The Lone Dark Hiker

Losing a parent is a profound experience.

My father exhaled his last labored breath, early one crispy morning years ago, and after I had adjusted his left eyebrow into a more relaxed expression, I padded into the rooms where my siblings slept to tell them.

In Dad, we had lost a precious family Holy Book, one laden with individual inscriptions and notes, one encased in a faded binding, one blessed with a timeless vibrancy.

I wish I could write that our last words were Deep Thoughts for The Ages.

I love you. When you get to the Other Side, will you let me know? Will you send me an obvious sign?

Gee, Cheri. If I can, I will.

Of course, this childlike question asked at a time when I felt like an abandoned bear cub, came from my early fascination with Harry Houdini, who promised his wife Bess that after he died, he would contact her from the Other Side, the afterlife, in a secret 10-word code beginning with the word Rosabelle. Such a notion drew me in at age ten.

Now, the term Other Side rolls around in my spiritual bowl like mystical crystals waiting for a spell from a pixie princess.

We buried Dad after a traditional religious ceremony.
We mourned.
We went back to work.

My daily walks up our country road, sheltered in places by the comforting shoulder of a mountain ridge, resumed.

One breezy autumn morning, as the sycamore leaves left their homes after a brilliant summer show, I ventured out the gate, accompanied by my old dog, Elsa.

As we walked, the oak and bay trees comforted me in their firm attachment to the land. Nature’s creatures—the beetles, the squirrels, the hawks, the deer—invited me to stop and enter their worlds of dirt, of acorns, of sky, of grasses.

I released Elsa from her leash. As with all old dogs, her mind told her she was free, but her body reminded her she was not.

In a infantile hope that Dad would reveal his presence as part of this Perfect Natural Unity, I yelled out, “ DAD, DAD, DAD…Are you there DAD?”

Out of the silence, a strong voice answered. “Yes, I am here. Up here, up here on the Ridge.”

I crow hopped to the left, spooked like a crazed Arabian horse. My God.
Dad is Back. Houdini was right. The Other Side exists.

Stepping back onto the Road, gazing outward to the Ridge, I lowered my voice.

Dad, is that You???

But as my eyes focused like that hawk’s, I saw a lone dark hiker making his way up Mission Peak.

Elsa barked. The animals dispersed. The scene normalized.

Timeless Vibrancy.

Photo by Cheri Block Sabraw 2007 ” Maureen Langenbach, artist, “The Block Books”

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Life and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to The Lone Dark Hiker

  1. ClaireMontgomeryMD says:


  2. The Rambler says:

    you know I was told by my cousins (we come from Hawaii)that Hawaiians believed in signs that told them their ancestors where there, to let them know they would still be “around” in their daily life in some way.

    Your dads very subtle way of saying hey I’m here….Meant for another, but really maybe for you?!?

    I enjoy reading your blog, it’s so insightful and entertaining. 🙂

  3. Sailing Past Maturity Straight into Senility says:

    Wow – just sorta strange that I was writing about MY dad last night ( if anyone’s interested).

    Thanks again for your blog.

  4. JLT says:

    Shortly after my dads death he showed up in a dream I was so happy to see once more I didn’t listen to what he had to say.

  5. Kathy Brakhage says:

    very nice thank you for sharing your beautiful experience with us

  6. cw2smom says:

    My father was Cherokee and we believe that the Red Tailed Hawk is the Messenger of the Gods! I take every sign of a hawk flying over me as a sign from my late father! It’s interesting, because I see them ALL the time. Flyin’ right beside me, or right above. It has to be my father! NO ONE can have that many Red Tailed Hawk experiences in a lifetime! Someone once told me to take my miracles where I can find them! I choose to believe! Thanks for your beautiful story about your late father! Your blog is a favorite of mine! Blessings, Lisa

  7. Douglas says:

    My father, who passed away in 2001, believed that when we die, it’s over; that there was nothing after that. He was right about an afterlife, in my opinion, but he was wrong about the nothing. Our loved ones live on in our hearts where they can easily visit us.

  8. Chourou says:

    Energy is eternal, even though our body would be disappeared. That’s the way the universe goes. Nice posting, Cheri.

  9. The Sci-Fi Fanatic says:

    Cheri. Thank you for stopping by the other day. I hope you were in good humor. As always, your words float from the pen tip like leaves on an autumn day. They just float off the screen and into my ears with genuinely sincere beauty. What a treat to read this one.

