Communication between the dead and the living is nothing new to this plane. Nowhere has this trend been more pronounced than between the family and friends of the departed. But how can we be sure that these phenomena aren’t mere coping mechanisms projected by the grieving mind to protect the psyche from a starker reality? Is there nowhere tangible to probe for the truth in this world of the living? For starters, we can look to each other. According to a Gallup Poll taken in 2005, a surprising 32 percent of Americans said they believed in ghosts. That same year, CBS affirmed at least in part that seeing is believing, with 22 percent of respondents expressing having seen or felt a ghost before.
Not too shabby for a subject so often shelved away by skeptics alongside the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause. But where do people form these beliefs? For most people, said convictions stem from per- sonal encounters with the dead. Messages from the dead are received in many forms. Some are read through symbols and the manipulation of objects, while others may be heard or felt vividly by the loved ones of the deceased through lucid, unmistakable apparitions. Though these messages vary in content, one trend seemingly transcends the spectrum: Commune with the dead is often transformative, positive, and life changing for the living, giving new hope and shining light on the bleak and fallowed fields of tragedy. Here are a few from the cream of the crop—those gleaming beacons of light that FATE has collected over the years—that will hopefully shine some light on the truth.
What Are Yellow and Black Butterflies? Monday, April 17, 2001, was a day I will never for- get—not only because it was the day after Easter, but also because it was the worst day of my life. I was working second shift at a job I hated, rapidly shucking jewelry from raggedy, cardboard gift boxes and checking them for defects. The music blaring overhead played tunes that did not appeal to me. The entire atmosphere was engulfed with the buzzing, clicking, and banging of machinery. The only reason I had taken this crummy job was that I was new to Cincinnati. My beau and I had moved from Atlanta in March. I wanted to explore a bit, and he was from Cincinnati. The one thing I regretted was leaving my mother behind. My mother was truly more than a mother to me— she was also my best friend. My mother was an intel- ligent, eccentric woman, and very talented. She was free-spirited and big on self-statement. My brother and I were born and raised Wiccans. Imagine my awkward- ness growing up black and pagan when all my friends were Christians. Envision my frustration loving rock music when all my friends liked rap and R & B. But I wouldn’t change for anything in the world! I whiled away the ten-hour work night thinking about my mother—how much I missed her, and how I did not get to talk to her the day before. I mailed her a card, but I was quite certain she had not received it yet. Suddenly, “music to my ears” struck my soul like the thunder of Goddess: The song “Dog and Butterfly” by Heart began to play. My mother used to sing that song to me when I was a child. As the song played, I felt a peaceful, spiritual link to my mother, yet I was uncon- trollably misty-eyed. I discreetly excused myself from my workstation and went to the bathroom. I closed my eyes and saw an enormous, yellow-and-black butterfly in my mind. Once I had composed myself, I went back to my work station and continued with my duties. On the way home, I could not shake the image of the butterfly in my mind. My beau could tell I was upset. When he asked what was wrong, I replied, “I’m having the strangest feeling. I can’t explain what it is or why. Something has happened . . .” As we entered our apartment, I noticed the message light flashing on the answering machine. I ran over and listened to the message. It was from my great- uncle and brother, sadly stating, “NoShell, call us when you get in. It doesn’t matter what time it is . . .” Needless to say, I called immediately, with the image of the butterfly still fluttering in my mind. The news was horrible: My mother had passed away earlier that very day from a blood clot in her leg that moved up to her lung. I collided with the ground from grief. Not my mother! She was so young, only 46! There was so much we had not done together. I asked the cliché questions: Goddess, why! Our family is already so small. Why didn’t you take me instead? Why my mother? Why now? Why are you so cruel! That night, in between sleeplessness, I kept dream- ing about a tree and a small stream in a thicket—and of course the yellow-and-black butterfly. I did not know why. My mother was a nature lover—not just because she was pagan; she actually wanted to make a career of it. She went to college to be a forest ranger when she was younger. All my life, we could never go past the woods without venturing in, or go past a tree or wild flower without acknowledging its beauty. The dream was perhaps her ideal heaven; she was at peace. My beau rented a car and rushed me to Atlanta that Tuesday afternoon. “Dog and Butterfly” was really stuck in my head now. A strange thing occurred. It snowed all the way from Cincinnati to Atlanta. In the middle of April? The song mentions snow . . . When I arrived in Atlanta’s radio range, the song was not only playing on my favorite classic rock sta- tion, but a recorded interview with the band was airing also. Was my mother trying to communicate with me? The yellow-and-black butterfly was once again burned in my mind. My mother had made it clear to everyone that she wanted to be cremated after death. My great-uncle informed me that they had visited a friend’s acreage in Loganville, Georgia. My mother enjoyed walking their nature trail. Even though she was in frail health, she walked the entire trail, stopping to rest several times. When they reached the end of the trail, a sparkling creek, she turned to my uncle and exclaimed, “You know how much I love this! When I die, I want to be cremated and sprinkled out here.” After I handled the final business, family and friends met with my brother and me to sprinkle my mother’s ashes near the creek. We planted a seed- ling in the thicket and sprinkled her ashes there also. As the crowd dispersed back to the main house, my brother and I removed our necklaces—mine, a large, silver pentacle and his, a pewter sword—and we held hands and tossed them into the creek in memory of our mother. Suddenly, a strong sense of peace swept over us as a gigantic yellow-and-black butterfly swooped down from out of nowhere and flew over the very spot our necklaces had landed! It circled the area three times and shot up into the air with a twinkle. My brother and I looked at each other and laughed happily. “Mom is awesome!” he exclaimed. When I returned to Cincinnati, I got my first tat- too, on my right calf—a small dog and a yellow-and- black butterfly, with the inscription “1954–2001” cas- cading from it. Mother, I love you. —NoShell Lancaster, Cincinnati, Ohio
My Mom Said Hi In October 1999 my stepmother Geri was killed in a tragic car accident in Colorado after visiting her son. She was a staunch believer in the afterlife. We used to joke about what we’d do if one of us passed over. We both agreed that we’d let the other one know that we were all right on the other side. Geri was interested in all aspects of the paranormal and read everything she could find on it. Two months after her death I walked out to pick up my morning paper. I turned and saw a mist hang- ing from a low limb on our tree. It was about four feet long and three feet wide and floated about four feet off the ground. At first I thought it was the neighbors’ dryer heat floating toward the tree, but it wasn’t. I then thought it was a low-hanging cloud, but the sky was crystal clear. As I stared at it I experienced a very warm and comforting feeling, almost as if I was being hugged. As I said, it was a mist, so I could see the neighbors’ front door through it. As I stared at this mist the neigh- bors stepped out to go to work. I looked through the mist and when I focused back on the mist it was gone. As of this day I believe that it was Mom. She was letting me know that there was another side and she was just saying “Hi.” —Johanna Rhoades, Muskogee, Okla.