Change Maker: Chapter 2

Excerpt: Change Maker How My Brother’s Death Woke Up My Life

Passages (November)

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
—Lao Tzu

. . . About eight weeks after my brother David passed, my horse Astre and I were ambling through the woods on a crisp fall morning following our favorite forest trail, which meandered through a Christmas tree farm.

I slowly breathed in the sharp scent of winter frost. My eyes crinkled with delight at dozens of bare oak trees, their branches lined with hundreds of sparkling white icicles that cast miniature rainbows across our trail. My heart felt wide open. I was filled with joy and sang out, “Thank you, universe, for such a glorious day!”

Astre and I seemed to be all alone as we reached the center of the Christmas tree pasture. I closed my eyes in contentment.

Three feet in front of me, standing on a light-green grassy knoll, stood David!

I immediately noticed he was healthy. He looked about thirty years old and was wearing jeans, sandals, and a red-and-black plaid flannel shirt. His big, beautiful brown eyes looked directly into my soul. He smiled broadly. My eyes remained closed.

“David!” I felt questions burst from my mouth. “How are you? It’s great to see you! What are you doing here? How are you feeling?”

David grinned and answered telepathically, a phenomenon I later learned was called thought transference.

I realized speech was unnecessary: Sending messages via stream of consciousness, or “thought,” was much faster than speaking with words. I sent my questions telepathically and received instantaneous answers. I shared my extreme sadness at his death, my halfhearted attempts to focus at work, my inability to understand the purpose of his passing. I absorbed his rapid-fire responses: his acceptance of the situation, his willingness to communicate, his ability to transmit unconditional love. Then we shared family updates.

I soaked up his presence and bloomed like a wilted flower returning to life. Within seconds, we had communicated all our feelings and emotions surrounding his passing. We were flushed with joy and laughter, thrilled to be together again!

This was absolutely the best thing that could have happened to me, unless David were still alive in this physical realm.

A brilliant blue sky glistened with a thousand beams of sunlight surrounding us; rays of joy penetrated my bereaved soul. I was ecstatic to be with my brother.

I looked beyond David and was flabbergasted to see dozens of people. They stood in a relaxed, semi-straight line that stretched horizontally across the right side of the same hill where David was standing. I looked more closely and realized they were the most cherished people in my life who had passed from Earth.

Closest were my maternal grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Dole, holding hands as always. Grandpa and Grandma had always been together, and here they were again, sharing their love with me as I stared in amazement!

To their right was Edward. His lanky frame towered over Grandma and Grandpa, and his huge smile beamed at me. I grinned back, remembering the times we shared when David was in the hospital.

Beside Edward was my dear friend Holly. She had passed away suddenly in her early twenties, killed in a car accident.

During my freshman year of college, Holly asked me to be her Installing Officer when she was elected to be Worthy Advisor in the Order of the Rainbow Girls, a charitable Masonic organization I belonged to in my teens. When I had been Worthy Advisor several years before, I had thoroughly enjoyed the leadership role. But as much as I wanted to help Holly, I didn’t have the time to devote to memorizing the installing script. I had to tell her I couldn’t do the job, even though I felt awful about refusing her request.

But now Holly and I smiled, delighted to be together. She held no judgment about me. All my guilt, held in for over twenty years, immediately dissipated.

Enveloped by love, I stared at the peaceful gathering that extended across the hillside. I had totally forgotten about Astre, who stood quietly underneath me, not moving. I returned my attention to David, who continued to grin widely.

I thought my heart would burst with exuberance and joy, and I laughed like a child who had just discovered the magic of ice cream for the first time.

I beamed as I started to realize the implications of David’s still being alive. The concept of life continuing forever was mindboggling. I could actually see him, talk with him, and share my feelings and love. My soul trilled with happiness. I felt like a huge display of fireworks had just erupted. A crescendo of magic, sound, excitement, and pleasure radiated through me.

