It was comforting to know that just a couple days before Geno’s accident that he had a visit with Bubby and his brother, Joey, where Joey did the anointing of the sick with Bubby, as well as the three of them having communion together. Although my heart was heavy with pain and sorrow, I found peace in knowing that he shared these two sacred sacraments with his mother and older brother. It seemed like the timing of everything was meant to me, meant to fall in place.

Geno passed away exactly 10 days before the anniversary of the motorcycle accident that Frank and I had over 20 years ago, where our lives were spared. My thoughts take me back to that day when Geno came to visit me in Columbus Hospital when I was in there recovering from my own motorcycle accident, where I was learning how to walk again. With a huge box of candy in his hands for the nurses, Geno walked so proudly into the therapy department, just like Forest Gump, holding his box of chocolates, as he handed them over to the staff. My therapy for that day was to cook for a guest and myself. I made hamburgers… one for me and one for Geno. He spent hours sitting there with me, lifting my spirits. That day, it was Geno’s heart consoling mine, telling me that I was going to be just fine. Today, it’s my heart that consoles Geno’s spirit. I still can’t believe we lost him… But, he passed doing what he loved – riding, riding free with his face and knees in the wind.

Geno Goes To Sturgis…

“Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.” ~ Author Unknown

Sunday evening, the day after Geno’s passing; I was on my way upstairs to bed. As I was passing through the dining room, I noticed a stuffed doggy toy on the floor. Believing in signs, this is when I asked Geno for a sign. I said, “Geno, if you are here with us, can you please move the doggy toy from the floor and place it onto the dining room table?” With that, I left the toy where it was at and went on up to bed. Monday morning came rolling around quite fast and I was up rather early. As I headed downstairs, I saw that my request from the evening before went unnoticed. The stuffed doggy toy lay quietly on the floor exactly where I had left it just hours before. I thought to myself… okay, next time. I walked into the kitchen to get my day started and made a pot of coffee. I made my way back to my art room, where I opened up the curtains and windows, inviting the day’s sunshine into the room. As I turned around to put things away into my art cabinet, I noticed on top of the cabinet was the bag of rice crispy treats that Donatta had made for her visit that fateful Saturday. They had been on the kitchen table for the last few days, exactly where Donatta had left them when she arrived that Saturday afternoon. Picking up the bag and returning it to the kitchen, I was rather irritated because they didn’t belong there. I blamed either Tanner or Frank for eating them directly out of the bag and just plopping the bag wherever they pleased once they were done eating them, which was on top of the art cabinet in my back art room. Once they woke up, I brought it to their attention and asked them why they tossed the rice crispy treats on top of the art cabinet and couldn’t put them back into the kitchen. Both Tanner and Frank denied that they had done it. Turning to Arla, I asked her if she had done it and she confessed a big no, as well. Standing there in front of them, I asked, “Neither of you placed these treats on top of the cabinet; so they just appeared there themselves?” Nobody confessed to moving the treats to the back art room, they even swore that they didn’t touch the bag. It didn’t seem to be a big deal; that was until I remembered that I asked Geno for a sign the night before; that if he was with us to move the stuffed doggy toy to the table. Did he decide to move the rice crispy treats instead? To this day, I never found out who moved them from the kitchen table to on top of the art cabinet, a complete room away.

Even from a distance, Geno was remembered so fondly. I can’t even express into words how many people had come to share our grief with us. Friends and family have all expressed a deep sense of loss in hearing about Geno’s passing, which goes to show all of us how much Geno was loved, how much he touched each and every one of our lives, even if it was for just a brief moment or through a lifetime. In honor of Geno and for the family, I created the below presentation as a remembrance of the man that will always live forever within our hearts. Geno is with us in spirit, whether it’s within the butterfly that dances gracefully across our path or within the rays from the setting sun that beam down upon us from the heavens above. This Sunday, June 16, my family and I will repose the soul of Eugene Pacelli Morin, where he may enter into heaven and eternally be with God in his home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bubby… Our Life, Our World

Bub·by: (n) \’bə-bē\  בובי  Yiddish – is a German-based Jewish dialect.  Bubby is an endearing Yiddish term for grandmother. A sweet name for the one you love, the one you adore, your Bubster, your Bubinator… your Boo! Hair worn short … Continue reading

Whisper to my Heart

Watercolor by JackAugust 2012

Watercolor by Jack
August 2012

“What do you think of God,” the teacher asked. After a pause, the young pupil replied, “He’s not a think, he’s a feel.” ~Paul Frost

My brothers and I were brought up to have no religion in our lives whatsoever. Melvin was an atheist. My mother was baptized and confirmed Lutheran, but she made no conscious effort to promote and bring God into our home and lives. We couldn’t tell you the first thing about God, his miracles, or how to even pray.

