Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I've had so many proofs of an afterlife. Some of them are simple. Some are not.

My first glimpse of the Rocky Mountains came at daybreak, peering over the back seat of the station wagon. My dad liked to drive at night. The suitcases would be piled on the rack on top of the car, and the back seat would be folded down so the four of us kids could be sandwiched onto sleeping bags together. When going from one military post to another, it made for faster travel time with less traffic. I remember waking up and sticking my head up above the seat just as the sun, coming up behind us, lit the Rockies in the distance ahead of us. They were blue and purple, crowned with snow, and glowing in the first light of morning. The car was quiet. Into the stillness I said to Mom and Dad, "Now I know for sure there's a God." Nobody felt they had to respond. It was an awesome sight.

Rainbows and hidden meadows, the giant Redwoods and shaky fawns, new babies in their surprised innocence, all have given me a glimpse of the many faces of God. Once instance from my chaotic high school years drove home to me the specific point of afterlife.

After Daddy died, my English and Journalism teacher, Mr. Holmes, kept me busier than ever. His new idea was to enter some of his students in the State Writing Championship that the Journalism Educator's Association (JEA) sponsored each year. Four of his students were accepted. We all spent considerable amounts of time at his home preparing for the competition. His wife was a wonderful woman, and his little son and daughter were sweethearts. We all became really close, and it eased the ache and emptiness in my life considerably. Keeping me busy was a tremendous gift.

His son Donny was about five or six years old, a solemn boy who adored his father. He would sit quietly in the room with us. With his big dark eyes and shaggy hair, he was something of a mascot to us all. These sessions went on for several months, culminating in a long drive together to the championship. Our sports editor came home with a trophy, and I came home with two, so we were really happy with all the help the Holmes' had given us.

The next week at school, Mr. Holmes came in to say goodbye. He informed us that he had cancer and would not be returning. Two weeks later, he was gone. He and his wife had known all during our sessions, but had kept it from us. He wanted to teach as long as possible, and the diagnosis had given him no hope.

Here's the part that makes me so sure of an afterlife. I don't remember how long it was after he died, but Mrs. Holmes called me at home. She didn't want me to hear it from someone else.

Donny had been playing outside with friends while she got lunch ready. He came running in the house, really excited, and told her that he couldn't have lunch with her, and wanted to say goodbye. The conversation, as she related it to me, went something like this...

"Where are you going, Donny?"
"I'm going to have lunch with Daddy."
"Honey, Daddy's gone. You know that."
"I know, Mommy. But he told me to say go goodbye to you, 'cause I'm having lunch with him today!"

Then Donny gave her a big hug and ran back out into the yard to continue playing with his friends. Donny was such a solemn little boy, not prone to flights of imagination. She said she was still standing at the window, crying, when it happened. Two yards away a man was mowing his lawn with a power lawnmower. The blade hit a big rock and broke off, sailing across the empty yard between, over a hedge, and hit Donny in the chest. He was killed instantly, just before noon.

So yes, I believe in an afterlife. What's more, I believe in those rare and wonderful teachers whose gifts continue to give through a lifetime.

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