On July 4th, Mr. Thomas Gibbons was walking on the road down by the campground where he was staying with family members, just north of the old H&H store. It was around 2 am and there were likely fireworks popping all through the night, and flashes of color as the celebration started early. People often remain active into the wee hours during summer on the Island, as the setting sun gleams on the horizon long past bedtime.
Drummond always does the 4th in style. Mr. Gibbons was visiting from Rapid River and like many others, planning on a fun holiday in the small, homey community.
But Mr. Gibbons’ life ended that night. Police are still in the process of finding the driver who hit him. When the news began circulating in the early morning, it put a shadow on the Island festivities. It was a stark reminder about how fragile our existence is; and how just as each moment passes, we can be gone in a flash, in the blink of an eye, never to return.
We don’t know where those people go. Even those dearest to us will vanish with no trace, leaving behind an empty shell, devoid of spirit. The essence of being is no longer there.
Beyond the traditional views of Heaven and Hell, the wisps of reincarnation and ghosts, some of us sense a continuation in the existence of others, especially those closest to us. We see them in dreams. They appear in other forms; eagles or butterflies. They send us signs. These visions may be our subconscious, our intricate brain sending just the right hormones to soothe the stress of loss, to ease our way through grief.
Or, maybe we have that connection, and the soul reaches out to us from wherever. They are okay. We will be okay. There are bonds within us that run deeper than our physical selves. The love lives on. We know this, with as deep a knowing as our own beating heart. This may be the closest we ever come to the glimpse of what lies beyond that glowing curtain. We go on. They go on. Until we meet again.
A couple of years following her death, my mother appeared to me in a dream. My dad, although he said he would appear, did not show up. But on the shore one day, shortly after his passing, an erratic-moving yellow butterfly flashed out of the woods and flickered low along the sand. It went directly to my Chihuahua and zigged in figure eights just above her head. She jumped for it, clumsily leaping and snapping, doing backflips as it zipped around in a taunting frenzy. I was doubled over in laughter. That was Dad! He loved that dog. And he knew I would be at the beach at that hour of the day.
Then the butterfly, as quickly as it had appeared, sped away again, disappearing into the trees. When it left, it was like a gut punch. I howled in anguish. It was not the message from him I was hoping for. I wanted him to show up and speak English, and explain everything, and give me some instructions. What the heck was up with this – a butterfly? Really?
And yet I had no doubt that it was him. It was obvious. That spirit, the essence of him had left his body. It was no longer there. But it was still somewhere. And he was the same person with the same teasing sense of humor.
Those of us who love, and have loved, know this deeply, and with certainty.
It is this knowing that makes our journey bearable; and even joyful. We are here for only a while. In these moments we see our real selves. The superficial layers fall away and leave us at our most genuine. We understand, before we forget again, that the most important thing is to love one another. The rapture of these moments, these weightless and insightful fragments of time, before gravity pulls us back, tell us all about the next phase. This is a glimpse into the lightness that survives, and where we are all headed.
*With deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. Gibbons — may he rest in peace.