20 April 2017
The Visitor From the Beyond
Preface: I Valerie S. (surname withheld) being of sound mind and body and never having partaken in the recreational use of any mind-altering drugs past or present, do hereby declare that the events you are about to hear are real.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — One of the most defining and devastating moments of my life occurred on the morning of Feb. 18th, 1985. At 6:30 am the merciless ringing of the phone jolted me awake from my heavy-eyed dreamland. The unsteady, sobbing voice on the other end was my mom telling me that my father had passed away. True to himself, my dad died on his own terms—at home, in his own bed, and next to his beloved, Alice, his wife of 48 years. He was 76 years old. That year a deadly pneumonia virus had brutally swept through the country killing hundreds in its wake among them my dad. That day the world as I knew it ceased to exist, and the once steadfast walls of my foundation crumbled beneath me. It would take me years to sort through the rubble and destruction and find the strength to move forward and make sense of my life again. I soon learned that I would not be alone as I navigated the murky waters on this tumultuous journey. Support and guidance would come in the form of a familiar and prudent visitor from the beyond.
Great Neck, New York — In June of 1985, I returned to my childhood home for a visit. I barely recognized my mom. In the four months since Dad’s death she had lost weight and had become frail and lifeless—her energy and sprit depleted. She was an empty shell of her former self. The once animated, feisty, red-headed-blue eyed Irish woman I called mom was gone. She reminded me of a small, scared lost child. It was heartbreaking. The second night of my visit as my three children peacefully slumbered in the next room, I crawled into the security of my childhood bed and quietly cried myself to sleep. At one point in the night, I gently stirred as I heard the familiar creaking of the bedroom door as it opened. I assumed it was just mom checking up on me as she did when I was a child so I rolled over to continue my fitful sleep.
Then I heard the squeaking of the bedsprings and realized that someone was sitting on my bed. I presumed it was mom needing to talk so I rolled over to an upright position. It was not mom, but Dad. It was my Dad. I literally threw myself into his arms expecting air and a vanishing vision. Instead, his arms encircled me and held me tightly. It was real. Dad was actually there. He was solid and warm. I put my head on his chest and could hear his heart beating. He was dressed in his favorite outlandish paisley-print shirt—the one that mom despised. I checked his shoes, and as always, they were buffed and polished to a high sheen. I could smell the scent of lingering stale cigarette smoke on the fabric of his clothes. The aroma of recently consumed coffee drifted from his breath. He lovingly stroked my hair while he repeated his pet name for me, “My Wallerie (Valerie with a W), my Wallerie.”
We talked for what seemed like hours. He said he had already looked in on my children, and they were sleeping peacefully. He related that mom was tossing and turning unsuccessfully trying to rest in their marital bed. He asked me to watch over her and assured me that he would be around whenever I needed him. I watched him leave the bedroom.
I awoke the next morning with a happy heart, but in a state of confusion. My Dad’s fragrance still permeated the room and was now on my nightclothes. Had I been dreaming? My bed covers were askew, and on the spot where Dad had rested, there was an imprint. It had been real after all. I kept this encounter to myself not wanting to upset anyone and realizing how crazy it would sound if repeated. Three months later, my husband’s work transferred us to Wenatchee, Washington. I was forced to move to the opposite side of the country from my mom just nine months after our loss of Dad.
Wenatchee, Washington — Since relocating, things on the home front had gotten worse. My abusive husband’s drunken rages had increased in frequency and escalated. Many nights, unable to rest, I would wait until everyone was asleep and quietly slip from the house. I aimlessly roamed the streets enjoying the solitude of night and the obscurity provided by its cloak of darkness.
One evening as I approached the elementary school, I caught sight of a shadowy- silhouette propped against the chain link fence of the schoolyard. It appeared to be a man smoking a cigarette. Unnerved by his presence, I crossed to the other side of the road. Suddenly, a glow radiated from his being, and I heard him say, “Wallerie, it’s Dad.” Stunned, I remained frozen in place unable to move until a mysterious magnetic force compelled me across the divide.
