Wednesday, February 04, 2009
Back in 1963 I was sound asleep when all of a sudden I was awakened by a white light that seemed to flicker in front of my face. Startled, I sat up in my bed and with my eyes wide open followed the light around my room. It was floating as if dancing a ballet.
It was vivid and clear, I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming. To my dismay I was indeed awake. I wished I had been sleeping as it would have been easier if I had not had to figure this out.
There had to be a logical explanation, I knew. Could it be my pesky brother playing a trick on me – shining a flashlight from outside my bedroom to fool me? No, my door was closed and my blinds were shut. The light was not coming from outside my room.
An eerie feeling began to settle in. I pulled my blanket closer as if it would protect me. I listened and noticed that all of my six siblings and my parents were sound asleep. The house was quiet; the only one awake was me.
But, what could this be? This was not a figment of my imagination. I saw what I saw and I knew it. I did not ask to see it or never imagined I would see it. It was just there.
I began to study its movements more closely. The brighter light had softened to a warm glow. Gracefully it danced from one side of my bed to the other, to one corner of my room and back again as if it were trying to engage me in conversation.
Surely it could not be a ghost. But what else could it be? How could I think this? After all, ghosts were fictional. Everyone knows ghosts only exist in ghost stories. Was it the notorious “boogie man” that my older brother told me that lay under my bed at night? No, I ruled that out quickly. It was not mean, it meant no harm, and in fact it was to the contrary as it seemed playful.
So, was this a ghost? At age ten, I should have known better than to think this way. Minutes passed and I was still hoping this was all a dream, but I could not escape, I could not awake. I was already awake! I knew I had to try to find the answer.
I bravely decided to make my way to my parent’s room. There I was sure to find security and safety and tell them what I saw. I was hoping in my heart they would be able to explain it to me. I felt the wood of the floor under my bare feet as I walked softly down the dark hallway and into my parent’s room.
This was a first for me; I have never walked in my parent’s room when they were sleeping. Since being an infant I have not woken my parents, and then it was because I was hungry or just wanted my mom. Now, it was because something strange was happening to me and yes, I did want my mom.
Hesitantly, I walked over to her and tapped her on her shoulder. “Mom, I need you.” She awoke in an instant and with deep concern she gently asked, “What is wrong? What do you need?”
I told her I was scared, that I had just seen a white light in my bedroom and it was flickering and moving all around my room. I told her I thought it was a ghost. I told her I was sure I was awake and that I knew I saw it.
My mother began to comfort me and she confidently told me, “You are safe and nothing bad will happen to you.” As she spoke my father began to rustle around and half asleep he spoke, “I am sure it was not a ghost.” But then what was it I asked? He said that it was probably just a dream. I knew he was trying to let me know that it was nothing to be worried about but he still did not explain it as I had hoped. He then told me to go back to bed, everything would be OK.
Even though I had no more answers, I began to reluctantly walk back to my room. I wondered if it would still be there when I returned. Then, in a moment and to my surprise, the light soared by me and drifted slowly behind their tall mahogany headboard, right behind my mother.
I said quiet loudly, and very happy to have proof, “There it is! I just saw it again; it went behind your bed. Right here, it is here", I said excitedly. I ran over to my mother’s bed and looked behind it – but the light had vanished.
Standing by my mother’s side, torn between feelings of disappointment and fear of the unknown, my mother tenderly reached up to pull my ear close to her mouth and whispered as if intended only for me, “I believe you. I believe you saw the light. Everything will be fine. You have nothing to be afraid of.” But what was it that I saw? I asked her again. “I can not explain it,” she replied, “but I know you will be alright.”
Her gentleness and belief in me was enough to calm my soul. I gave her a hug goodnight and walked back to my bed and went fast asleep.
The next morning we all came to the breakfast table, ate our breakfast and off onto our day as usual. I wondered if they even remembered last night. We never spoke of this again.
As I have gotten older I have not thought of this often, but from time to time I have told the story to those close to me.
This past summer I visited my mother; age eighty-three, at a rehab center in her home town of St. Louis where she was now staying in hopes of recovering from a fall earlier in the year. Her body was struggling but her mind and her spirit were still there in tact.
That morning before my visit with her, I told my father that I would like to look at some old pictures with mom today. He directed me to their basement where I found boxes and boxes of picture albums all neatly arranged from their childhood through college years and beyond. There were albums full of pictures of birthdays, anniversaries, and of each of their seven children, and of their sixteen grandchildren’s special times.
I was drawn to one particular album, a book of my mother as an infant, a young girl, while in high school and her early nursing years. This is it, I was sure, this will bring her joy.
When I arrived I gave my mother an affectionate hug and kiss and slowly pushed her in her wheel chair out into the gardens of the home where she stayed. We spoke of happy memories; I made sure to include times that I was so thankful for and I pulled out the album I had brought that day.
With the clear skies above us and sitting side by side, my mother with a slight tremble in her hand, turned the pages one by one. Picture by picture, newspaper clippings and letter by letter, she told me the story of each.
With a gentle smile on her face and a few little chuckles I noticed her brighten up even more when she showed me pictures of her grandmother who like my mother had a distinct sweetness in her smile.
She shared stories of how her grandmother helped her go from a little farm town of less than a hundred to the big city, Westphalia, Missouri, to attend high school. This gave her opportunities, she explained, that she would not have had if she would have stayed in her small town.
She showed me letters that she had received from her grandmother, so endearing, so adoring. I could see so clearly how much my mother cherished these times spent with her.
This was the first that I realized just how close my mother had been with her grandmother. I had a clear vision of my mother as the little girl being loved by her, being protected and encouraged to be more than she thought she could be.
Today, I sit here and write my story of my mother and me and of the light. I was not even sure why I chose this one, there were so many possibilities.
And then as I moved further in my story, typing away, there was a time when a sense of sweeping calmness came over me. It was the answer to the question I asked many years ago. What was it that I saw in the middle of that night? I now know!
It was my mother’s grandmother, my great-grandmother that visited us that night! I recognize the gentle smile, the gentle energy of her essence, and her kind, tender message. She came that night to tell my mother and me that she is with us and so lovingly.
I remember that night when my mother whispered to me that she believed me and how much that meant inside my heart. Perhaps she herself had a similar earlier experience she also could not explain, I now thought. Or maybe, just maybe, she recognized her grandmother’s presence. Did that night help her to put some clarity into her life?
Those many years ago I struggled to make an unusual event fit into acceptable certainty. I never doubted myself, yet I had no answer. I believed, but I did not know.
And in the bonding of love that exists between mother and child, and between grandmother and granddaughter, I now have come to find that there is more meaning in life than any simply explained reality. And, yes, there are answers to our questions.
“What did I see?” Now I do know. The wait was well worth it. The dancing light and my mother’s spirit and their love will always be with me.
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