My friends and clients often share stories with me about signs from deceased loved ones. And then they ask, “Are they real?” I don’t pretend to know what happens to our loved ones when they die. But I do know that those of us left behind take great comfort in maintaining the connection with the person who died.
We stay connected to our loved ones in many ways, looking at photos, supporting a cause they believed in, celebrating their birth and death day, or keeping a special keepsake nearby. Sometimes we make a pilgrimage to a special place. And sometimes, we do feel like we receive signs from our deceased loved ones—as though they are staying connected to us.
This week I visited Nashville, Tennessee for the very first time. My husband was attending a tradeshow, and in the excitement of the trip itself I somehow forgot that it was the birthplace of my stepfather, Tom Clark, and the location of his beloved childhood home. My mother reminded me of this fact when I called to check in.
Once I got over the guilt and surprise of this forgotten detail, (I listened to countless hours of his Nashville stories and wrote his obituary), I knew I had to find his home. I hopped on Ancestry.com, and within about 10 minutes located the census record that gave me a street address and number, located just 10 minutes from my hotel.
The Pilgrimage To My Step Father’s Childhood Home
As my husband drove me towards my stepfather’s old home, I imagined him walking the neighborhood streets. Were these trees here when he was a boy? How far away was his school? Why didn’t we visit Nashville together when he was alive?
We approached the house from several directions, driving around the block in an attempt to look inconspicuous and not spook the current inhabitants. I pictured my stepfather his brother peering out of the upstairs windows and playing in the yard. It made me smile. My heart felt warm. While I didn’t knock on the door, I sent the current tenants well wishes.
I imagined going home and sorting through the boxes upon boxes of personal photos Tom left behind. He was a photographer, and his father was a photographer. Maybe there’s a photo of this house. Even better, maybe there’s a photo of Tom playing in the yard of this house. Happy, hopeful, and free from the burdens of the bipolar disorder that would plague his adult life.
As we drove back to the hotel, I wondered what Tom would think of me coming to visit his childhood home. And then, I got an unexpected answer. Though no rain had fallen in the many hours, a rainbow appeared over a distant storm cloud. First I gasped. Then I sobbed.
The Rainbow: My Sign From Deceased Loved Ones
Seven years ago, just weeks after Tom’s death, I received a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy session from a colleague and friend to help me cope with my grief. Not only had Tom died, but our beloved and elderly dog, Brandy, died one week after him. My sense was she had been hanging on for Tom. When he died, she could let go. My pain felt endless.
During my session I wailed, “I just want a sign. Any sign to know they are okay.” I got my sign. A rainbow not only appeared, but landed in the backyard where we stood. It appeared and disappeared three times over the course of an hour. My friend stood in the rainbow, arms raised to the sky, as I captured the moment using my stepfather’s camera.
As I said before, I don’t know what happens after we die. Is the rainbow a direct message from beyond? A sign from my deceased loved one?
My heart believes it to be true. My head is such a skeptic. But both my head and my heart can agree that these rainbow signs bring me peace and comfort, and remind me of the love I have been fortunate enough to give and receive.
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