Our first story was submitted by Dorothy Ryan.
I had been my husband Mike’s caregiver for six years, ever since he became increasingly disabled from severe spinal stenosis, severe osteoporosis, severe scoliosis and severe kyphoscoliosis. During that time we had become very close.
When I would bring up his breakfast in the morning, he always said I was his ray of sunshine. I made sure I had a smile for him when I came into his room. The first three years it wasn’t hard to be cheerful for him. We both kept praying that one of his specialists would work a miracle. The last three, however, it became increasingly difficult to be his sunshine but I made sure I always showed up with a smile.
Mike was a retired attorney. He had graduated Cornell Law School and had fond memories of his years there, including his friendship with a fellow law student named Crotty. We had taken a road trip to Ithaca, New York, early in our marriage so that I, who had gone to college in Manhattan, could see the beautiful campus. The trip was memorable also because of his terrible sense of direction. We got lost several times going there and back home. After that, whenever we planned a trip, Mike always double–checked directions with me.
As he became increasingly disabled, Mike turned to books and TV shows for distraction from chronic intractable pain. One of the shows he loved was ABC’s “24” with Kiefer Sutherland. Mike never missed an episode and was looking forward to the new season.
Mike was an old-fashioned, traditional guy. He wore the same watch with a Roman Numeral face he received for law school graduation, even though it had stopped working years ago. His alarm clock was a travel size Bulova with a key wind. He loved all things pre-computer and pre-digital. He had a courtly manner reminiscent of a bygone time. All the nurses loved him.
One of the traits I loved about my husband was that he was sentimental and a romantic. He was not shy about professing his love for me. Toward the end of his life (although we didn’t know the end was approaching) he became even more insistent I knew how much he loved me. Mike never said “I love you” just once, he would tell me “Goodbye, I love you” when I kissed him before I left his bedroom, “Goodbye, I love you” when I got to the bottom of the stairs if I was going out and another, “I love you, Goodbye” when I left the house. Then he would go to the window in his room and wave to me as I backed the car out of the garage.
Mike died in the late afternoon of September 22, 2016, two weeks before our 46th anniversary. I had told him God was sending his guardian angel to hold his hand and bring him to Heaven so he wouldn’t get lost. Hoping to speed his transition (the Hospice nurse had expected him to die the day before) I also told him the Gates of Heaven were closing soon, the clock was ticking, and he needed to get there before they closed. I told him I loved him and kissed him goodbye. Two hours later he was gone.
That night, I sat down to watch TV at my usual time, 8 p.m. That was always the hour my care giving duties were over—unless Mike fell or spilled or had an emergency. He would always insist: “It’s 8 o’clock. Go sit and watch TV. Get some rest.”
I didn’t feel like watching TV but I was exhausted. He had been at home with Hospice all week. They sent one aide at 7:30 a.m. for an hour and I hired a private aide to come at 8 p.m. for two hours. I had been going to bed at midnight and getting up before dawn. There was a new program on Channel 7 with Keifer Sutherland, one of Mike’s favorite actors. I decided to give the new show a try.
The opening scene showed Kiefer Sutherland sitting alone in a room like a conference room. There was a large old-fashioned clock on the wall. The camera panned from Kiefer Sutherland’s back to the clock and then Kiefer Sutherland came into view, wearing a sweatshirt with a school name screen–printed on the front: CORNELL. Mike was telling me he had made it. But he didn’t just tell me once!
In case I hadn’t watched “Designated Survivor” (Mike knew I rarely watched mainstream TV, preferring the British Acorn TV or Amazon prime movies), the following morning I awoke to an orchestra on WQXR playing the song, “You Are My Sunshine, My Only Sunshine, You Make Me Happy When Skies Are Gray.” Later, on the way to the store, I was stopped at a light. The truck in front of me had the name: CROTTY stenciled across the back. If these messages weren’t enough, when I got to the supermarket Bob Dylan’s song, “Lay, Lady, Lay,” started playing as I walked in. That was our song when we became engaged in 1969. By nowI had absolutely no doubt that Mike was telling me he loved me and he’d made it safely.
The following story is by Wendy Dobler
I’m not someone who looks for signs from those who have passed on. But I do like to keep my antennae up just in case.
My mother has been dead for over 15 years now and although I have experienced more openness to her, more understanding, more love, it tends to be a one way street. But after reading “Embracing the Sign,” I realized that there have been times when I’ve experienced uncanny occurrences that seemed like a tap on my shoulder from another plane of existence.
For example, during a particularly contentious time with my sister, I just happened to find a letter my Mother wrote me many years prior. I was going through a stack of miscellaneous papers, which always seem to populate my desk, and it just emerged. In the letter, she thanked me for being kind to my sister. It was very unusual for my mother to write such a letter, so I saved it. And there it was, to remind me how much I value kindness. This was very important to me at a time when my sister and I were so at odds with each other. I wasn’t sure if she would ever speak to me again.
My mother’s letter reminded me that I can never go wrong with kindness. It helped me to forgive my sister and just move on.
Our latest story has been submitted by Jeanne Piper
George was my brother’s only son. By the time he was twenty, he was a welder at a local oil tank company and an active member of the National Guard. Shortly after 9/11, as he was waiting to be deployed to Iraq, he was sent to the Pentagon to help with the aftermath of 9/11. During this time he was working inside an oil tanker, making a repair. Something went terribly awry. There was a fatal explosion. He was airlifted to a hospital where he subsequently died.
The family was devastated. My brother and I had to tell my mother, who was eighty-eight and a widow at the time. My father had died in 1989.
About 2 weeks after George’s death, I was startled out of a sound sleep one night. I saw my father. His hands were stretched out and I distinctly heard his voice saying, “I got him, I got him!” The vision was so vivid and the voice so my father’s, that there is no question in my mind, to this day, that it was my father connecting with me, to reassure all of us, that George was in his hands in heaven.
We welcome submissions. If you would like to share your story please contact Marion Goldstein by clicking here.