    I recall my Dad’s passing roughly seven years ago. It was so hard to say goodbye. I remember the intense ache in my heart and in my chest and in my face each waking day for quite some time. It got easier as they say. I just remember getting on my bike and riding as long and far and wide as I could. The tears streamed down my face but there was something empowering about being connected to nature and thinking about him.

    A character in one of the shows I’ve been watching referred to us all as made of stardust. Connected. I think that is true. While time has made the divide easier since his passing I think of him often. I get a lump just writing about him now. He was a strong but gentle soul who enjoyed the simplicity in life.

    Anyway, thanks again for inspiring me to write and share those memories. It’s always a pleasure to stop by here.

  10. Dina Maas says:

    Your story today really touched me. A little over a year ago, I too lost my dad and was with him as he took his last labored breath. I’m confident that I’ll see my dad again someday in Heaven, but for now I most feel his presence when I’m out in the ruggedness of nature. I think that our world is connected in ways that we can’t always understand. When my dad was too sick to ride his horse any longer, a friend of his brought Poco to his ranch. At my dad’s memorial service, that friend told us that the morning my dad died (at around the exact time), Poco was standing apart from the other horses, staring into the distance. When he saw Poco do that, my dad’s friend said he knew my dad had passed. None of us believes that was just a strange coincidence.

  11. Sam says:

    Cheri, thank you. What a wonderful post. It brought back some cherished memories of my own.

    And, cw2smom, thank you for your comment. I love “Someone once told me to take my miracles where I can find them!” Great advice!!

    Also, I see Red Tailed Hawks nearly every time I drive the interstate. At first I thought, well, they’re waiting for roadkill. But it started to feel like they were *more* than that. I’ve never seen one partaking of roadkill. They’re just overseeing the interstate.


  12. John Atkinson says:

    Dear Cheri, I still grieve over the loss of my mother. I speak to her in the spirit world when the north winds blow. She’s with my ancestors and they guide me down the right path. I’m touched you shared what I call an Earth Maker Spirit World experience. You are brave. Thanks Timekeeper

  13. Marcy says:

    I love your posts. My mom died almost three years ago and there are times when I feel her presence around me. Shortly after her death, I had a very vivid dream where she spoke directly to me. Losing a parent is tough, no matter what age.

  14. Syam Ahmed says:

    your story makes me apperciate my family! i’m going to book a ticket to my hometown tommorow huhuhuh

  15. twelvekindsofcrazy says:

    I loved this. The part when you yell out to your dad, ughhh, you totally got me crying. Little bear cub yelling out. I’m a mess!

  16. nutuba says:

    Beautiful post. I’d like to add that while death does separate us, the life and influence of the one who has died can continue through several generations … I’m so much like my father, and in each of my kids I see some of my dad as well.

    Death is profound, yes. But I think that life is even more profound; the “right now” is perhaps the most profound. Kids, spend time with your fathers. Dads, spend time with your kids. Don’t mourn the death that hasn’t happened yet — there will be time for that later. Enjoy each other’s company today, right now, whether it’s face to face or email or a phone call or that old fashioned thing called a hand-written letter.

    When death inevitably arrives, I want to be able to say, “Wow, Dad and I had all the conversations we wanted to have, we used up all the laughs and tears we could possibly have had inside us, and we didn’t leave any hugs undone.”

    That’s hard to do — maybe impossible — but it’s a worthy goal.

    Thanks again for your insightful post! It gets the old gears thinking about worthwhile things …

    Joel (nutuba)

  17. Anonymous says:

    Once again, a beautiful entry. Sometimes when life is beating me down and I get that sense of despair, like ‘what’s it all for?,’ I wonder to myself about the next life.

    I like to think someday I will see my Dad or my dear friend Chloe [my cocker spaniel of 14 years]. I often think, as much as I love my family and my life on this Earth, what do I have to look forward to when it all ends.

    I keep hoping the next life will be something special. I’m in no hurry to get there mind you, but I hope those that were dear to me I will see once again.

    Sci Fi Fanatic

  18. Cheri Block Sabraw says:

    Thank you for your poignant comment, certainly a view many of us share. Sometimes, I wonder myself about the point of it all, especially when dealing with some of the base experience of earthly life, especially when we feel unappreciated or unnoticed for our efforts.

    I remember one of my family members asking the rabbi where my dad had gone, several hours after his death. The rabbi answered in a way that soothed me. He said That’s God’s business.

    Take heart.

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