Out of Grief Comes Spirit

The iconic view of Yosemite Valley and the magnificent El Capitan in a storm from Tunnel View in California, USA

Sometimes I hear the voice of a family member who has died, or I feel their presence. Is it real?

Out of the blue, I will think to send something to a friend in another state. When it arrives three days later, it’s exactly what she needed that day. How did I know? Is something going on beyond coincidence? We are more connected to each other than we think, both to the living and the dead.

I believe that everyone I’ve ever loved is still present inside me in some way. The compassion of my wife Evelyn continues to encourage me, the wisdom of father-in-law Stan continues to guide me, and the creativity of mother Martha continues to inspire me.

What is real is not limited to what we can see.

As soon as I arrive in Yosemite, a coyote always appears, either sitting along the road to welcome me in, or trotting across the meadow with a glance toward me. Molly says Coyote is my spirit guide. She might be right. Some people say they never see coyotes. I see them all the time.

Black Elk believed that people were brothers and sisters to all of creation—the bison, rivers, horses, coyotes, and ravens. The Ahwahnechees believed that the deer willingly gave themselves up to their arrows, knowing that people had to eat. The Sioux believe that their Grandfathers and Grandmothers in the afterlife send messages to guide them. 

I believe that the spiritual can be more real than the physical, because matters of the spirit are not bound by the laws that govern physical objects. 

Religions around the world have rituals and observances that seek to preserve the bonds with those who have died. The Japanese maintain altars in their homes to keep the lines of communication open with their ancestors. On Samhain, the Celtic people believe that the wall between worlds thins to a veil and we can see and talk with our dead. Some of us try to communicate with the Beyond through séances, psychics, tea leaves, tarot cards, and Ouija boards.

Do you hear the voices of your dead?

Ghosts of my departed don’t dance around my bed at night. There’s no screaming, rattling of chains, or dancing with flaming swords, although that would be cool. Yet there have been enough events I can’t explain that make me think that contact from the beyond is possible.

One evening, six months after Ev died, I was in Yosemite sitting by the river, watching the sunset fade to a canary yellow sky and waiting for the stars and their constellations to emerge. Off-handedly, I asked Ev to give me a sign, if she was still around, that she was okay. And in that instant the sunset turned heart red. I was stunned, and sat still for ten minutes, yet I wrote it off as a strange happenstance because what are the odds? 

When I came back to camp, someone asked if I had seen the sunset tonight. She had worked in the valley for eight years and had never seen a sunset like that.

So, you know, this door is staying open.

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10 Comments

  1. Kim Kluxen Meredith on April 7, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    I love your message. Thank you for sharing. I call these spiritual moments “whispers”. Once I let go of the struggle to fully understand these spiritual connections and realized that level of knowledge was not mine to have in my stage of life, I opened my heart and soul and embraced their messages without question. When my husband died in 1993, my “whispers” fully formed and have been with me ever since. His presence has been felt in many different ways. Thankfully my children have learned to trust their “whispers” too and we share these special moments with each other. For me, it is a very peaceful way to live. I share my book “ Listen for the Whispers : Coping with Grief and Learning to Live Again” and its message with grief groups in the hopes that more of us can find and listen to our “whispers”. I am glad that you are clearly in tune with your “whispers”. Oprah’s new book makes reference to the importance of our inner voice and even uses the the word “ whispers”. I need to find out how to get in touch with her. I have been writing about “ whispers” since 2010!

    • Mark Liebenow on April 8, 2019 at 7:50 am

      Kim, I like your term “whispers.” I think it’s important not only for keeping in contact with our loved ones who have died, it’s also important for us when we’re working our way through grief. If we listen, I think that we can often hear subconscious offering guidance, which we too easily push off because our minds think we should do something else.

  2. Mary on April 7, 2019 at 9:28 am

    It is so comforting knowing others believe our loved ones send signs to us, to remind us they are with us and watching over us. I call these signs ‘God Winks’, after reading a book by that name. I keep a journal of all the God Winks I get from my parents, and my 2 brothers, who were my best friends. On a difficult day, I read thru my journal and it helps me get thru it. Things as simple as hearing a song that was special to me and my brother, on the radio at the exact time I was thinking of him. Seeing his favorite number at times when I am having a bad day….all help me remember they are with me and love me.

    • Mark Liebenow on April 7, 2019 at 3:03 pm

      We too easily forget the good things that happen to us, and forget that people love us, Mary, and will always want the best for us. It’s easier to remember the bad times, the disappointments, the crushing blows. Keeping a journal of all the winks, and nudges, and taps on the shoulder is a great idea!

  3. Mark Liebenow on April 6, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Even if we’re not looking, Sue-Elizabeth, we notice little things going on around us that we can’t explain. Then when the big things happen, like the falling star, we realize how significant they all are. Believe.

  4. Cathy on April 5, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    I love this Mark! I think if your heart is open to hear and see, then our loved ones will speak and appear. I’ve had more than one experience I cannot explain, and truthfully, nor do I want to. I’ve found more comfort and healing in those moments than in any other.

    • Mark Liebenow on April 6, 2019 at 6:02 am

      And I don’t think we have to explain such events, Cathy. And knowing that relationships don’t end with death brings us a lot of comfort.

  5. Megan Roberts on April 5, 2019 at 2:15 pm

    I absolutely love this. I too have experienced so many signs from my fiancé who passed away and a very close Aunt. I have recently began looking more into soulful and holistic healing. I truly believe every word you wrote and it is a relief to know others believe it to know ;).

    • Mark Liebenow on April 6, 2019 at 6:05 am

      We are heart, mind, and spirit, Megan. Too often we downplay or forget the spirit part. I want to stay open to all the possibilities, and it sounds like you do, too.

  6. Sue-Elizabeth Foot on April 5, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    I think it was your dearest Evelyn sending a sign that she was okay and that she loved you and missed you. I feel that very strongly.

    After my, husband died in October, a little miniature rose plant on our kitchen counter that I had planned to toss out, one day shortly after had three buds on it. I truly felt it was a message from him to me and our two adult daughters, to let us know that he was not far away, and was sending love. The three tiny roses blossomed beautifully, and said “I love you” each time I looked at them.
    Longer ago, the night before my mother died, we looked out her retirement residence window. She couldn’t see very well, but I was exclaiming that there was a very beautiful rainbow out there, and she was totally delighted! She died the next afternoon. The following day, my husband and I were driving home to Toronto from Montreal, and on the dark highway through a wooded area, we suddenly saw a falling star, arching through the air and glittering and twinkling as it landed by the side of the road. I know it was a message from my beloved mother, saying she had arrived and wishing us a safe journey home. I’ve never forgotten that, and my high school students the next day were enraptured with this whole story. Their eyes were sparkling as they listened. They wanted to know. Yes, I believe in these signs.

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