Recently, while traveling in Arizona, I was accompanied by an old friend. Accompanied by his spirit, I mean. He’s been gone for more than twenty years, but lately he has been either beside me or just over my right shoulder.
This is not the first time I have felt his presence. It has been with me off and on during the past several months as I heal from the emotional trauma exacted by my husband’s Alzheimer’s disease and his placement in an assisted living home in Arizona. At the same time I have been examining all the facets of my entire life, putting things to rest, coming to terms with other things, accepting myself. My friend has been there with me through much of this journey. It is also the first time I have been able to think of him without sadness.
I had met this friend as I was eighteen, just starting out in the adult world. Now that I am about to turn sixty-five, I am seeing the patterns in my life, how certain decisions created certain pathways, how some events seemed preordained. And, more importantly, I can see how this friend was meant to be in my life and I am beginning to see the reasons for it.
There were many times when he was alive that he offered me kind words of enduring friendship, witty words that lifted my mood, teasing words that made me laugh. He gave me a shoulder to cry on once, his arms holding me and protecting me from further harm, the warmth melting the chill of grief that had been in my heart. He showed me by example how adversity could be overcome, even in the face of great obstacles. He gave me words of optimism, mentored me, and kissed me on the cheek with affection.
I am not sure I really believe that the spirit or presence of a departed person can be with us, guide us, comfort us. In fact, sometimes the whole idea has seemed quite impossible and preposterous to me. At other times, when I see the patterns, I am given to wonder.
For today I know only one thing: I am comforted and aided by my friend’s presence and I am leaning on him as I muddle my way through this whole process.
I loved him dearly and have missed him all these years. So, perhaps just for today, I believe that the spirits of the dead can be with us and bring us great solace. And I welcome them.
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