A lovely piece by Andrew Taylor-Troutman:

“Behold, I shew you a mystery.” (1 Corinthians 15:51 KJV)

It was our first visit. I sat on the sofa in her living room surrounded by pictures of their four children, eight grandchildren. And pictures of him. The shades were drawn against the sunlight as we chatted: get-to-know-you preliminaries about where I was from, the obligatory lament concerning the weather (I forget, now, whether it had rained too much or too little). Her recently deceased husband hovered in picture frames. In their most recent church directory photo, he smiled above her right shoulder, his moustache trimmed, his tie cleanly knotted; in another, he was somber faced in his police uniform although his eyes betrayed a kindness within; there he was at Christmas, kneeling before the artificial tree, his grin genuine; at the Thanksgiving table, carving tools paused above the turkey. The oldest picture was a shot of him standing waist deep in the pool, bare-chested, sun-glassed, a brown-berry daughter giggling in his hairy arms.

She watched me looking: He still comes to me at night.

Her blue eyes intent, judging my reaction.

I wake every night about three. There’s a small dot of light in the far corner of our bedroom. It’s no bigger than a firefly at first. But as soon as I see it, it grows to the size of a flashlight. Then goes up the wall, across the ceiling, until coming to a stop right above my head. The light waits there on the ceiling until I close my eyes. When I open them, he’s gone. Until the next night, that is.

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Others have described experiences of a presence that comes into a room like a gust of wind; a sudden vacuum that leaves a hole in the air.

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After his father died, he has been visited by a large black butterfly. Its wings are like wet coal, glimmering slick. He works outside on his dad’s rental properties. The black butterfly only arrives when he is working hard at what he is supposed to do.

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After his wife died, sunshine yellow flowers poked up from the mulch by the mailbox. Like a special delivery, these flowers appeared overnight about a week after she was in the ground. In the backyard, she’d planted flowers for fifty years, but he’d never seen anything quite like these. Their petals tended toward a tulip, yet were smaller. A new neighbor told him the name: crocus. Done looked it up on the internet, he said, discovered this Greek legend about two young lovers granted immortality. There was also a Christian tale about Saint Valentine who’d sent a crocus to a jailer’s blind daughter. The gift restored her sight.

What he really wanted to tell me was that he saw sunshine yellow crocuses around her tombstone the very next week.

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Experiences like a warmth, like a chill; like a light, like a shadow; like a voice in the head, like a deafening silence.

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I’m probably as guilty as any preacher of talking in dualities: light verses dark, life verses afterlife, body verses spirit, just to name a few. It’s an old heresy, as ancient as the first church, yet seems ever ready to reincarnate in a new generation. What was once called Gnosticism is now known as the Prosperity Gospel. What once drove people to mystery cults in caves now drives them in luxury SUVs to megachurches. The farmer poet, Wendell Berry, claims that such stark contrasts keep him from going to church. Instead the bells in the old steeple call him to the woods where, eventually, everything is a part of everything else—a thought which, to another poet, Mary Oliver, makes her feel quite beautiful.

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Another widow had been trying for years to coax bluebirds into nesting along their fence. She had the birdhouses, of course, but also researched the types of food that attracted them. She’d cooked this oatmeal-like substance with mealworms, which cost more than their own supper. Nothing worked. That winter, she’d spent so much time beside his hospital bed that she couldn’t even keep the feeders full of seed for the usual customers.

You can guess who arrived about two weeks after he passed. She’d finish the dishes, like always, then step on the porch into the deepening chill. The bluebirds would zip to the tree he’d named after their youngest daughter.

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He comes to his daughter whenever she is under anesthesia. He died of colon cancer, so she is vigilant for her screenings. Every three years, he comes to her. This last time he drove a shiny black Cadillac. So unlike him! He honked the horn, then reached over with his long arm to push open the passenger door. She’d sat, buckled up, asked where they were going. He said he had no idea. So unlike him! They drove down winding roads until she awoke in the white recovery room in her itchy hospital gown.

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I officiated a graveside service on top of a hill at a family farm. I’d just pronounced the benediction when tendrils of dried hay positively leaped into the air, spiraling like they were draining up into the blue sky. It’s a sign, one person cried. It’s like angel wings, commented another. No, it has to do with changing currents producing a vortex, explained a gentleman. I see it all the time, he added. Still, the hay rose against the backdrop of the green hills.

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Back to that first widow who had just shared about his light. Eager to please, I offered an interpretation. She leaned forward in her chair, looked at me, hard:

Don’t try and explain it to me.