“For we know that if the
we live in is destroyed,
we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven,
not built by human hands.”
2 Corinthians 5:1 (NIV)
My husband and I were married for thirty-eight years, the last three years of which his health declined due to a very rare form of cancer—chronic myeloid leukemia with five genetic mutations. His doctors estimated that only two hundred people had ever been diagnosed with this form of cancer. At that time, my husband was one of only two dozen with the diagnosis in the world.
What an uplifting experience it is to look at life as a miracle, to view each day as a gift. My husband was told he had five months. He managed to survive thirty-five during which we experienced much pleasure together exploring the wonder of God’s presence, the meaning of life and our role in it and how to provide for others as we prepared for separating. We talked about art and literature, the beauty of nature, the gifts of the life around us including the blessing of our large blended family of my four and his three children and our grandchildren.
We had always valued our Episcopal faith, but during this time, we came closer to our church and relied more on its support. Believing even more strongly in its sacraments, we regularly sought communion. When we were no longer able to get out, our friend Andrew Smith, a wonderful man and retired Connecticut bishop, graciously came to our home and invited me to participate fully as his assistant in the experience.
Before my husband passed away, we discussed how he might be able to share his presence after death. He might be able to turn a light or the television on. We dismissed these both as being easily explained away by natural phenomenon: While they may very well have been just what we were looking for, we concluded that we couldn’t be certain, so we shouldn’t count on either of these as sure signs.
“What do you think you could do to let me know about your ability to stick around?” I asked.
“I know what I’ll do,” he replied. “I’ll ring the doorbell.”
“Honey, you know the doorbell doesn’t work anymore,” I said.
“That won’t be a problem,” he said with a smile. “When you hear it, be sure to look, but don’t expect to see anyone.” Situated on a hill, our shingled Nantucket-style home had a wraparound veranda and a circular drive with clear sight lines of the street from both the back and the front.
I was with my husband in the hospital when he passed away. I climbed into the hospital bed beside him when I knew he was breathing his last breath. We embraced and said, “I love you so much.” As we said our farewells, we spoke our hope of being reunited.
Five days later, I was in the house by myself when the doorbell rang loud and deep, twice. I went to the front door, opened it and looked out. There was nobody there. I raced to open the back door. No one was there either.
I returned to the front door. Straight ahead, a butterfly hovered at the column to my right, and a dragonfly hovered at the column to my left. As I stepped out, the butterfly flew directly past me over to the dragonfly. After a moment, the dragonfly crossed to the other column. From out of nowhere, a warm, delicious breeze swept over me. Carol Schaller