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