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Eternal LifeKenneth G. Ramey Salem-News.com
Life experiences from our writer who specializes in matters of religion and faith.
(PASO ROBLES, Calif.) - From my own experience, and from being told by relatives and friends, I know that deceased persons - or those on the verge - have involved themselves briefly in the lives of the living, often for the purpose of comforting them. They are not experiences about which one is prone to speak, but neither will they likely ever forget.
They seem to occur in the solitude of the moment, in the mind where what occurs is not discernible to others, but not always.
Alfred Russell Wallace - the very person who was responsible [unintentionally] for the publication by Charles Darwin of his far reaching conclusions on Evolution - published a book in 1874 entitled, Miracles and Modern Spiritualism. I bought my Revised Edition, published by George Redway, London; 1896. from Amazon.com. Chapter V, pp. 72-75 relates several incidents [1785-1858] that correspond remarkably well to instances with which I am personally familiar.
Shortly after my father-in-law died, my mother-in-law volunteered to me that Frank had visited her. She woke easily, she told me, to see him at the foot of the bed dressed in a white robe and holding a cross. Not a word was spoken, but his presence was wrapped in an aura of peace; she was not dismayed but comforted by his presence.
Later, she ordered a headstone for his grave [Frank had been a weak Catholic], and she insisted that the cross correspond exactly as Frank held it across his chest, in spite of being told it was contrary of the Catholic way. Was Frank trying to tell her something?
Another instance involved a neighbor who was absent when her husband was killed in an automobile accident. She bemoaned her inability to say goodbye, and sought to compensate for her presumed failure by fulfilling all the plans she and her husband had made together. Then one night David visited her in her bedroom.
“I can describe everything he was wearing,” she told me. Nothing seemed unusual [although she knew he was dead]; she just felt gladness at having finally the opportunity to see him, and to say goodbye. David insisted she let him go - he was fine, - but refused to allow her to kiss him as she insisted she intended to do. She rose from her bed and walked to him before he simply dissolved. She awoke to find herself standing where he had been, and felt a sense of release from her despair that changed her life thereafter.
Tiger Woods, of golf fame, after his father died, absented himself from the PGA Tour for weeks, then missed the cut of the first tournament he entered; obviously, he was not himself. Later, I watched him win the British Open on TV, after which he let out an emotional, ”YES!" and buried his head on his caddy‘s shoulder and wept. During play he appeared solemn and relaxed, playing steadily. His outcry at winning and the tears he shed seemed to me the moment of release he felt from a father whose approval he needed, and from whom it was given. Tiger settled down afterward, and won consecutive tournaments, one after another.
I am inclined to believe such experiences happen to more people than are willing to acknowledge them, primarily because afterward, one senses an almost imposed reluctance to speak of them. Alfred Russell Wallace’s book seems to confirm my suspicion. Symbols are communal, taught, and very personal, but encounters that involve them are purely for clarification, in my opinion, because they reflect what we have been taught. I do not consider the white robe, or the way Frank was holding the cross significant in any sense, except as they assumed importance to his wife.
My oldest brother died in 1943 a month after my cousin took me to Minnesota for my health. He wasted away a year at home where he died in Oakland, CA. His death was the last thing I expected, he had been around so long. Two days before he died, I was in bed in the farmhouse of my grandparents when suddenly I found myself walking into a scene I shall never forget, almost like an out-of-body experience.
A small group was kneeling beneath a cross [one of three], in a Calvary-sort of scene. As I approached, the people beneath the cross moved away leaving me to look at the body on the cross wondering what was happening. Suddenly, but with deliberation, my brother turned his head and looked me straight in the eye with a countenance of peace that caught me completely by surprise.
Finally I knew the truth; I awoke awash in tears! My grandparents slept not more than 10 feet from me and knew nothing of my agony; nor did I ever tell them. Later, at my uncle’s house when the phone rang and my aunt answered it, I knew instantly that my brother had died. I was just fourteen; nor shall I ever forget how competently I drove the car to my grandparent’s house that day. I was composed and at ease, as was Tiger Woods who may have experienced a revelatory and comforting encounter of his own before he won the British Open.
