The thin barrier between there and here
One of our newest employees, Fiona is her name, has very recently suffered a great tragedy in her family. One of her brothers died recently from drowning. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to receive that kind of news; it is not something one can prepare themselves for. She is a gentle soul, a good worker and is respected by everyone who has the privilege to work with her.
She is very intelligent and can ask some good question when it comes to faith in God, about death and what comes after, if anything. She is honest about her doubts and struggles, something most of us go through in our lives. I guess no matter what one comes to believe about the nature of life, doubt will often be there, for any worldview is not something that can be proven, for one is dealing with meaning and mankind’s struggle to find reasons for it all.
As we were talking one day about the above issues, I remembered a book that I had read, written by a doctor who ran a hospice clinic ( Into the Light: Real Life Stories About Angelic Visits, Visions of the Afterlife, and Other Pre-Death Experiences by John Lerma ). It dealt with the experiences that many of his dying patients went through as they were nearing their end. He would talk to his patients drawing them out and was able to pass on his experience in book form. I told Fiona about it, and she expressed a desire to read it. So I lent it to her.
A few days later she brought the book back and thanked me for lending it to her. She then started talking about Philip, who is our longest-lived resident here. It seems that she has been having some experiences with Philip, that have touched her deeply. As we were talking she related how Philip was acting like some of the people she read about in the book. How he would often look into the right-hand corner of the room, and often say that he was not alone. Bob came up a few times; he was one ours and died about a year ago. She did not think much of it, until one day Phillip said something to her that got her attention. She was talking to Phillip about her brother, the one who drowned, never mentioning his name to him. Well,l Philip said that her brother was here with her, and mentioned his name, which both shocked and comforted her. The next day she asked Philip if her brother was still with her and he responded with: “no thank God, he is not here anymore”, and smiled at her.
She wondered why this happened to her. The only thing I could say is that she received what she needed and God was using Philip to deliver it to her. I guess I can say that I have had my share of experiences with the dying as well and also from time to time, from those who have died, I guess you could say that I have had some visitations. Though over the years they have lessened, probably because I don’t need them any longer; for I really believe we only get what we need. I would imagine, that many who work in an hospice like environment would also be able to relate an experience or two if asked about it. Are they real? Well, there are many ways to interrupt these experiences, but when they hit home on a deep, personal, level, I would imagine there could only be one way to deal with them; they are simple markers, telling us something about life. Perhaps a glimmer of the answers we all are seeking and perhaps what our faith is already telling us.
Br. Mark Dohle, OCSO