Among the Dead

Chief Seattle GraveMy grandparents’ house was only about 200 yards from the house I grew up in.  Our house wasn’t much to look at so I would hang out at grandpa and grandma’s more often than my own place.   At 16, when my girlfriend wanted to come over and watch movies, going to grandma’s house (grandpa had died four years previous) with her big screen TV was a much better option than our place.  So, I rented some VHS tapes and went to her house to wait for my girlfriend to arrive.

Grandma was out on a date and so I let myself in from the garage.  The entry from the garage opened in to the family room with a set of steps going down immediately to the right of the entry.  I had many nightmares as a child about being dragged by some unseen force down those steps so I was quick to turn on every light I could and get away from the steps.  After I turned on the light, the steps were soon out of sight and out of mind as my focus went down through the kitchen and into the dining room beyond.  The phone had not rung, but the answering machine came on and my grandpa’s voice was saying, “Hello?  Hello?  Anybody home?”  If such a thing is possible, I was both scared and at ease at the same time.  I felt like there was something watching me from the dark dining room and so I swallowed hard and said “Grandpa?”  Of course I received no answer, but the answering machine then went off and there was dead silence.  Remembering that I was standing next to the dreaded basement steps, I darted over by the couch to turn on the lamp.

I am neither a believer in ghosts nor an unbeliever.  I simply do not know.  The scientific part of my mind says that energy cannot be destroyed and only dissipates and since our thoughts and bodies and minds are all made up of energy, it is perfectly reasonable that we should live on in some way beyond our physical death.  On the other hand, things that go bump in the night are intriguing, I guess, but somehow implausible.  But there is more than one way that the dead can haunt us.

Chief Seattle spoke these famous words as his people were being killed and scattered from their homeland because the “White Chief” wanted them for his own people.  These are words that, regardless of what happens after we die, should always haunt us:

Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon our fathers for centuries untold. . . . The son of the White Chief says his father sends us greetings of friendship and good will.  This is kind of him, for we know he has little need of our friendship in return because his people are many.  They are like the grass that covers the vast prairies, while my people are few: they resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain. . . . There was a time when our people covered the whole land as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea covers its shell-paved floor, but that time has long since passed away with the greatness of tribes almost forgotten. . . . When the last Red Man shall have perished, and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the white man, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe, and when your childrens’ children think themselves alone in the field, the store, the shop, or in the silence of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. . . . The White Men will never be alone.  Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for the dead are not powerless— Dead— I say? There is no death.  Only a change of worlds.   – Chief Seattle

I do not know what happens to us after we die, but I do know that we leave a legacy that will either haunt or bless those who come after us.  We tend to run from the things that we do not know and act as if they wil hurt us.  Perhaps they will.  But how can we appreciate the light if we never sit in the dark?  If you are ever in the Cascade Range overlooking a dark valley with the wind whistling through the trees and you feel someone looking at you from behind one, instead of running scared, perhaps try asking for wisdom.  We can benefit from our fears by embracing them and letting them teach us.

One Response to “Among the Dead”

  1. John Lovestrand Says:

    As I have shared with you, I have had two experiences in my life where I felt that I was contacted by spirits that had just recently changed worlds.

    Both loved ones, very close to me.

    First, my buddy Todd, when I was about 16, and that night after hearing of his death (motor cycle accident) and then crying myself to sleep.

    I was walking down the middle of Ardmore with a couple other of our friends and then noticed at some point him walking alongside us, on the end.

    “Dude, you can’t be here, can you?” I wondered aloud.

    “Yeah, it’s alright man.” He reassured, with that same great, mischievous Todd smile.

    And after we walked a few paces more, the four of us again became three.

    And I awoke with a sense of calm, and my heart was at peace.

    Some might say it was “only a dream”, but for me that merely begs the question: what are dreams anyway? Might they be a medium for spirits to contact us in a way we can handle, in our subconscious state.

    The other episode was beautifully similar, after my Mom changed worlds, and again in my “dream state”, where she came to me and calmed my heart.

    I’m with Chief Seattle, and your Grandpa, and Todd, and my Mom.

    Thx JL

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