Floating lightly to my left, Cathy’s spirit was like a golden orb imprinted with her beaming face. Light as breath she hovered, waiting for me to notice her. It had been a month since my beloved sister’s death from leukemia at age 59, and I had sensed her presence on several occasions, and had even been able to communicate with her.
Each day I sat down to meditate hoping to be with her and, almost always, I was rewarded by her exuberant countenance. Problem was, every time I glimpsed her, pain pierced my heart and I burst into tears. Just seeing her again after I had thought she was gone forever was enough to launch another crying jag.
Sitting on my couch, retching on my grief, the muscles of my diaphragm twisted and turned like a juicer squeezing a lemon. I called out to her.
“Is it really you?”
Maybe you know what this is like, a loved one dying after a short and terrible illness: elegant tapered fingers sporting classic red nail polish, resting inert on the bed; slender bruised arms from too many IV drips emerging from a bulky nondescript hospital gown. Imagine the last anguished phone calls when the reality of her imminent death stared us down. How do you say goodbye? I love you. You are my best friend.
Imagine hanging up the phone knowing it is the last conversation you will ever have. And then after her terrible death two thousand miles away, she had showed up in my room, characteristically buoyant and wearing a grin at this great joke, her miraculous appearance at my bedside. “Look at me!”
“Cathy, are you happy?”
I needn’t have asked. Her ear-to-ear smile bespoke her joy. But still I wanted to be sure she was okay after those agonizing last days of her truncated life. Her answer came swiftly.
“Nancy, it is amazing here and beautiful. And I feel more complete now than when I was on earth. I am a fuller version of myself, and I have more capacities than I did there. Plus, I have no more fear or shame or embarrassment. All that is gone. I just feel free and joyful.”
Later I would mull over her words, and try to imagine what that kind of freedom felt like. But for now, grateful as I was to witness her happiness, I still missed her terribly. Hearing my thoughts, she responded immediately.
“Think of it like a sabbatical or a long vacation. We will have so much to tell each other when we are together again. Don’t worry. We have a strong bond of love and will share many more experiences together.”
Really? Relief flooded through me. But I wanted to be sure. “So, I will see you again?”
Immediately, she responded. “Yes, of course. We are connected, always connected.”
Then, circling around, her spirit embraced me causing the cells of my body to tingle with warmth. Lingering in the sweetness of her presence I was comforted. She was still alive and still Cathy, just in a different form. While I knew that grief lay dormant in my belly ready, like a sleeping dragon, to rise up and conquer me again, for the moment I was at peace. Taking a long slow breath I thanked her and told her I loved her.
Moving away from me, receding from my grasp, her presence grew hair thin but I heard one last message before she vanished.
“I love you. Don’t be sad.”