It occurs to me that we spend a great deal of time in life thinking about what happens after death. If the movies are any indication, we seem to have come to the consensus that the only way our spirits can linger on earth, if they linger at all, is as attacking, angry, torturing, evil presences. Otherwise the “good” spirits are supposed to have gone to the light where they roam about in vast fields awash in vibrant colors as the most beautiful version of themselves just waiting for us to join them.
It doesn’t seem fair that only evil spirits would have the power to make their presence known. Shouldn’t loved and cherished spirits have the power to conquer all including death? As a Mexican-American I believed the spirits of our loved ones are always there to guide us; we need only be open to the signs. In my own life, when I was most anxious, worried and afraid, I had the sense that my grandmother came to me. Just as I started thinking of her, her favorite song (a very old one) played on the radio or she’d come to me in a dream. But most often I felt her near me in the dead of night. I’d be jolted from a deep sleep by the smell of cigarettes (none of us smoke). The specific scent of her Lucky Menthols lingering far into me becoming fully awake.
The night Gus died I thought I felt his weight against my arm as though he had slipped into bed between us as he had done nearly every night since birth. I hoped to feel it again the next night and the night after that but the feeling never returned. I was beginning to think that it was only wishful thinking that had kept my grandmother around when we went to see AJ Barrera. The reading suggested a spiritual awareness though that was far beyond what I ever imagined. When we left, we resolved to be more open to the spirit, more specifically Gus’ spirit.
We left AJ’s house and headed to a Hallmark store for a gift. Since Gus’ passing we’ve walked into a million stores carrying those painted wood signs with inspirational sayings. We even bought the one with the quote by Wilfred Peterson, that says “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it…” The sign we saw that day was different. It appeared like a personal message sent from above coming so soon after the reading. It simply said:
This was our thing with him. A nearly daily verbal war that was never resolved. He’d usually start with “I love you Mom or Dad” and we’d say “I love you more” and then he’d say “I love YOU more”, and we’d go around and around until something else diverted our attention. In typical Gus fashion he was getting the first word, foreshadowing Gus’ alternate presence in our lives.
For my birthday that year, his art teacher and a dear friend to me was wondering what to give me when she found this drawing he’d made on a rare day he was at school that last year.
My friend swears the box in which it was found had been emptied the previous fall in advance of the new fourth grade class and gone through a number times. She was shocked to pull it out as an answer to what I should get for my birthday.
For father’s day a month later, my husband and older sons decided to go golfing at the last minute, getting one of the last few tee times at a course they’d never been to. They arrived to discover that a fourth man had been added to the group who walked up to them and said “Hi, I’m Gus!”.
Then later on the Fourth of July, a day Gus loved because we’d spend the entire day at the beach lighting sparklers well into the night, we found this:
A band he’d likely made at his last cub scout camp out. Could we have really overlooked it each time the car was cleaned out for over a year until it appeared in time for one of his favorite holidays?
His prayer card (shown above) says “Smile. I’m Fine”. It is what he said to me each time he could see that I’d been crying. I tried desperately not to cry in his presence, but sometimes I could not help it, the tears streaming down my face as much in grief as in anger that my precious boy was in crisis again. AJ said Gus’ mission was to help us; to remind us to smile because we would be fine on earth as we are in heaven.
While I wish everyday he was here in the flesh, I am amazed at the many ways he continues to be present in our lives and how the spirit moves to answer and address the questions and concerns that affect our hearts.
Love you more……