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Monday, March 11, 2013


I moved to the United States permanently, with my husband and son, at the age of forty-three.
My mother passed away while I was here and my father, not having to take care of her anymore, came to visit me all by himself at the age of eighty nine. How old and brave he looked coming out of the airport, leaning on a stick! He also passed away, in Italy, two years later. I was living a difficult moment and one morning, about two weeks after his problems. 
All of a sudden I felt his presence very clearly. The feeling was the same we have when we know that somebody is standing next to us but we aren’t looking at him. It lasted for about twenty minutes, and that was the one and only time I experienced it.

For a long time I was unable to put this episode into writing. I couldn’t find a poignant way to describe it because, in a peculiar way, it was very ordinary, devoid of emotion. My father was simply there, speaking to me mind to mind. In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis defines his encounter with his deceased wife as “business-like”, yet sharply restorative. There is no nonsense about the dead, he writes. They are full of resolution. Utterly reliable. So much so that I calmed  down immediately and for good. From that moment on I asked my father for help every time I was worried, and I sure had reasons to be. I was taking medications for my insomnia, but obsessive thoughts were keeping me awake at night. It’s not an overstatement to say that I was becoming suicidal, because that is one of the dangers of persistent lack of sleep. 
I was in bad shape, yet I recovered literally overnight, and that’s the right way to put it, for I slept all night
through. My thoughts shifted in a different direction, and I felt that there was no point in obsessing over my problems. All I had to do was to wait, and the solution would come up sooner or later, even if I couldn’t take any action to achieve it. 
In a way I became irresponsible, yet that was my safety. There is only so much a person can do to change a certain situation, and it’s  useless and even dangerous to loose sleep over things that one cannot accomplish. My recovery was so sudden, it can be considered as a miraculous healing.

In the last years I have learned to pray to Jesus when I have a problem instead of asking my father for help, but I haven’t forgotten that day on the porch, when I felt his presence so clearly. How did that happen? I wasn’t thinking about him at that moment, of that I’m sure. He just popped out in my mind, maybe out of my pain and my need for consolation. But perhaps he was really there to heal me, and honestly that’s what I
believe. My son would say that this is a belief with no evidence, but what kind of evidence are we looking for? I am content with my recovered ability to sleep through the night.                                          

Let’s assume that my father was really there in spirit. If one believes that, then it doesn’t take such a big leap of faith to believe that Jesus appeared to his disciples after his death. No matter how much I loved my father, I must say that he was a regular, faulty human being. Jesus was not: He was perfect. From that perfection, a more substantial presence could certainly stem, that is to say, a “glorified body”. Jesus’ presence could not only be perceived, it could be seen, heard, even touched.

As for me, I felt his love pouring over me once, but it lasted only a few seconds. I blew it thinking that I was deluding myself, that it couldn’t be real. I regretted it and wondered if I would be able to keep my rational mind shut if it happened again. It did one night, and I had no time to formulate any thoughts of doubt because I immediately fell asleep.
The first time my thoughts were just  like my son's thoughts: How could someone who lived two thousand years ago be there for me, care about me? I literally felt that he was embracing me with his love. It was powerful, and I couldn’t take it. Romano Guardini wrote:

“When we experience any powerful sensation…the instant we try to understand it, the current is cut. Wakefulness is wonderful but tiring, and we long to lose ourselves in sleep. Sleep is pleasant, but how terrible to sleep away half of our lives!”

I make amend for being too rational and I thank Jesus for revealing himself to me. Had he left me alone, I would have slept away my entire life.


Manny said...

That's quite an experience you had with your father. My wife has a similar, though I don't think as intense, relationship with her father who passed away a while back. My mother mentions certain moments of feeling people's presences who have died. I can't say I've ever had that kind of experience. Well, now that I think back, there was a moment I felt my father speaking to me but it was so nebulous that I can't put it into definitive words.

Antonella said...

I think this experience put me on the path to faith. I thank my father for that.