Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Unseen Traveler

(From The Way-Back Files:  Until We Meet Again.  Guideposts, 2003.)

The rain that early July Tuesday had been monsoon-like, forcing me to pull over to the side of the road at one point during my travels. By 7:15 p. m., it had stopped, but the roads were still dangerously slick. I’d just gotten off the phone with my husband, Tim, and could tell from his voice that the swing shift he’d worked the night before had finally started catching up with him. “You sound like you need to be off the road,” I’d remarked, telling him to skip the trip to the store he’d been about to make.

“I really want to be home,” he’d said just before signing off.

A funny queasiness took hold of me shortly afterwards. I wandered restlessly about the house, then headed up to our three-year-old son Zeke’s room and began reading to him. I happened to look up at one point and went even sicker inside. The walls of the room began pulsing, the colors in the wallpaper draining away.

A few hours later, my in-laws came to tell me that Tim’s van had crashed into a telephone pole, killing him instantly. The time of death was 7:31. (“I can’t say for sure,” a friend said later when I told her the wallpaper story, “but I’ll bet you that’s when Tim died.”)

Pain set in, followed by an eerie numbness, a winter of the soul like nothing I’d ever known before. I made the funeral arrangements, picked out the monument, gave away many of Tim’s belongings, and probated the will, hoping that once these things were done, I would somehow come back to life. I was a ghost wandering through a lonely dark wood, searching desperately for a clearing, some space between the branches that a ray of light could pierce through.

Two weeks after Tim died, I came back from running some errands and went up to my room to lie down. I couldn’t sleep, so I figured I’d just rest a bit in the cool shadowy room while my mother took care of Zeke downstairs.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a white-gold light appeared to the left of the headboard. It hung in mid-air, glowing like a flame and deepening in intensity as I gazed into the heart of it. The light flickered and danced before my eyes, then slowly…ever so slowly…faded away.

I sat up, amazed. The room, as I’ve said, was a shadowy one, thanks to the huge oak tree shading the window directly across from the bed: in the past, I’d hung crystals in that window in vain attempts to work a little rainbow magic. There was no prism in the window now, only an enormous aloe plant snaking its arms against the pains…and, anyway, a prism would’ve cast its rainbows against the walls, ceiling, and floor. It wouldn’t have conjured up that firefly flame that hung suspended in the air, beckoning and reassuring me….

The June after Tim died, Zeke and I traveled to Prince Edward Island. It was the vacation that Tim and I had planned for the three of us to take for what would have been our tenth anniversary. It was a tough trip on my own with a four-year-old, and Zeke was homesick. So I cut the vacation short and drove the rental car to Charlottetown the day before our re-scheduled flight. We stopped at the airport first to confirm the flight changes. The woman at the counter was genuinely charming and helpful, waiving the change fee. “Now,” she said brightly, looking up at me, “there’s a third person traveling with you?”

I did a double-take – after all, it was 1996, and surely a single parent traveling alone with a child shouldn’t be that much of a novelty – but explained the circumstances. The woman shivered. “That gives me the willies,” she admitted, as she directed us to a motel close to the airport.

I found it easily enough. The woman who ran it was just as friendly, and we chatted lightly as I filled out the necessary paperwork. “There’s a third person traveling with you?” she asked suddenly.

I guessed there was – an unseen traveler who wanted to make sure that we were all right and had landed in a good place.


Sharon said...

This story, Tammy, pulls out the emotion, and I am drawn to wonder how "I" would feel". The unseen traveler is probably ever with you - not just on trips, but on family occasions, holidays, ever day events. For me, that would be good, and natural.

T. J. Banks said...

I expect you're right, Sharon, and, yes, it does feel good and natural. "You know plain enough there's somethin' beyond this world; the doors stand wide open," says Mrs. Todd in Sarah Orne Jewett's "The Foreigner." That about sums it up for me.

Susan Scott said...

Extraordinary events T.J. thank you ...I believe even more deeply on reading 'The Unseen Traveller' that many times fact is stranger than fiction as you've experienced and been witness to. Thank you for sharing this with us.

T. J. Banks said...

Thanks, Susan. If only one of those women had asked me the question, I probably wouldn't have thought much of it. The fact that two people who didn't know each other asked me the same thing stopped me in my tracks. The second woman, as it turned out, had just lost her boyfriend/fiance to suicide...which makes you wonder. Was she more sensitive to such things as a result?

Bernadette said...

They are always with us, but it's pretty amazing when it's so strong others can sense them too.

Gwynn Rogers said...

Your story definitely touches my heart. You may remember my story, "The Visitor from Beyond," about my brother visiting me after his death. My brother's master's degree was in para-psychology and he definitely believed in the soul living beyond the body. I too strongly believe that Tim is still with you, watching out for you and Zeke.

There for a while I sensed my brother around me. Now, I know he is off doing what he enjoys, but I do miss him.

My heart is with you.

T. J. Banks said...

Thank you, Gwynn, and mine is with you re your brother. Sometimes Tim's presence is stronger than at others, but he never seems very far away.

T. J. Banks said...

That was my feeling about it, too, Bernadette. The fact that these women were complete strangers made it curiouser and curiouser.

Samantha Mozart said...

The more I hear of these experiences and the more I experience them myself, the more I am convinced that the spirist of those who have passed -- or are within short range of passing -- are with us.

You have written this story so beautifully, T.J. I would like to repost it on my blog. May I?

T. J. Banks said...

By all means, Samantha. I would be honored to have it appear on your blog. I think it's like "The Flash" in L. M. Montgomery's EMILY OF NEW MOON books. Emily, a young writer, has these glimpses of something beyond the see-able world...moments of being that allow her to step out of herself and out of time.

Samantha Mozart said...

"Emily of the New Moon" sounds like my kind of story, T.J.

I guess the best way for me to repost your story is -- well, I don't know. Maybe I can copy and paste it. I will introduce it and link back to you. If the copying and pasting doesn't work, I will let you know; I'll also tell you when it is published. There are more sophisticated ways of doing this, but I am unfamiliar with them. This Lenovo notebook I am currently using doesn't have a word processor. Isn't that fun. :-)

T. J. Banks said...

I'm looking forward to it, Samantha. And you would love the Emily books. There are three of them: EMILY OF NEW MOON, EMILY CLIMBS, and EMILY'S QUEST. I found EMILY OF NEW MOON in a used bookstore with my parents many years ago, and she became as much a kindred spirit as Anne of Green Gables did. Probably more. Montgomery herself said that Emily was her favorite of the characters she created.

Samantha Mozart said...

I'll look for them, T.J. Thanks.

And, I did it! Yay. Here is the link to your post on my blog -- complete with Tim's photo. Let me know if I need to change something.


T. J. Banks said...

Thank you, my Turquoise Roo -- for sharing my story and for your comments, which are, as always, uncannily on target. It was and remains a powerful connection.