by Laurie Gudim
Don’t you sometimes wish that certain loved ones who have died could put in an appearance like Jesus did with his disciples after his resurrection? Luke describes it in such succinct but evocative detail: how he was suddenly standing in their midst, saying, “Peace be with you,” how he invited them to touch him, and how he ate a piece of broiled fish. (I wonder how he enjoyed it, the broiled fish. Did they all stand around him in gaping amazement while he licked his fingers and made “yum” noises? I wouldn’t be surprised.)
I would love to have my friend Mary suddenly with me in the flesh once more. She would look at my latest accomplishments, give me her lush, deeply appreciative smile. “Isn’t that marvelous!” she would say. I miss that.
There are millions of stories in which those who have crossed the threshold of death communicate with their loved ones. I just heard one yesterday in which a new widow was driving home after saying goodbye to his wife’s body. She was a woman who loved a corny joke. Several of her favorites were mentioned in her eulogy. Well, as he was approaching a busy intersection, three rabbits bounded into the path of his car and just sat there – unusual behavior for bunnies. He stopped. He didn’t want to go around them, afraid of inadvertently causing them to be injured by other autos, so he waited. Eventually they bounced back to safety on someone’s lawn. He drove on up to the intersection – and noticed that the restaurant on the left side of the street was IHOP. He knew then that his wife was speaking to him.
There are all sorts of ways of explaining away these stories of communication from beyond death. These days even Christ’s resurrection is dismissed. The skeptics postulate that the grieving disciples imagined something that they then embellished into a bodily appearance, or, worse, that they made up the resurrection so that Jesus’ teaching would still be credible after he had been crucified. The whole thing is myth, they would say – although they might add that this doesn’t necessarily make Christianity an invalid faith tradition, as such things go.
How we understand Jesus determines who we believe ourselves to be. Sometimes it is better to listen to what our hearts have to say than to think things through with our brains. Our rabbi eating that broiled fish with his disciples – it means that we, ourselves, are immortal beings. Imagine that! Death has no power over us. And while we can’t get our limited monkey-minds around what might happen after we die, we can count on the fact that we do go on – and not as some nebulous energy or poof of stardust but as ourselves, our true selves, our essential selves.
And while the stories of post-death contact with loved ones cannot be scientifically proven, our hearts know that many of them are true. Imagine that! We recognize the reality of those – often creative – attempts to tell us something. My friend Mary will most likely never show up in physical form to have a little fish with me, but I know she lives on. And she does visit me in other ways, often. I know she is immortal. So are you. So am I.
Laurie Gudim works is a religious iconographer and writer in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.She has recently published her novel, Loving the Six-Toed Jesus, available from Amazon.
Image: Life of Jesus