I have been very interested in time travel stories and those about life after death, and mysterious, phenomenal happenings from long ago continue to echo on my mind. Since 1976, and to this day, some of my experiences and those of others that I've researched remain with me. It's as though all of this has been going on for a higher purpose, to bring us fully to the present time and prepare us to see that we are not alone, and to share these stories to comfort one another. Mike Dooley, the New York Times best-selling author, explains it best in his introduction of his upcoming book, "The Top 10 Things Dead People Want to Tell You." Mike Dooley explores these questions and gives readers a fresh, unconventional, and playful perspective on life, its meaning, and how to live it well. In 10 profound chapters, he offers his personal observations about the world in the form of a letter from the recently deceased, sharing the revelations and insights they have gained since their transition, such as: they're not dead; they're sorry for the pain they caused; they were ready to go when they went; your pets are as crazy, brilliant and loving there as they were here and that life really is all about love, but not just loving those who love you." I'm waiting for my copy to arrive in October, but meanwhile, the true story below holds the seeds of hope for anyone bereaved to help soothe your heavy heart.
The Boy Next Door
I grew up in a small neighborhood in the city of Philadelphia, one where everyone knew each another. I went to school with Johnny, my first boyfriend, who lived around the corner. I was 15 and he was 18 when we went on our first date. He was the boy that all the girls in the neighborhood wanted. But he was in love with me, and there was nothing he wouldn't do for me. We dated on and off for the next six years before we finally got married. He had problems holding onto a job and always seemed to find something wrong wherever he worked. He often said he had bad luck and couldn't get a break.
Despite this, I always was drawn back to him even if we broke up and he always had time for me, so we always reconnected in our relationship. Growing up in an Italian family, my father was very outspoken about the power of love, something he demonstrated every day. This was a blessing for us kids, to learn early in our lives how wonderful love can be. We saw how very much in love Dad was with our mom, and whenever I was confused about a problem with Johnny, my father would always say, "Love is the most important thing in a relationship. Never marry for anything other than love or you will never be happy. There is no greater wealth in the world than when two people love each other. They can conquer the world!"
My father's message hit home and I began to understand that love was at the heart of my boyfriend's actions. He focused on expressing that love and showed it by coming up with adventures that he thought would make me happy. He loved being involved with everything connected to me and my family, and felt the same way about his own family. He was always putting others' welfare first, even ahead of his own well-being, and he tried to solve everyone else's problems. I began to see that this was how he expressed love and I remain grateful that his approach taught me how to love others more deeply. I knew by his actions how important I was to him, and he had the same way of expressing love that my family demonstrated. This made things between us feel good and right.
We had so much fun and spent as much time as we could together, from going shopping and seeing movies, to visiting the New Jersey shore. We enjoyed our carefree life and he often talked about never wanting to get old. I'd ask him why, and he'd say he didn't want to get wrinkled or turn gray. I'd tell him with a laugh that we all had to get old, but he'd say that when the time came, he'd figure out some way around it. But far from being a joke, I began to see that he was serious, and he'd spoken about it as early as his teens.
Looking back now, I wonder if he was trying to prepare me, or if he somehow knew his life would be short. Or is it possible that, by repeating his point so often and with such strong emotion, he created a self-fulfilling prophecy? Did he live his short life so focused on adventure and wonder because he somehow knew that his time here would be brief? Were his pronouncements gifts to guide me on the path I'd need to follow after he'd be gone? I believe such loving messages continue to console and guide us when we listen with our hearts and feel that there is a divine purpose that eventually helps us find Truth.
After having been apart and reunited, we were married. I was 21 and he was 24. We had begun our careers by that point: I was a hairstylist; he was a carpenter. We had a happy marriage and were even happier when our daughter was born a year later. Naturally, she was the apple of both our eyes, and when she was five, we decided to build a house. We enjoyed picking out everything, from cabinets to carpets, and our families were excited to be sharing our plans for our dream house. We were richly blessed with everything a young married couple could ask for, and felt that our dreams had come true. But it turned out that we were in the dark in so many ways about what was coming.
The Dark on the Other Side of the Door
One cold winter day in December 1975, while my husband was at work, he suddenly became ill. He'd passed out during a coughing spell and was taken to the hospital; he could not catch his breath. He was given a chest X-ray to rule out pneumonia, but the X-ray showed something unusual so he was admitted and an emergency biopsy was ordered. The results showed that he had Stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma, which is advanced cancer of the lymph glands, and that he probably had only a year to live. The doctors said his chances of survival were less than 50 percent, even with chemotherapy and radiation, but we hoped for a miracle.
For six years we had a wonderful marriage. However, before he died, not only did he leave me traces along the way for his departure, he left me with a deed on how I was to live through the years without him. It wasn't a deed to a house, or financial inheritance, but it was much more than that, it was a soulful deed. There was a time when I kept some of these truths to myself for fear of being misunderstood, while all along they were my comfort and saving grace for all these years. That I'm certain, all souls are still aligned with us on this side of time to love and guide us. His words and these experiences are echoed in story after story from loved ones left behind.
This is one of those stories:
One night from his hospital bed, while I was asleep on the chair next to him; he told me that he had a visit and conversed with some extraordinary men. I asked him, "What men?" He said, "They landed on the lower roof of the hospital and came inside the room. And they told me they were coming back at 4 p.m., to take me to a place to fix my lungs." He further went on to say, "They are much more advanced in technology than our world. They just think telepathically and know how to heal and fix everything." I listened halfheartedly at the time and never gave his words another thought, other than he must be imagining things.
A few days later, we were sitting in his hospital room. It was during his final hours, and we were alone. He'd been staring into space for a time, and then he began to cry. But suddenly, even as his tears fell, he said in a very clear voice, "Honey, look! Do you see?" I followed his eyes, straining to see what he saw, but could see nothing at all. And yet, his eyes were fixed on something. Then he cried out, "Ahhh, I see Christ, all shiny and bright!" Again I looked but saw nothing, and became afraid. With my heart pounding. I ran out of the room to the nurses' station, demanding to know what kind of drugs they were giving him to make him hallucinate!
He had been raised in a Catholic home and had gone through Catholic school, but throughout our marriage, he'd never wanted to talk about faith or religion. He'd probably been disappointed in these matters and flatly refused to discuss them. That's why, when I heard him talk about seeing Christ, I could only assume it was because of his pain medications, rather than it being a true mystical vision.
At exactly 4 p.m., while I was outside of his room, he died. Before the doctors brought me the sad news, for an instant, I saw him standing in the hall with me. And at another instant, just before the funeral, I saw him watching over my 5-year-old sleeping daughter when I went into her room to check on her. I truly suppose that nothing is a coincidence in this life. In the film Heaven is For Real, which is based on a true story, I realized I've had those same kinds of encounters with the deceased. They are examples of blessed reflections that I've pondered for years. I remain certain that it was truly intended for me to hear and be comforted by these sacred mysteries.
Catherine Nagle grew up in Philadelphia with 16 brothers and sisters, reared by loving, old school Italian parents. Catherine's artist father's works graced locations from churches to public buildings; her mother was a full-time homemaker. A professional hairdresser, Catherine worked in various salons while studying the Bible and pursuing spiritual growth through courses, seminars, lectures and inspirational books, including A Course in Miracles and the works of Marianne Williamson among many others. The mother of two children and a grandmother, Catherine lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and son. She is the author of Imprinted Wisdom.