Having married a man that was Catholic and, practically having his whole family being catholic, not to mention his older brother, Joey, being a catholic priest, I knew that when we had children, we would raise them catholic as well. It was almost a prerequisite when I married into the family. I was never baptized myself and, therefore, had no religious denomination whatsoever.

Soon after my daughter, Arlaraye, was born, we had her baptized at the church where Joey was Pastor, St. Alphonsus church in Chicago, the same church that Frank and I were married at. Standing there in church was one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve been in. I felt total awkwardness, as Joey and everyone chanted their routine prayers and blessings around me. I found my mind drifting away; wondering when mass was going to be over, wondering when I would be able to leave. I felt idiotically embarrassed standing there watching my family say prayers, watching their mouths move in unison, making the same motion when doing the sign of the cross, moving up and down, sitting, kneeling, standing. I listened as everyone would speak in harmony, praying, why I said absolutely nothing, except for one word, which was amen. That was the only word I knew because it meant that all those amens were eventually one step closer to the door, one step closer to getting out of church and going home. I was uncomfortable being in church. I was never in a church growing up. I felt embarrassed, almost displaced, as if people knew that I was illiterate when it came to the subject of religion.

Four years later, I gave birth to my son, Tanner, where I also had him baptized by Joey, once again, going through the exact same uneasy emotions all over again. I was happy that I had my children baptized and did know the importance of doing so, but when looking at both of my children’s baptism pictures, I could see the dumbfounded look on my face, where I looked completely lost!

Sometimes, I felt that there was a God above me, even acknowledging now and then, but never really gave it too much thought throughout my younger life. I recognized that God created us, the animals, flowers and, on occasion, would perform a miracle. I don’t want to say that I took God for granted in what He was capable of doing, but let’s just say that I didn’t seem to notice Him as much. I wasn’t use to having a God in my life, praying, asking for help or guidance. I never prayed for others or even myself. My mom never shared religion with me. He was never mentioned in our home. I blame my mother for this. For someone who went through the sacraments herself, I would think that she would want to share such an experience with her children. Possibly, if religion and God were a part of my life growing up, if I had learned how much God truly loved me, and that He would have been there for me when called upon, I would have knocked on his door much sooner, asking for help.

Photo by Jack

Photo by Jack

As I got older and into my late thirties, this is when I started realizing that there was something significantly missing in my life, which I wanted and, more importantly, needed. I realized that I felt left out from one of the most important relationships that a human being could ever have. And that was a relationship with one’s God. There was an absence in my heart; a feeling of vacancy, and I knew that it had the capability of embracing so much more love than what it was already holding. Every day, I found myself staring up toward the sky, memorized by the beauty of the blue skies and clouds that drifted by me, as if they were in a small town parade floating curbside as they waved hello to the crowds. I felt tranquility as I watched the lady in the moon smiling back at me. I found beauty in a rainbow, as it touched from one end of the sky to the other, while the rain softly danced against the radiant rays of sunshine. I watched the sun as it set itself for another evening, as it slightly peeked through the crimson clouds, making its journey into night’s rest. The shades of pinks, blues and grays that illuminated from the sky were as if God, Himself, had just painted another beautiful masterpiece. This was such a surreal moment for me that it left me weeping tears every single time I witnessed His miracles.

Photo by Jack

Photo by Jack

I started seeing the beauty in a flower, their smell, their color, the radiance that it extended and I was starting to realize that God, Himself can be the only one responsible for creating such exquisite wonders. It was like I had an awakening. I knew deep within my heart that I wanted to be a part of His world, to be a part of His heaven once my time on earth was done. If I was finding such beauty in the world that I was living, I could only dream how beautiful God’s world was.

“People see God every day, they just don’t recognize him.” ~Pearl Bailey

I started noticing all the miracles that God laid before me. I was even starting to get little signs, as I asked for his guidance and strength. It was at that moment that I made the decision to become a Catholic, to be baptized in Jesus’ name. I shared my feelings with Frank that I wanted to be baptized and do whatever I had to do in order to be welcomed into God’s world, to be a part of His world and my family who has since went home to Him. Frank, as well as his family, was happy that I had made such an important decision and supported me. I learned that I would have to attend RCIA (Rite of Christina Initiation of Adults) classes and that I would have to go twice a week, traveling to two different churches for over a year. I was up for the commitment and, to make it all that more special, Frank came to class with me, sharing in my experience. We didn’t miss one class or one mass throughout the time we were going. I was in a class of approximately six catechumens and we all shared the same passion. Father Dario, who was Pastor of St. Priscilla’s Church, led all the discussion groups on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Father Dario always had a way of making religious education interesting and exciting. We went to church every Sunday and, after the Gospel, I and the other catechumens were dismissed so that we could discuss what we just learned or how it made us feel. Andy, who was a very soft spoken and dedicated gentleman to his faith, led our group into discussion. There was never any right or wrong answers in our discussions, nor were there any pop quizzes. Simply, it was a conversation between others who shared the same passion and faith as I did.

