At midnight after my mother's mid-afternoon burial, there was a huge thunderstorm that struck the pear tree in the back yard of the house she lived in for sixty years. My son Matthew was sleeping in the back room, and was awakened by the windows rattling loudly. Lightning bolted into his room. The overhead light turned on, and the phone started ringing, amid crashes of thunder.
"Are you sure your Mother is really dead?" a friend asked when I told him about this.
That night, in the next room, exhausted from several nights without much sleep, I slept through most of the storm, though I had a vague awareness of thunder crashing and lightning striking.
At breakfast the next morning, my son, my wife and my sister Ann described the whole thing as very spooky. My sister suggested this event had something to do with my mother's very powerful spirit. She also found significance in this plate that seemed to have a special glow the morning after the storm.
Days earlier, my wife Lucia reported that a few hours after I called her to report that Mom had died, she was outside with the dog, and felt a strange presence. Instead of the dog chasing squirrels and birds like a predator, as he usually does, he walked peacefully with them, rather like "the lion will lay down with the lamb." Bruce sees this as a message about reconciliation, "the full redemption to be."
After the death of a loved one, we tend to be in "a thin place" psychologically where we can better perceive or glimpse the spiritual world. My sister Ann mused that our native Scotland County, North Carolina, with its strong Scottish history, and links to the Celts, along with its geographical position -- flat lands where lightning and thunderstorms are especially ferocious -- is a particularly "thin place" where the other world is more accessible. Riverton, a beautiful spot of land along the Lumber River near our Wagram home, was founded in 1807 by a Scotsman, Daniel White, and his evangelist wife, Catherine Campbell. They settled near the 2000-year-old Cypress trees when he realized the spot was the fulfillment of a vision or dream he had in Scotland. Their descendants have included an unusual number of ministers, poets, artists, writers and educators who still gather on July 4th or Labor Day each year. Perhaps Riverton and the new Cypress Bend Vineyard would make a good venue for spiritual retreats, because Riverton has a distinctive "genius loci."
From these experiences, I'm less scoffing of books like "We Are Their Heaven: Why the Dead Never Leave Us," which I picked up at a book store the other day, though I haven't read it yet. Bruce reflects: "Primitive [sic] cultures recognize that there is a reality beyond the mundane, and value people -- shamans, poets, mystics, prophets -- with an insight into that reality...