The conductor raised his baton, then nodded toward the orchestra. As the melodies of Bach’s Oratorio filled the cathedral, I waited for our cue. In the soprano section, we stood in matching black concert dresses, voices raised with joy.
As we sang, I thought about my dad. How he would have enjoyed hearing such a beautiful production! One year before, he had stepped into eternity. At 85, he had lived a full life; yet I still missed him and the musical connection we shared.
Then the still small voice whispered, “He’s here, up in the balcony, on the left.”
I could not see him. But as tears filled my eyes and the music swelled to its crescendo, I knew Dad heard me, sitting in that empty chair, balcony left.
Can our loved ones look down on us and occasionally visit? I believe the answer is yes. Not just from my experiences, but also from others who have reported similar incidents. We are told about the thin veil between heaven and earth, and scripture bears witness to the possibility of movement from one to the other.
In the Old Testament, we read the story of King Saul, who asked to speak to the prophet Samuel. Granted, Saul made the connection through the witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28), but God allowed that experience. Samuel asked, “Why have you summoned me?” He and Saul discussed the kingdom and Samuel critiqued the embattled king. Saul asked for advice and God allowed it through his deceased servant, Samuel.
We are cautioned in Deuteronomy 18:10 not to seek out sorcerers and witchcraft. But the passage in First Samuel shows it is possible for someone who has passed to revisit earth and even speak to us.
Reverend Stella Ruiz, an ordained minister and bereavement coordinator for Hospice, writes, “I have listened to many family members share how they have experienced the presence of their loved one. After a loved one dies, many family members yearn for just a touch, a scent, a sign, to know their loved one is alright: the soft smell of the loved one’s perfume, physically feeling the loved one’s arms around the family member, or lights turned off without any reason. The experiences are precious and unique, but can also be painful after the special moment has ended.”
Several years ago, I met a remarkable woman in a nursing home. In her 80s, Cora loved reminiscing about her life during World War II, the Depression, and the rebuilding of the United States.
Cora shared with me that her son, Buddy, loved his dog. They often played in the backyard, cavorting around the perimeter of the yard, jumping over a tree stump, and playing peek-a-boo under the sheets drying on the clothesline.
Cora’s precious Buddy died in the flu epidemic of 1918. She grieved long and hard. Then one day she heard the dog barking. She looked in the backyard and saw something that had not happened since Buddy became ill: The dog cavorted around the perimeter of the yard, jumped over the tree stump, then played peek-a-boo under the sheets drying on the clothesline. Cora knew the dog was playing with her invisible son, and a piece of her fractured heart began to heal.
A common argument asks, “Why would someone in heaven watch what is happening on earth? That would simply make them sad.”
But what if God protects the deceased from the sadness and allows only what brings them, as well as us, joy?
We all need to be encouraged. God is faithful in providing that boost of encouragement exactly when we need it. Can’t the God who knows our hearts determine when and how to send a message of hope? Can’t he “save” our souls with a glimpse into his beautiful world and the affirmation that our loved ones are with him?
“We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1).
The use of the word “cloud” implies a different entity – possibly above us and enveloping us. Within that cloud stands those gone before, cheering us on, praising God for our progress as we “run with endurance the race set before us.”
Since we are told guardian angels walk with us and minister to us (Hebrews 1:14), is it not possible that the spiritual realm around us might also include those who have passed?
On the Desiring God website, John Piper addresses the topic: “God will give the saints whatever measure of knowledge they need for the greatest experience of happiness in God. If they need to know something for their fullest experience of joy in God, they will know it. He won’t withhold what is needed for their happiness in him.” http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/do-loved-ones-in-heaven-look-down-on-us
In the New Testament, we read about the rich man and Lazarus. Luke 16:22-26 records the story of how the rich man looked up and saw the poor man, Lazarus, at peace in heaven. The rich man realized too late his mistake in not believing and not caring for the poor folks who journeyed through his life. He asked Abraham to send Lazarus as witness to his family, to warn them before it was too late. Abraham declined the request, but this passage underscores the fact that a deceased Abraham conversed across the spiritual divide.
If those who suffer in hell can look upward, is it not also possible – under God’s tutelage – for the reverse direction?
In Matthew 17, the Transfiguration account underscores how deceased saints may suddenly appear on earth. Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah, who talk with the Son of God. It is a moment of instruction for Peter, James and John, as well as a reminder to us that the saints in glory – when God wills it – can travel back to earth.
This July, my best friend suffered a sudden illness and left for heaven. After the funeral, I holed up for a while, journaling through my grief and trying to find some sense in my world without Deb.
One night, I sat on my bed with my Bible open, crying out the raw emotions of grief. Then I sensed Deb behind me, her hand on my shoulder – letting me know she was okay.
I did not actually see Deb or feel her in the physical sense; yet somehow just knowing she was in the room reminded me that our friendship continued into eternity and beyond what I could physically experience. As in life, so in death, her presence was a comfort.
We can’t know everything that happens after death – and truthfully – we probably don’t want to know everything. Yet I believe God is so loving, he sometimes allows us to “see” or “feel” into another realm to remind us he is omnipresent and always caring.
Years ago, I read an anonymous quote that still encourages me today: “Since God is with us, and our loved ones are with Him – then they’re not very far away.”
RJ Thesman is an author and a certified writing coach. She writes from the heartland of Kansas where she lives with her adult son and an elderly cat. You can follow RJ at https://rjthesman.net/.
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