“The door was open and the house was dark
Wherefore I called his name, although I knew
The answer this time would be silence.”
— Seamus Heaney, Nobel-winning Irish poet
I had a conversation with a physicist about death and the afterlife a few months ago. He said that as a man of science he didn’t believe human existence continued after we’ve shrugged off our mortal coil. I gently, and politely, disagreed and shared the story of how my apu said goodbye. I’m sure I’ve told you about this before but indulge me since All Souls’ Day just passed.
Apu Laria passed away in 2004. I was on vacation in Europe and I couldn’t go back to the Philippines with my parents. One very early morning, in my hotel room in Paris, I was awoken by a hand tugging on my left arm. Right away, I knew it was my apu. She’d spent many mornings in my childhood waking me up that way. I opened my eyes, but of course no one was there, but I felt her presence. I knew she came to say goodbye.
Three months ago, I lost a dearest friend. Like with my apu, I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. But I believe SHE found a way to say farewell. I was at work, editing a story, when her name suddenly popped in my head … as though someone had whispered it in my ear. (No, there was absolutely nothing in the story I was working on that reminded me of her.) I quickly fired a text message to her brother to see how she was doing; she was in the hospital at the time.
Two hours later, I received a text message from her brother telling me she’d breathed her last. In my grief I didn’t make the connection right away. But days later, I was re-reading the texts, and I noticed something. Her brother said my friend passed away at 5:45 p.m. Right above his message is the one I sent. Guess what the time was: My text was marked sent at 5:45 p.m. I believe my friend’s spirit touched mine briefly on her way to the next life.
One day, I’ll share the story with her dad. But not now. Not when the grief is still too fresh. But hopefully he, a man of science, will find a measure of comfort in it.
I know I did.