Beyond the gathered friends was a bright gold arch about seven feet tall. In many of the metaphysical books I’d read, visualizing an arch or a doorway typically symbolized a passageway to another realm. I expected David to walk me under the arch, but instead my diminutive Grandma Dole took me by the hand, and we skipped underneath together.

The sky turned bright fuchsia immediately after we passed under the arch. “Get oooo-ver here,” shouted Gramps (my dad’s father), his big booming voice filled with glee. I did not see Gramps, but I clearly heard his voice. He took my hand into his own sturdy palm. I felt myself lift off the ground, and we flew through the gorgeous fuchsia sky, leaving David and our other friends behind. All sense of time had ceased to exist; it seemed like we flew for hours. We reminisced telepathically, and I sparkled with joy.

All of a sudden, Astre moved, her feet gently clip-clopping on the snow-covered ground. My body, perched on her firm back, began to sway gently.

“Gramps, I need to get back!”

We made a wide banking turn back the way we’d come. “I will always be here,” Gramps said reassuringly as the glowing arch appeared again.

I zipped through the arch and arrived at the same place where I’d begun this journey. David, Grandma and Grandpa, Edward, Holly, and all the others were in the same positions on the hill.

I could feel Astre’s gait begin to pick up, and I called out, “I need to go back! Will you be here again?”

I heard a resounding chorus: “Yes! We will always be here!”

I opened my eyes and pulled back the reins to stop Astre’s movement.

Wow—what an incredible experience! I laughed ecstatically.

David is alive! My grandparents are still alive! Edward and Holly have returned! Life is eternal!

I sat on Astre’s back in the Christmas tree farm for a long time, thinking about life, death, and the afterlife. Even though I’m a preacher’s kid, I had never spent time thinking much about eternity before.

I stared at my watch—only twenty minutes had passed since I’d closed my eyes, seen these beloved people, and flown with Gramps through the brilliant sky. But it felt like I’d been gone for hours.

Those twenty minutes had changed my entire understanding of life. My brain whirled. If life was eternal, it meant I didn’t need to rush around so much, trying to accomplish all my goals and dreams in this lifetime.

If we live forever, Earth is just one of many places we experience. I tingled with excitement. Eternity was a long time!

I had no doubt that David, friends, relatives, and people I didn’t even know who had passed on were alive; they just lived in a different dimension. I had never understood the purpose of life, but I was filled with a new purpose of my own: I wanted to learn how to communicate with them.

None of the hundreds of metaphysical and new age books I had read since learning about David’s HIV diagnosis included experiences identical to mine, but they all described spiritual transformation. I knew it was time for me to find a teacher—someone I could question who would be my mentor and my spiritual guide. But where did I need to look? How could I find someone to teach me something I could barely describe?


Honor your feelings and experiences when someone you love passes on. (I don’t use the word “death” because I believe people live forever.)

When a person transitions from one life to another, those left behind often encounter unexpected events that do not seem real because they remind us of our loved ones. We may feel a strong emotional impact, a connectedness to our beloved in some unusual manner. Trust your instincts. Believe that your loved one can communicate with you.

Death is not forever. People can adopt forms other than human after their passage, as when David assumed the shape of a manatee and later a raven. If you feel a strong connection to an animal, or hear your loved one’s name constantly on TV, or have experiences that remind you of the one who passed, acknowledge the communication by saying thank-you and sending love.

Many people who pass on communicate during our dreams, especially at the in-between times, like dawn or dusk, sunset and sunrise. Believe what you see, hear, and experience if it feels like a message from your loved one.

Love surmounts all trauma and tragedy. Let love encompass you, and it will multiply exponentially in directions and forms you previously thought were impossible.

If you experience a vision of your loved one, believe it. We all have free will on this earth. Our loved ones do not interfere with our lives unless we ask for their presence. If you believe that spiritual experiences and visitations from loved ones are real, they will continue to occur and increase! Enjoy the magic that comes from communicating with your loved ones who have passed. Be open to the experience and accept what happens.

Enjoy the peace.

Illustrations by Micki McAllister

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