The Dead Among Us

The other night I was visiting in my living room with a neighbor, a man I have only come to know in the past year or so.

As we were chatting he suddenly looked slightly to the right towards a window on the south wall of the room and his eyes got suddenly very large.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t mean to be rude but there’s a spirit over there by the window — a very good one.”

I kind of wish I had video of my reaction to this comment. I was surprised not at all. I asked him if the spirit was a man or a woman.

“I don’t know, I can’t tell. I can’t really see features, it is just something I sense. This is someone close to you,” he told me. “Someone you know very well and who knows you. I get such a warm feeling.”

Without much thought I said, “That’s my Mom.”

I pointed to a picture of her on the wall over his left shoulder. He looked up at the picture and gasped.

“That’s who it is!” he said.

And then, as if talking about the weather, he asked, “Does she visit you often?”

I had to think about my answer to that question. My first inclination was to immediately say “no”.

I miss my Mom something fierce. I have been blessed not to have lost a lot of loved ones in my life, so losing my mother has been a new kind of experience for me, one that has surprised me many times with new emotions and feelings. In the more than two years since her passing I cannot say all the feelings associated with her loss have diminished much within me.

I had a long time to prepare for her passing.

I have studied and have learned and been taught all my life about the plan of salvation and I think I understand it.

But that still didn’t prepare me for all I would feel when death actually touched someone so close to me in my life.

Those feelings are very sacred to me and even still very close to the surface, tender at times, I admit.

But while I think of my mother often, especially when I work on things associated with her, I sometimes can sense how close she is.

And by “close” I mean close as in proximity. It is difficult to explain because it is not so much a feeling of physical closeness but more of an awareness of her knowing something important in real time as it happens.

It is a spiritual feeling but not quite like feeling the Spirit.

It is new to me and very hard for me to articulate.

But unlike my friend, who clearly has a special spiritual gift, I have NOT seen spirits and cannot lay claim to such manifestations.

I have known a few others in my life, my mother ironically, who had experiences like that. But it is not my gift.

But I have no problem seeing how real this all is and that was likely why he was so surprised about my reaction to what he witnessed. He was afraid I would think he was crazy or that such candid sharing between us would result in a change in our relationship.

But he’s not crazy, I believed what he said he saw and to me it is as real as anything else seen in this life.

I’ll tell you why.

Somewhere in these pages I’m sure I’ve told you about my experience working on the name of Francis Welty, one of my mother’s family from the 19th century.

As I was working on validating names from a family group for the temple I stumbled upon Francis, who my mother had identified in her records as a daughter of George Welty, her 3rd great grandfather.

But in later records (records I don’t think Mom in her time had access to) I didn’t find Francis, a daughter of George — I found Frank — a son, of George Welty.

It was the first time I had found a mistake in my mother’s research and I felt funny changing something she had done in FamilySearch.

As I sat here at my keyboard thinking about that for a minute I sensed a very warm feeling of confirmation and I felt my mother very, very close — like right behind me. It was as if she was saying, “That’s right. Fix it.”

I did not feel her hand on my shoulder and I did not actually hear her voice. But that is how I felt in that particular moment.

It was real. I was at my desk in a rocking chair and I stopped myself from leaning back, out of fear of hitting her foot — that’s how close she felt and how real that moment was to me.

We have been promised we would have our dead among us as we work on Family History and this is one of my most certain experiences that testifies to that truth. I cannot claim many such moments but I claim that one and I’m grateful for it.

As I have taken Uncle Frank’s work to the temple I reflect on the experience every time and each time I receive validation of what work is being done.

But there are other times, times unexpected I would say, that I feel my mother close by.

Whenever I have time to do things with my grandchildren I often get a feeling that my mother is aware and likewise delighting in a moment with me.

I have also had a sense of my mother’s awareness at key family events, including even when my father remarried earlier this year. Who would have expected that?

Even recently, as I’ve dealt with some difficult but normal teenage-years stuff with my two youngest at home, I have felt my mother’s presence.

All of this was not something I expected.

In fact, I have formed the opinion that if I were to pass away and go to the other side and see my mother I would have no news to share because she already knows it all. Such thoughts give me great comfort.

Losing my mother, I knew at the time, meant going through a physical separation from her. I was with her in her dying moments. I felt that immediately and I felt it keenly. Days later, as I looked upon her physical form for the final time in this life, the cold, stark reality of her absence from her body was shocking and even horrifying to me. I touched her arm and she did not feel it. I’ll never forget that.

But it is almost because of that moment that all the other times now when I sense her presence the feeling is so real and so important to me.

So in answer to my friend’s question about Mom visiting me often I said “yes”. But I did explain that I had never seen her, only felt her presence.

On the same wall as the window where my friend had this experience is the pioneer trail map I gave my Dad a couple of years ago, and on it appear several pictures of pioneer family members who, of course, I have never met.

“What about those people?” he asked me. “Have you felt them here as well?”

“No,” I said.

We didn’t have the time for me to explain what I knew about each of them and how I have come to know them these past five years. I wish I could have explained.

But my friend only nodded. Then he said something that again surprised me not at all. He has been in my home many times now and that pioneer map has not always been here. In fact, I only recently hung it on that living room wall.

“They know YOU,” he said. “They come here too. Your home is filled with people some times, I have seen it. It is always a good feeling and that is not always the case when these things happen to me.”

Now that blows me away.

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