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The God Squad: More signs from the other side

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: My daughter, Kathleen, was close to her grandfather, Poppa. After he died Kathleen would mention that Poppa was here. She could smell him. Poppa was there when Kathleen had a sonogram to see her unborn baby. Once, when she was walking on campus, a friend told her to stop and said that Kathleen had two shadows. -- (From A in NY)

A: Good one! The idea of having two shadows is a wonderful sign from the other side for many reasons. It requires us to pay close attention to the little things in our life. Who would notice two shadows without paying close attention? Of course, the two shadows from Kathleen that day could have been caused by two different sources of light shining on her, but I can also feel the truth of her Poppa walking alongside his beloved granddaughter that day.

I also like the sign of “smelling Poppa”. Signs from those we have loved in life do not have to be verbal or visual. We can connect using all our senses. The idea of shadows as a sign is also theologically deep. The biblical belief that we are made “In the image of God” uses the Hebrew word tzelem for “image” and the root meaning of tzelem is shadow. So just as we are shadows of God on Earth, so too Kathleen is the shadow of her beloved grandfather. May the light that creates all shadows shine upon Poppa’s soul and may Kathleen never walk alone.

Q: Hi, Rabbi, yesterday I buried my 97-year-old mom after a short but very sad, two-week decline. My mom always loved the telephone. She only had a landline. It was her lifeline when younger, but also very much as she aged. She never had a computer or internet, her eyes were failing and she didn't want to learn. She liked voices and conversation and had a list of friends and relatives she would go through daily or weekly. Everyone knew Marie would check in. When I came to the wake, I saw my sister had placed her cordless phone receiver in the casket. It might have caused the funeral director to pause but most of the attendees understood and smiled. When leaving for the Mass, my brother said she'll have to do without a phone in heaven and someone joked with her strong personality, she'd bug St. Peter for one.

That evening around 9 p.m., my sister-in-law texted us with a screenshot from her phone, she said that she had received a call from my mom's number at 9 p.m. When she answered there was no answer. Her apartment had been empty for two weeks! My sister took the receiver from her bedroom phone and the other was unplugged. Well, I'm sure someone could explain why that happened, but I would like to think she was giving us a sign and saying she could make one last call.

With her personality, I think she is trying to run heaven with your dad, for sure. God bless you. -- (From D, New Haven, Conn.)

 

A: Most of us are filled with stories about how phones don’t work when they should. Finally, a story of phones that do work when they shouldn’t! The key to figuring out signs from the other side is to do your homework first. Is there a natural and rational way to explain a supposed sign? Your phone call from Marie looks good to me, but who knows? What is certainly true about your story is that she lived a long life surrounded by loving friends and family. What is true is that you can mourn her without having anxiety or anger at her passing. And what is certainly true is that your mom may have been one of the few people completely disconnected from the internet but completely connected to everything that matters. May God comfort you and may God receive her soul.

Q: In 2018 I lost my wife, Eloise, after 61 years of marriage. About two years ago I was saying my prayers after receiving Holy Communion. I sensed a feeling take over my body. It started happening just about every week. I'm convinced this is Eloise letting me know she's here with me. I don't know whether this happens to others. It gives me great satisfaction. I've enjoyed your columns for years. -- (From J)

A: God comfort you, dear J. What I love most about your communication from the other side is that it is loving, hopeful, and completely natural. It does not require some magical mystical interventions, but it is still completely convincing. We need not require special effects to prove our theology. I feel her loving presence through your words.

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at godsquadquestion@aol.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)

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