Friday, May 19, 2017

THIN SPOTS – Close Encounters With Eternity

Recently, the mother of my dear old friend, Charlie, died. She was an incredible woman, smart, civically engaged and, at 97, still living independently. As a minister—ordained when she was in her sixties—and someone with a life-long passion for music, it came as no surprise that she’d orchestrated much of her own beautiful memorial service.

Some time before her death, while discussing that eventuality with her minister,
she had noted some of the most important aspects of her own, personal spirituality. Among them was her belief that human beings—at least those of us open to the possibility—regularly encounter “thin spots” in the self-made barrier between our largely-mundane daily busy-ness and other, more transcendental realities.

She felt it was her job, as a minister, to encourage people’s awareness of those convergences, because, among other reasons, they are good places to find God.

          If I could choose between this state and 
          deep sleep, I’m not sure I could tell you 
          which I’d pick.

The other night, perhaps facilitated by that posthumous sermonette, I encountered one of those thin spots in my consciousness.

I’d already had a unique and memorable night. Unable to sleep for some reason—
I seldom have that problem—I’d been lying there, resting quite nicely, though acutely aware of my surroundings, my body, my thoughts. It wasn’t that anything in particular was on my mind, nor even that I was unable to turn off my thoughts;
I truly wasn’t thinking of much more than how amazingly comfortable I was, both physically and mentally.

Instead of any sense of urgency or frustration with not being able to sleep, I just felt utterly at peace. I remember thinking, If I could choose between this state and deep sleep, I’m not sure I could tell you which I’d pick.

Now, to be honest, I can’t say I might not have drifted briefly off to sleep now and then during the night, but it sure didn’t seem that way.

            A tear—a real, cool, liquid tear—
            rolled down my cheek.


Then, some time in the wee hours, I was suddenly aware of a presence. Not a flesh-and-blood presence, but a presence nonetheless. It was my dad. (In the 20 years since he died, I’ve had just one other significant connection with him, so I knew right away this was something special.)

We talked. I don’t remember saying anything out loud, but we talked. My “voice” felt real and true, and his…well, it seemed completely spontaneous, by all ap-
pearances his true voice, not one of my own creation.

So I asked Dad some of the questions I, because of both my reserve and his, had never thought to bring up while he was alive. “What were some of the high points of your life?” I asked. Without hesitation, he said, “You and your brother.” A tear—a real, cool, liquid tear—rolled down my cheek.

“Were you happy as an old man?” I asked. “You and mom seemed pretty detached by then, if not downright fed up with each other.” He replied, “Oh, you should have seen us when we were younger! When we got married, we were happy…and we were in love. Back then, we could talk, we laughed, we were affectionate...or as affectionate as conservative, German Americans could be (he winked)—we shared dreams…”

“Yeah, but were you happy during your final years, after you sold your homes and business?” I pushed. He thought for a few seconds. “I guess it was a different kind of happiness, the kind that comes from fulfilling a responsibility. Once I got your mom situated where I knew she’d be looked after, and sewed up some financial matters, I figured I’d fulfilled my purpose. I kind of let go.”

     In a kind of role reversal, I felt I’d taken 
     on the role of parent, and he was the child.

Dad and I talked for quite a while. I filled him in on my life since he passed away—during much of which he smiled and nodded knowingly, as if he already knew. I had to catch myself a couple of times running on about myself and tried to turn the conversation back to him. After all, I told him, this was about him.

He disagreed, but I guess that’s one reason this encounter was so amazingly special; in a kind of role reversal, I felt I’d taken on the role of parent, and he was the child.

I told him how proud of him I was…and am, and how much I love him. And how sorry I am that I wasn’t able to express that pride and love more overtly while he was still alive. In one of Dad’s patented responses—usually issued when the rare mention of love came up—he said simply, with that familiar, twinkly-eyed smile of his, “Ditto!”

Finally—I don’t know if I eventually did drift off to sleep or if it happened consciously—we said our good-byes. But not before I made him promise that he’d come back. He promised…and I’m waiting...


jean said...

This gave me goose bumps, Jeffery! I totally believe you did encounter your dad! Ten years or so ago, I had 3 "dreams" three nights in a row, and at the same time, right before I woke up, that I was speaking with 2 men who were disguised aliens.I had painted a very strange and what I now call and introductory, painting a month or so before the dreams that got me to thinkng about visitors from other worlds, but I certainly was not expecting this! Anyway, they were very loving beings who clearly were concerned about events on earth and in the final dream they asked me if I thought "humankind" was worth saving. I was shocked and had no answer in either my heart or mind but I did see a sphere hanging in front of me, just above my head. I reached out and picked it like an apple and it had written on it the word YES. I told them "yes" and they said thank you and goodbye and I woke up knowing that I would never see them again. I had grown to love them so I was very sad. So yes, I do understand that this place, Jeff. :)

Jeffrey Willius said...

What an incredible experience, Jean! Have you ever thought about trying to replicate that "YES" sphere to have as a reminder?

jean said...

I have the original introductory painting (seen on my website as Visitors) and for the entire year, I painted spheres and planets and strange light forms that I was not really in control of. Since one thing they asked me to do was to let people know they were here, I chose to have a show of the paintings with a very non-threatening artists statement which did just that. I am not afraid to talk about my experience and I have :)

Jeffrey Willius said...

Jean, please tell us again the name/url of your blog.

jean said...

You can see the art at
You will also see another painting of spheres that came from this time, too, Jeff.

Chas said...

Jeff: Very nice tribute to my Mom and her memory. She talked to my siblings about that "thin place," but she never mentioned it to me. Probably because I'm the skeptic in the family.

As I read your dialogue with your father, I wondered about the type of dialogue you now have with your adult children, now that you are the senior member of the family. You had a very special relationship with your Dad, despite his laconic personality. I hope your kids feel the same kind of pride in you that you felt for your Dad..


Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks, Chas, for your very thoughtful comment. If your experience runs anything like mine, you'll appreciate your mom more and more as time goes by.
I have what feels like very open, loving conversations with one of my kids; the other is much more guarded. I'd like to think both love and admire me -- perhaps in different ways -- as well as finding fault. How 'bout you & your boys?

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