Years later I was visiting mother who lived alone in Oakland when quietly she told me she had seen Buford. She was a block from her apartment, she said, when she heard someone call, “Mother.” She turned to see, and saw Buford beside her, and asked him without apparent amazement, “What are you doing here?” “I just wanted to know if you could see me,” then he dissolved into nothingness. The sidewalk was crowded but no one noticed the encounter meant for mother alone.. I told her then of my experience in Minnesota more than a decade previously, to which she replied, "I always thought there was something special about him;" she didn’t know the half of it.
Mother died in 1976. As my remaining brother, Gene, and I sat alone in a waiting room at the hospital, he said he wanted to tell me something he had told no one, not even his wife. He had come home two days before Buford died and heard a choir singing in what he supposed was Buford's room. He walked down the hall to see, but found only Buford asleep. Mother was in the kitchen less than twenty feet away, but heard nothing, and was never told of what my brother thought must be a figment of his imagination, a figment that he harbored thirty-three years, and remembers vividly, I'm sure.
These revelations caused me to write my cousin Joyce with whom I traveled to Minnesota in 1943. She responded matter-of-factly, that Buford had visited her at about the same time I saw him on the cross. “He sat on my bed, and said to me, Yes, Joyce, there really is a God" [He did not mention Jesus]. She wrote to tell him, a letter that mother returned to Joyce unopened saying merely that he had died. Such encounters seem intended for selected persons, none of whom consider them unusual, but all remember them vividly. Gene still swears he heard a choir, and I don’t doubt he did.
I was alone with mother minutes before she died when suddenly she opened her eyes, and with a look of blind amazement, raised her arms to embrace not me, but whomever she recognized over my left shoulder. I made myself available for a final embrace, but I know it was not meant for me, perhaps it was Buford. I mentioned it to my doctor in the course of conversation in his office, and when I finished he related to me an experience of his own. His mother was dying, he said, when suddenly she opened her eyes and pointed to a picture of her husband [father of the doctor, a Jew], at her bedside. The doctor believes she was leaving him a message.
I pass a church where once a week its sign is changed, and one read, “God gave eternal life to man in Jesus,” suggesting eternity is the exclusive domain of Christians. But if non-Christians can connect with persons deceased, wouldn’t that suggest eternity is not Christianity’s private resort, Catholic or otherwise, in spite of how some cemeteries, as in Minnesota, bury their dead in plots separated by religious affiliation?
The significance of these experiences I find impossible to ignore. Eternal life is open to all. The best description of it I found in the book by Wallace, Chapter XI beginning on page 115 [excerpted and paraphrased]. “Spirit is mind. After death man’s spirit survives in an ethereal body, but mentally and morally the same individual as when he was clothed in flesh. From that moment a course of endless progression commences proportionate as his mental and moral faculties were exercised and cultivated while on earth; happiness or misery will depend entirely on himself. Neither punishments nor rewards are meted out by an external power, but each one’s condition is the natural and inevitable sequence of his condition on earth. [Ah, the importance of memories!]
In the spiritual world, the law of “progression of the fittest” takes its place, and carries on in unbroken continuity the development of the human mind which commenced on earth. The communion of spirit with spirit is said to be perfect between those whose beings are in harmony with each other. Those who differ widely have no power of inter-communion and are constituted “spheres,” not merely of space, but of social and moral sympathetic organization.
There is for all [spirits - before and after] an eternal progress dependent solely on the power of will in the development of spirit nature. There are no evil spirits but the spirits of bad men, and even the worst are slowly progressing. Ideas of beauty and power become realized by the will, and the infinite cosmos becomes a field where the highest development of intellect may range in the acquisition of boundless knowledge. The wisest soul is he that is best, as the truest wisdom is the highest love, so the royalty of soul is truth and love. The exalted soul that is ready for departure to a higher state than Hades must know all that earth can teach, and have practised all that Heaven requires.
Though progress may be commenced on earth, and not one jot of what you learn, or think, or strive for on earth is lost, yet all achievement must be ultimated after death. No soul can wing its flight to that which is called Heaven till they should have passed through Earth and Hades [purgatory?] and stand ready in fully completed pilgrimage to enter on the new and unspeakable glories of the celestial realms beyond [among spirit equals, not by religious affiliation].
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