At this time last year, I was living in the Bay Area and working in San Francisco’s Financial District. While it’s a beautiful, vibrant city that’s pulsing with opportunity, I was miserable. The fast-paced lifestyle, the inflated expenses, the sheer volume of people, and the constant, buzzing energy, were enough to make me feel like my sanity was slipping away on a daily basis. On a whim, I decided to drive up to Portland for a long weekend. It was my first visit to the Northwest, and I stayed with an old friend of my mother’s. I hadn’t seen her in at least 15 years, but she welcomed me into her home, showed me around the city, and fed me some delicious, home-cooked meals. On the second evening of my visit, after touring some of Portland’s scenic treasures, my hostess handed me a paper bag of corn on the cob, and said, “Go husk these, will you Moll?”
I smiled at the use of the same nickname my father always used. Taking the bag outside, I sat down on the porch steps, and took an appreciative sip of my beer. My father is always in the back of my mind when I enjoy a good beer, as it was definitely his adult beverage of choice; but at this particular moment, my mind and body were just enjoying the peace of feeling at ease, and being able to breathe without stress. But when I picked up that first ear of corn, and started to pull away the husk, several things happened at once. I was flooded with the most powerful sense of deja vu, and in the space of that moment, I realized that I hadn’t husked an ear of corn since I was a child… Not since I used to sit on the porch of my childhood home, husking corn with my father.
A wave of nostalgia flooded through me, as the world around me literally disappeared, and I remembered every detail with crystal clarity – his expression, the way he smelled, the way his hands looked as he made something as simple as husking an ear of corn look like an art form. I could even smell the Garrett County summer air, and hear the breeze rustle the leaves of the tall oaks that surrounded our house. From within my body, deep inside my chest, I felt a warm, glowing fire. I could feel it spreading through my veins, until it reached my fingertips and outwardly surrounded me in a bubble of light. My father’s presence was so strong, that I instantly started sobbing, without any conscious awareness of doing so. I could see him, I could hear him, I could smell him… I could even taste him, as strange as that may sound. His message was clear: “I am with you always. But most especially, when you feel at home.”
I was dizzy, my vision was blurry… I had to blink away my tears and the stars I was seeing as my immediate surroundings came back into focus, and I felt my equilibrium restore itself. I felt something cool and wet in my hands. Looking down, I saw that I was clutching that same ear of corn as though my life depended on it. My laughter came then, as freely and unfiltered as my tears had been. Simultaneous laughter and tears, surely a sign of either madness or pure joy… perhaps both. I picked up my glass of beer, raised it, and said, “Okay Dad, I hear you. I’m home.”
Yes, this truly happened. Every word, every detail. Those of you who are not faith-based or spiritual may be skeptical, but that doesn’t make my experience any less real. The body dies, but the soul does not. The energy remains, as does the love. And perhaps in those moments, when we’re completely at ease, our minds clear, our hearts open – we’re more receptive to these “visits.”
One of the simple, everyday things I’m saddened by when I think of my father, is that I’ll never get to hug him again. But on that evening, on that porch in Portland, he sure did everything in his power to wrap his arms around me, solidly proving me wrong.