As I was preparing for my sacraments, my mother had voiced her opinion on me becoming a catholic. Again, my mother was brought up Lutheran, but never practiced her religion. She knew that I was taking this avenue to become a catholic and it bothered her every step of the way. Finally, she had asked me why I was becoming a catholic, as I wasn’t one to begin with. I shared with her that I wasn’t anything from the beginning anyway thanks to her and, if it was that important to her, then she should have done something about it when I was born. Otherwise, she has no say in the situation. That was the last I ever heard of that topic from my mother.

Sacrament Day!March 2000

Sacrament Day!
March 2000

In March of 2000, I went through all the sacraments of initiation; Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. Although truly a special event in my life, I thought it would be even more special if Joey would do the honors of baptizing me. He married Frank and me, he baptized my two children and I thought it would be lovely if he baptized me as well. We had it approved by the church and Joey was given permission to share in this special day along with me. But, unbeknownst to me, Joey, Bubby and Frank’s other brother, Patrick, were in on a little secret and had made plans in the car while on the way over to the church; plans that obviously involved me. As I stood on the altar, bending over the baptismal font, I waited for Joey to bless me with holy water. I couldn’t help noticing that Joey was grinning from ear to ear, as he was about to make sure that I was completely blessed myself… from ear to ear. Joey proceeded to pour a FULL pitcher of Holy Water all over my entire head, drenching me, making sure that I was completely cleansed and washed away of all sins. Sopping wet and hair now completely a mess, I knew that I had just made one of the most important decisions of my entire life.

Today, I realized that I missed out on so many things when I was young, with religion being one of them. Being young, I realized that some kids aren’t jumping at the idea of attending church and sitting in a pew for an hour, but it would have been nice to at least have had some form of religion while growing up; to have had something to believe in. I was never told about God or that God loved me, nor was I ever shown how to pray. Thinking back, if I had known how to talk to God and pray, perhaps, my torment with Melvin would have been a lot easier to deal with. I would have asked God to help me, to be my strength. Knowing the relationship that I have with my God today, I know He would have been my strength, coming to me as my saving grace, answering my every prayer.

Photo by Jack

Photo by Jack

I cannot walk into a church today without becoming so emotionally affected. To see God suspending there before me, it has always left me in tears, with complete thankfulness for the sacrifices that He had made for me. At times, I surprise myself how I feel when I think of God and his many blessings. For someone who never had one ounce of religion in their life as a child, I find myself such an emotional and spiritual person today. I see God’s touch everywhere. There isn’t one thing that I can’t look at that I don’t see where God created something beautiful, directly touching it Himself. I see Him in every perfect flower that shares a bloom and every cloud that floats in the blue sky above me, while butterflies dance in the air.

Photo by Jack

Photo by Jack

He’s in the face of every laughing child or deep within the wrinkles of a wise elderly person’s face. He’s in the wheelchair of every handicapped child, as well as in the spirit of every mentally challenged man or woman. I see God within each glowing sunset that closes out my day. But, most importantly, when I look in the mirror or look deep into the eyes of my children, I see God, He is there.

Photo by Jack

Photo by Jack

My God loves all people. He holds no discrimination in his heart. He loves whether a person is white or if they are black, if they wear a hijab or honor the Star of David. My God doesn’t judge if a man is straight or if a woman is gay confessing her love to her wife. Surely, if my God can love unconditionally, can’t we all?

I smile to myself ever so lightly when I see His wonders; His beauty that He leaves before me time and time again, never once being disappointed. I try not to cry but, at times, I just can’t hold back my tears, as I see the perfect sunrise kissing me good morning or hearing a bird’s song filling the air. I was once told that my feelings were the spirits talking to me, whispering directly to my heart. The thought that my God can create such beauty, even if it makes me cry, is a feeling beyond belief for which I am truly thankful.

Watercolor by JackAugust 2012

Watercolor by Jack
August 2012

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting — a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson