Monday, November 17, 2014

Two Personal Stories of Love and Hope from the Other Side

The following two stories are not fictional. They really happened, and while some might call them coincidences, I tend to disagree with them. I have a hard time with coincidences in the first place, but these go way beyond the realm of coincidence, in my opinion. The first episode concerns something experienced by a number of my family members; JoAnne is my sister, Sunny is my mother and Edith is my grandmother. JoAnne used to tell me about what was going on with Grammy, and she told me about how she and Grammy used to joke about her ashes being fed to Flipper. I was living in Italy at the time, and this was her way of keeping me in the loop. I’m telling you this so that no one will have an excuse to think it was something invented afterwards to substantiate the experience.

JoAnne and Edith

The early morning hours of September 9, 1995, just two short months before Edith’s hundredth birthday, found JoAnne sitting next to her grandmother’s bed in the nursing home where she had resided since her hip replacement three years earlier. Although she wasn’t particularly spry physically, Edith’s mind was as sharp as it had always been. She hadn’t been feeling very well for the past week, and had been unable to eat or even drink because of a constricted throat.

The two of them were conversing, when Edith started trying to clasp her hands, but they wouldn’t stay together. When JoAnne asked her what she was doing, she explained that she wanted her hands clasped now so there would be no problems when it was time to place her in her casket. Struggling to keep the tears from forming in her eyes, JoAnne folded her grandmother’s hands together, knowing that her Grammy’s pain would soon be ending.

Suddenly, Edith stopped speaking mid-sentence and told JoAnne that she was thirsty; JoAnne jumped and immediately offered to go across the hall and get her a glass of water, but she said no, because she had to wait a few more minutes, until she was on the other side where she could see a fountain of cool water. Ten minutes later, she was drinking her water, on the other side.

The story is already beautiful as it is, but it actually goes further. JoAnne and Edith had spoken often about what would be done after Edith’s death; she was to be cremated and her ashes were to be spread over the waters just off Newport Beach, California, where she had spent the last 64 years of her life. JoAnne would always comment about how her Grammy would be food for Flipper, and the two of them would have a good laugh over it.

The day of Edith’s memorial service and ashes spreading dawned bright and warm. Fifteen family members were in attendance; Sunny, JoAnne’s mother, remembered to take her sea-sickness pills, as Edith had constantly reminded her… A large group of dolphins followed the boat as it chugged its way out of the canal into the open waters; the captain said this was normal, although the group was somewhat larger than usual, and that they would leave as soon as he turned off the motor.

The dolphins did NOT leave, however. They continued to swim around the boat, chattering loudly among themselves and then put on an impressive show of dolphin acrobatics that lasted for about fifteen minutes. They then silently swam off. Sunny was heard to mutter, “She’s already in complete control.” This simple phrase seemed to sum up the general consensus of the participants.

Hundreds of pictures were taken that day, but none with the dolphins turned out. Participants in the service said that the dolphins glittered like diamonds when the sun hit them, so perhaps the brightness and glare given off was the reason that the photos didn’t turn out. No one really knows why, but all those who were in attendance that day ARE convinced that their beloved Edith was there in attendance with them.*

The Ash Trees

the super-moon through clouds 002As many of you who follow my blog know, I have been in a sort of funk for the last 11 months after the death of my dearest Russ. These months have been punctuated with my own physical problems, exacerbated by my grief and pain at losing the man who constituted my head cheerleader, counselor, companion, sounding board, part-time cook, singing companion, entertainment committee and bestthe super-moon through clouds 004 friend. He was one of those people who collect knowledge like others collect baseball cards or shoes, and rarely forgets what he has picked up, so the two of us could be found almost any evening carrying on an interesting conversation on a variety of subjects. I deeply miss those conversations.When Russ was younger (much younger) he was a pitcher for a minor league baseball team. This is an important detail in the story I am about to relate.

This has been a rather wet year here in Brooklyn, and the weather didn’t actually start turning warm until much later in the spring than it usually does, so I put off planting my vegetable “garden” until late April. When I finally began, I noticed that the cats had killed off every single one of my strawberry plants and in their place a series of small tree saplings were growing. I pulled several out—there really isn’t enough space for trees to grow on my covered porch, which is where I keep my garden, in a series of pots and planters—but for every tree I pulled out, four more grew in its place. As they grew taller, I recognized where they had come from originally; there is a very tall tree two backyards down that has “helicopter” seeds. The next point is another important part of the story: I have been planting a garden on my porch for the last 4 years; I have seen those helicopters floating onto or past my porch every year, but not once has a tree sprung from them. In addition, these are the only known saplings in the group of backyards.

Anyway, on July 15 I decided to see if anyone could tell me what type of tree I had growing on my porch—I was very curious, since there so many of them (I think I had about 30 at that point)—so I asked my friends on Facebook. It turned out that my little trees are ash trees. For those who don’t know, one of the main uses for wood from these trees is making baseball bats. Since I went in for surgery the following day, I didn’t really think about the baseball connection to the trees for several more days.

My brain is a tangled web and sometimes I’m better able to untangle thoughts and resolve puzzles because of this. Anyway, as I was trying to sit up after surgery, a number of tangled strands suddenly tied themselves together and straightened out into one logical thread: death of baseball pitcher, baseball bat trees and seeds that have never grown before… To many, this might add up to nothing more than a series of coincidences, but to me it added up to the comforting thought that my Russ is keeping an eye on me.

Have any of you had similar experiences?


* This story was first shared on along with another story.  

©Mary E. Purpari. All rights reserved.