Glimpses - December 2019
by Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW
My husband Ralph died the last day of February several years ago after a long bout with kidney cancer which had metastasized to his pelvis and spine. In the last months of his life, he lost his ability to walk and was bedfast. Watching him slowly decline had been hard for all of us who love him. After his funeral, my younger sister Joan from Alaska stayed with me a week to help ease me into a household of one—me.
Like so many others who have lost a loved one, I felt vulnerable and unsure about the future. Immediately after his death, my head was still filled with recent vivid memories of my husband as a thin, sick man who had been confined to his bed for eight months, who could no longer walk, who had lost his zest for life, declaring, “I want to go Home!” So it was difficult to conceptualize what my husband might be experiencing in his new life.
But something good was going to happen! In the first week after his death, I had three reassuring glimpses into what life might be like for him. The first two were just small blips, dreams that only lasted seconds. But those glimpses brought me peace that all was well with him.
In the first glimpse, Ralph walked toward me with a pleased look on his face. He no longer looked sick. No words were exchanged, but I knew he was telling me, “Look! I can walk again!”
In the second glimpse, also a dream, I again momentary saw a scene, but no words were exchanged. In that incidence, Ralph was clowning around, wearing one large black-and-white-checked house shoe, and my sister Joan was wearing the other one. I don’t know why Joan was in the dream, but she is my sister who has a sense of humor, who likes to laugh. But the message for me was clear, “I am having fun!” which was so characteristic of Ralph before he became ill.
My third glimpse was about 5:00 a.m. while my sister Joan and I were staying in a motel near the airport in Kansas City on the day she was to return to Fairbanks. Since she had booked an early flight, I was already awake, concerned I might oversleep.
Suddenly, I saw my husband in the room, standing, wearing a blue and red plaid shirt that he had often worn while alive. Again, he looked healthy, young. He smiled, then he was gone.
Again, no words, but I believe the message was “I am all right.” Prior to those three glimpses, I did not know that many others have had similar occurrences after the death of someone they love, that they too have been reassured that “all is well.”
After my experiences, I visited with my husband’s doctor and exuberantly told him about seeing Ralph. He listened politely, but I have since wondered if he thought I had lost my mind. In the weeks following my husband’s death, I frequented bookstores, searching for books to help me on my grief journey. Then one evening, I found a book entitled Hello from Heaven by Bill and Judy Guggenheim. As I eagerly read the book, I learned they had interviewed over three thousand individuals who had experiences similar to mine. I was not crazy after all!
The writers had carefully recorded some of the stories which they called After Death Experiences (ADEs) in their book. The stories were not about séances or trying to call back people from the dead. Instead, the stories were reassuring experiences, much like my glimpses, that helped bring peace and healing for those left behind.
I believe my three brief moments helped nudge me forward, letting me know all was well with my husband, that he was no longer sick or “broken,” even though I was still in need of healing myself. Those glimpses pointed me in the right direction, and I am thankful for them.
If you are grieving, perhaps you have had a reassuring dream, have smelled a familiar fragrance, or found an object that made you feel closer to your loved one. Maybe you, like I, wondered “Am I crazy? What is happening to me?” But you are not alone—similar experiences have happened to thousands. With the holidays drawing near, may you find reassurance that all is well with your loved one and that you too are going to be all right.
“Death is a transition…. Joni Eareckson Tada will walk and run again.
Helen Keller will see and hear.
The child who died of cancer will have rosy cheeks and a strong body.
The man crippled with arthritis will stand upright.
The woman who was disfigured in a fiery car crash will have a face without blemish.”
- Dr. Billy Graham
Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator