Q In a recent column, you mentioned how the time of death of a man's father showed up on a grandfather's clock when it stopped working several weeks later. I wanted to share a similar story. When my mother passed away, my sisters and I were cleaning her bedroom when we started to look through a jewelry box on the dresser. There were several watches in the box, none working and all showing the exact same time -- the time listed on my mother's death certificate. We all felt this was no coincidence and that Mom was letting us know everything was OK. Also, my 2-year-old granddaughter -- who never met my mother -- waves and smiles to "something" on the stairs of her house. She also smiles at pictures of Mom, as though she knows her. I believe Mom is in heaven, free of pain and letting us know she's happy. What do you think?
-- C., Alden, New York
A I wasn't going to revisit the spooky realm of post-death
communications that led me to write about the death clock some weeks ago, but your stories sent me back into the realm of "things that go bump in the night." Maybe it's
because I watched Stanley
Kubrick's brilliant horror film "The Shining" again recently and just returned from seeing Woody Allen's new film about spiritualist mediums, "Magic in the Moonlight," In any case, let me try again to put to rest the notion that we can talk to dead people and dead people can talk to us (or set our watches).
The question is whether death is more like a high fence or a cliff.
If death is like a high fence, then it might just be possible to peer through an opening in the fence and see what's happening on the other side. However, if death is like a cliff, then after we die we tumble away never to be heard from or seen again in the land above the valley of the shadow of death.
I'm more a cliff guy than a fence guy. I think death cancels forever our phone service to the land of the living. I think God wants us to
accept, not obsess, over the death of our loved ones and move on with our lives.
Trying to communicate with the dead or waiting for signs from them, in my opinion, keeps us from moving on. However, let me say to you, in love and hope, that if your
experience with your mother's
watches brings you comfort, then I'm with you. While it is quite a story, I'm with you in your belief that these were signs of her soul's arrival in peace and tranquillity in heaven.
Your experience has theological interest for me because it addresses not whether death is the end of us, but whether death is the end of our
ability to communicate with the living. We can never say for certain without proof.
Proof for communication with the dead is not like proof for anything else in our world. Every other proof can be replicated by scientific
experiments, but talking to dead people or receiving signs from them can't be repeated at will, so it can't really constitute proof.
You say all the watches in your mother's jewelry box had stopped at the same time, which is amazing, and that this was the exact time of her death, which is amazing-er. I say this with deep respect, but I find this very difficult to believe.
I'm not saying your story is a fabrication or that someone in your family set the watches to the same time before you opened the box. I do wonder, why all the watches of all deceased loved ones don't stop at the time of death? Why just your family? Why just her watches?
As far as your granddaughter
seeing your mother's ghost, we must also wonder why so few dead people are able to become ghosts -- and why so few living people are able to see them.
Mostly, I believe we must be
prepared to live in a world that
accepts the gift of life and the
finality of death. I want to speak to my deceased father and
grandparents, but I also want to live in a world that makes sense. I can't do both.