There will probably never be scientific proof, or disproof, of immortality, or life after death. All so-called proofs are of the anecdotal variety, involving subjective experiences. We can choose to believe, or to disbelieve, each other's ghost stories. I would like to tell you mine for what it's worth.
My father, Roy Walter Ecker, Jr., died on November 4, 1999, "in a good old age" (to use a biblical phrase). He was in his eighties, and had been in poor health for a while. When I helped my mom Lucille pick out some flowers for the memorial service, she remarked that my father, to whom she had been married for 65 years, liked all kinds of roses. I now have reason to believe he still does. My proof--proof enough for me, at least--involves some coral pink roses. Not even real ones. Just some pictures on postage stamps.
A month after Dad died--December 8, to be exact--I was sitting in the second bedroom of my mother's house. Visiting Mom for a few days, I had brought along some bills and was paying them, using the top of her sewing-machine cabinet as a desk. I was using a book of self-adhesive stamps, which of course don't come in a book, but come stuck on a flat, rectangular strip of paper, twenty stamps to a strip.
While paying the bills, I was paying no attention to the fact that the stamps were illustrated brightly with roses--"coral pink roses," as I would later read on the back of the strip of paper.
When I finished with the bills, I had ten stamps still left on the strip. I put my checkbook back in my briefcase, which lay close by on the bed, but I couldn't find the strip of stamps anywhere on the cabinet top where I had just used it. I looked on the floor at my feet, I looked behind the sewing-machine cabinet, then again at the cabinet top. No postage stamps. Then I looked down between the cabinet and the bed close beside it. I found one piece of scrap paper that had fallen from the cabinet top. But no book of stamps.
Aggravated, I took from the cabinet top every last piece of scrap paper left from the bills, leaving bare the space where I had worked. I looked through the scrap paper, set it out of the way on the bed, looked again at the bare cabinet top, and cursed to myself in frustration. Then I thought, there's one place I haven't looked. Maybe the book of stamps had fallen between the cabinet and bed, then slid under the drawer section of the cabinet. So I got down on one knee and reached underneath the cabinet. There was nothing there.
Ready to admit defeat, I got up off the floor--and found the book of stamps lying right in front of me, on what had been bare cabinet top moments before. I couldn't believe it. And as I stood there staring at them, it then struck me how bright and pretty those flowers--those coral pink roses--were on the stamps.
Leaving the stamps where they were, I went to the kitchen on the other side of the house, where Mom was cooking corned beef hash. I told her I wanted to show her something. She followed me into the bedroom, where I showed her the stamps on the cabinet top and told her exactly what had happened. She was thrilled, for she took it as in effect some spiritual mischief, as confirmation of something she had told me a few days before. She had said that she didn't really feel too alone in that house since my father died, because she knew he still was there. She could feel his presence.
I guess she was right. At the time I had become something of a skeptic on spiritual matters. But for days after the December 8 postage-stamp incident, I tried to figure out, to understand, what happened with that book of stamps. I knew beyond any doubt that I was the only person in the room, that no one had come in, that there was no one else in the house but Mom in the kitchen, and that I had never left that cabinet, where the stamps had vanished and reappeared.
Hallucination? I've heard of people seeing something that isn't there, but I don't recall hearing of people not seeing something that is there, right in front of them, with nothing else there to obscure it or distract from its presence. Maybe such delusions happen, but as far as I know I am still in reasonably good mental health. And at the time of the incident I had not been thinking of my father, of roses, or of anything else except paying those infernal bills.
I can only conclude that my dad, who had quite a sense of humor, was present in spirit, to the extent that he could even play a trick on me, somehow physically manipulating some bright rosey stamps, to let me know he was there. But how could such a thing happen? All I can offer is an intuitive explanation, based on what I felt, what ran through my mind, at that moment. Thinking about it afterwards has only strengthened that intuition. I remember thinking, almost immediately, as I stared at those coral pink roses, that my father must have gone to great effort, that he must have used all of his powers of persuasion, on Someone or Something in Charge, for the privilege of playing, just once, such a trick, to let me know that there is a Beyond, and that he's there. I even felt aware, through the stunning phenomenon I had witnessed, not only of his presence, but of his sense of urgency, as if he were asking, "Did it work? Do you understand, son?"
I think that I do. And it follows, I must surmise, that other departed spirits, from time to time, are allowed such rare forms of revealing themselves indirectly to the living. Or of trying to do so. One-shot deals perhaps--either you get through or you don't--like being allowed one phone call when they put you in jail. (Not to suggest, of course, that reaching the Beyond is like going to jail. It's more like getting out, I would think!)
So much, anyway, for my aforementioned skepticism. I had some soul-searching to do. Apparently there were souls to search for, including one's own. And since that day I have come to appreciate the centrality, the promise, of the resurrection in the Christian faith.
When I went to the post office to mail those bill payments, I bought a new book of stamps, though I had half a book left. I still have the half book. The new stamps had fruit berries on them. I've been buying new books--new strips of stamps illustrated with this and with that (I don't pay much attention)--ever since.
There are some things we just don't want to part with. Sentimental value and all. And I'm still hanging on to those coral pink roses.
Copyright 2000 by Ronald L. Ecker
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