In my novel Into The Light, Max, the main character, is a ghost. Joe is a private investigator and the only person who hears Max. They embark on a journey together, solving the mysteries of both murder and life.
Unlike Joe, I don't hear ghosts. But I have had many experiences that cannot be easily explained. I thought I'd share one of those experiences with you today.
I grew up very close to my grandparents - my mother's parents. In fact, I spent my entire childhood living below them. They owned an old tenement-style home. My mother, my brother and I lived on the first floor and my grandparents lived above us. My grandmother took care of us while my mother worked. My grandfather was the only father figure I had well into my teens.
A few ago, my grandmother learned that she had ovarian cancer. My grandfather had died several years before and I knew that his spirit was always around us. One night, shortly after my grandmother was diagnosed, I asked him to give me a sign that he'd be there to help my grandmother when her time came. The next morning, I opened my back screen door to let my dogs out. They scampered across the pool deck and out to the lawn, barking happily at nothing in particular. I was about to close the door when I noticed a beautiful butterfly perched on our pool cover. The cover was rolled up and sitting by the lawn, right in the path the dogs had just taken. And the butterfly did not even flinch.
I have always loved butterflies and feel a kind of magic when I look at them. I thought this butterfly must be injured because it didn't so much as flutter. At that time, I had two dogs that loved to bark and two cats that loved to snatch anything that flew near them. (We've since added a dog.) Butterflies never linger long in my yard. I stepped outside and knelt right beside the butterfly. It remained still. My dogs ran to me, wagging their tails and dancing around. We were all inches away from this butterfly, yet it didn't so much as twitch. I remembered my silent conversation with my grandfather late the previous evening and took that butterfly as my sign that he was near, watching over us.
All day, I kept an eye on that butterfly. Despite the noisy dogs, the slam of the screen door and the blazing sun, not once did it move. Just before dusk, I noticed it had finally disappeared.
When my grandmother got sick, she was living with my parents, not far from me. We took turns keeping her company, caring for her, making sure that she was never alone. Eventually, she became too ill to remain at home and had to be placed in hospice. I went to see her each day. My mother practically lived there. Again, I had a late night, silent conversation with my grandfather. I asked him to find a way of letting me know when the time came for my grandmother to join him.
One evening, as I was leaving my grandmother's room, something told me to stop and take a final look. I suddenly knew that I would not see her again. My grandmother had already drifted off to sleep. I stopped and lingered there, saying a final goodbye.
At around noon the next day, I stepped outside with my dogs. We'd had rain early that morning and small puddles of water had gathered on the concrete of my pool deck. In one of those puddles, I spotted the butterfly from months ago. I know there are countless butterflies that look alike but I had no doubt that this was the same butterfly. And it was dead.
That was my sign. I knew that I would not see my grandmother again. She died within thirty minutes of me finding that butterfly.
Of course, this could have been nothing more than coincidence. Maybe there are no such things as spirits and, therefore, it is impossible for them to give us any sort of signs. Many people feel that way and I respect those opinions. We have no way of truly knowing, after all, do we?
But, in my mind, there is no doubt. Spirits and butterflies are my reality.