have had a companion in spirit with me all of my life. I call him 'Joe.' He
was my imaginary playmate when I was a kid. But unlike most children, my
"friend" never faded away. By the time I was a teenager, I knew that none of my
friends had a "friend." This really scared me and I ended up going to see a
psychiatrist, to get him to help me to be 'normal.' But that is another story.
When my Maternal Grandmother died, I was devastated with grief. We had been extremely close. The day before her death, I paid her a visit. I could see that she was getting ready to pass over. I went home, and I stayed up almost all night, letting go of her, ritualistically. I felt that I must do this so that I would not hold on to her and delay her passing.
about 6:30am the next morning, Joe came to me and told me that she had passed. I
felt so alone and helpless. He said to me, "Give your Grama to me, Sherry, I'll
take care of her." I knew he meant that he would help her with her transition.
He told me that she was with her sister named Maryanne. I had never heard of a
sister with that name, but was too upset to argue.
Grama had made a final request of me at the very end of her life that went
against what she had always said she wanted. It was outrageous and she had
begged me to make a death-bed promise to her that I would carry this request
out. I did promise her, knowing full well that my Mother had her
power-of-attorney, not me, and that she would never let me do as she had asked -
and rightly so.
A couple of nights later, I woke up at 3:11am. (Grama was born on March 11, 1911.) I had dreamed that my arm was on fire. I was just terrified and sure that my Gram was angry with me for not carrying out her final wishes. I didn't sleep for the rest of the night. I was extremely upset.
next day, I went with my Father to pick up Grama's ashes. When I held that box I
felt the utter lifelessness of the contents. Never before had I ever felt
something so completely devoid of vital energy and feeling. There were no subtle
energies coming from it that was anything I recognized; nothing of my Grama was
here. I felt an emptiness enfold me as I realized that everyone and everything
that we know, love and work for passes away, eventually. It truly is "ashes to
ashes, dust to dust." Yes, I knew that intellectually, but now I felt it to my
day of her memorial dawned beautifully. We were to drive up to San Francisco in
two cars, meet at the Pier and go out on a small boat to scatter her ashes in
the water near Angel Island, in the Bay. An old friend drove us, since I was in
no shape to do so. Another childhood friend, Bill, went with me, as I stood on
the pier, waiting for the rest of the family to find parking spots and join us.
About 45 minutes passed, and no one came. I was holding this box with my Grama's
ashes in it, standing in the middle of a Saturday crowd at Fisherman's Wharf,
feeling the total desolation of the bereaved.
Bill and I were getting worried, since my normally prompt family was still nowhere to be seen. We were afraid that the funeral boat might leave without us. We decided to try and find the Captain of the boat and tell him to wait for us. We walked around, checking all of the places that we could see where there were boats and pier numbers. No boat. We couldn't even find the Pier that we were supposed to be at. The crowd was pressing around us and I began to feel panicky. At one point, we almost got on the wrong boat for someone else's Funeral. Finally, we walked around to the back of a restaurant, intent on finding a someone, perhaps a worker, to help us.
of a sudden it became still around us. A man approached us and walked right up
to us, looking directly at me. He came up to me, and said
turned out that this man was the Captain of the boat and he was puzzled as to
why he had said these things to me. He wasn't sure how he had known my name. It
just "came out of his mouth." But, being a practical man, he shook off his
"spooky feeling" and took us out onto the Bay.
Captain Joe began to tell jokes. This was something Grama often did. It was really strange and normally would have been quite inappropriate behavior for a man piloting a family to a loved one's last resting place. But somehow, it wasn't as strange as it sounds, and none of us were offended. Rather, we were struck with wonder. We all knew that somehow Grama was here and she was using this man to let us know she was okay.
Captain Joe took us out to Angel Island and cut the engines. The wind had come
up and we were in very rough waters, but suddenly it became very still. A bird
flew above us as we scattered Grama's ashes into the sea that she so loved. We
all felt a peace come over us.
we were nearly back, Captain Joe said that he wanted to buy me a drink. This was
an uncomfortable idea and I hesitated. Everyone else came along, so we went into
a nice restaurant and I had a Coke. He was very shook up, saying that in all of
his years and maybe 5000 trips with people's ashes, he had never felt any sort
of presence of a dead person before. He was mystified as to the way he had
acted, embarrassed and overwhelmingly curious to find out what had happened.
We all said goodbye and headed for home. We thought that the experiences were over. But there were a few more revelations to come.
Several days later, we were sitting around and sharing things about Grama's life
and our own feelings. I told them about Joe saying that Grama was with a sister
named MaryAnne. Grama's other sister was there and she told us a curious story.
few weeks later, I was at a dinner before a meeting we were all attending. I
was with my Mom, talking to some friends about Grama's death. A woman we knew
only slightly interrupted us with a startling story.
Remember - I felt my arm burning the very night my Grama was cremated and woke in tremendous fear at 3:11.
I spoke to Captain Joe several times after the incident. He was a changed man. No longer did he do his job without a thought as to the spirit of the person that he was carrying. He had found a beginning point to explore his own faith. He said that he had come to feel that his Guardian Angel was with him always, guiding him back to a safe harbor.
had received my sign - several, actually. I received comfort, as well as a still
continuing sense of wonder, from the experience.