Crying, I found myself submerged in Dad’s warm comforting embrace and mesmerized by his soothing words of wisdom. We sat on the wet dew laden grass and chatted until the sun began to rise in the sky. My heart was full and happy as Dad sent me home in time to greet my awakening children.
My husband was already in the kitchen and eyed me suspiciously, as I appeared. He interrogated me as to where I had been, why the seat of my pants was so wet, and why I reeked of cigarette smoke. I just smiled and went up to wake the kids for school.
Dad came to visit me regularly for many years. He always seemed to sense when I needed him, and he never failed me. Sometimes I would see him in a crowed mall, a store, a parking lot, or a park. Dad had the magical gift to make time stand still. Everything and everyone would become frozen in time and motionless around us. Dad would spend the lapse in time, dispensing his sage advice and encouraging me to be a warrior and not a victim. He wanted me to take a stand and believe in myself just as he always had. He urged me to be hopeful and not hopeless. Then suddenly time would resume, and the movement around me would coincide with dad’s covert departure. These are to this day some of my most treasured moments.
In 1998, my mother passed away, thirteen years after Dad’s death. She was 80 years old. She may not have died of a broken heart, but she definitely died with one. Finally, Alice was on her way to be reunited with the love of her life. Shortly after mom’s funeral, dad paid me a visit.
Over the years, thanks to his support, guidance, and encouragement, I had been able to get my children and myself out of our abusive situation. By this point in time, I had been divorced for seven years, had sole custody of the three kids, owned a small home, and was gainfully employed by the Wenatchee School District. My children were thriving and so was their mother. With the help of my dad, I had finally turned a corner.
This particular evening, I felt compelled to return to the schoolyard where Dad and I had our first Wenatchee encounter. He was there waiting as I approached and after a warm embrace we exchanged pleasantries and caught up on the children’s activities. Dad said he wanted to show me a very special place, and he reached for my hand. I found myself standing in the midst of the most beautiful garden I had ever seen. It was breath-taking and hypnotic at the same time. The sweet floral fragrance was magically alluring and soothing. It was like a sea of beautiful colored flowers and lush green foliage interspersed with divine fountains of cascading waters. Carefree residents meandered through plush and vibrant landscape laughing, smiling and conversing. They donned flowing white robes. There were men, women, and children. The magnificent garden was punctuated with exquisite white marble statues. It was the most peaceful place I had ever been.
The sun shone brightly, but I was neither hot nor cold. As I took it all in, my Dad continued to lead me down a path lined with magnificent life-like figurines. Dad finally halted at a spot that gave us a full view of a stunning pool of light blue water. There was a radiant woman sitting on a bench singing a beautiful mesmerizing melody. It took me a second before I realized it was mom. I wanted to run to her, hold her in my arms. Dad held me back. “She can’t see you or hear you—no one here can.” He continued, “I wanted you to see our new home and how happy your mother is. This is how I want you to envision us every time you feel sad or miss us. This is where we will all eventually be reunited as the Southard clan once again. Yes, Wallerie, this is Heaven.”
I found myself back in front of the school. For the first time since I lost my beloved father, I felt whole. Dad never visited me again. Thinking of them both now evokes a feeling of contentment and puts a smile on my face. They are where they belong-together. Their love story continues.
After this, I finally mustered up the courage to share my encounters with my sister. As I told my tale, she listened intently never giving me a hint at what she might be thinking. When I finished, she let out a monumental sigh of relief and confided that dad had visited her too on multiple occasions. She too had been to heaven to see mom! Maybe we were not crazy after all, but if we are, then at least we can blame it on genetics! Until we meet again Mom and Dad! Love you!
Epilogue: On Sept. 23, 2011, John Blake authored an editorial for CNN discussing the phenomena of paranormal encounters with people who had died. He gave what happened to my sister and me a name—crisis apparition. He explained, “A crisis apparition is the spirit of a recently deceased person who visits someone they had a close emotional connection with usually to say goodbye. Although such encounters are chilling, they are also comforting. These encounters suggest that the emotional bond often transcends death and is not erased.”
It happened to me and it is my reality!
April 19, 2017