As Tuesday July 26th faded into Wednesday, I was grieving the loss of my wife Karen, who had passed away after a year long battle with cancer, and the recent passing of my mother, Lillian. I was pretty overwhelmed. Karen and I shared a very special love. She was my Angel and my rock and believed in me like no one else. Karen pushed me to be better all the time, as a person, as a parent, and as a husband. Karen gave me the courage to try things and BE the things I always had dreamed about, but never did on my own.
Karen and I loved to walk along the Windsor River Trail, which meanders through the woods along the Farmington River, just a short ways from where we live. I have always found this a place of quiet beauty and inspiration, as well as an escape from the trials and sadness that Karen's illness had cast upon our happy lives.
I awoke that Wednesday morning very upset, so to try and calm my nerves I took a walk with my camera through these woods.
I had whispered in her ear during her last few minutes, that "I will see you in every butterfly and rainbow..." We had a beautiful rainbow appear to us on our wedding day in March 2004 in Florida.
I paused on the bridge that overlooks the ever-changing marsh at the start of the trail. My "animal friends", the Blue Heron, ducklings, muskrats, deer, turtles, red-winged blackbirds and other creatures go about their daily lives there, sometimes giving me a glimpse of nature's beauty.
As I started into the woods, I asked Karen to "give me a sign" that she was okay. I don't remember if this was out loud or just in my head. I hoped that I might see a deer or something special.
Several minutes into the walk, an older man, tall, thin, dressed very plainly, approached me on the trail. As he passed, he looked directly at me and said soothingly "Hello - how are you today?"
Now this may not seem that unusual, but something was different about this person, and the manner in which he spoke to my heart. I stammered back, "um... hello, I am okay"... even though I was not.
I asked myself I was imagining things, and continued on my way. A few minutes later, another man, of a similar description and countenance, approached. He said in a similar tone - "It's a beautiful day today isn't it?" Again this person spoke in a personal and soothing manner.
A thought flashed through my mind - "Ask him if he knows Karen!"
The tears were flowing openly now. There was something "other worldly" about both men and the way they spoke to me. I had never seen either one of them before or since on my many walks through these woods. Again, I tried to compose myself. I took a few photos, but there was not much activity this morning. I just tried to enjoy the peacefulness and headed off the main trail to a bluff overlooking the river.
After a few minutes of reflection, I turned around to head back to the main trail, and the second man "appeared" to me again. He was approaching and almost standing right behind me as I turned around. He should have been somewhere on the other side of the trail as we had passed going in opposite directions.
He walked right up close to me and said "this is a beautiful place to take pictures, isn't it?" in the same calming, soothing voice as before. "Oh my God", I thought, what is happening here!
I was totally overwhelmed with emotion by now - not knowing what to think or say. My usual chattiness was not there. I did not ask either man their name or where they were from, which I would usually do. I don't remember anything about the next few seconds, or where the man went, but I just turned and walked away back towards the main trail.
Shortly thereafter, I met a man walking his dog, we chatted briefly and I petted the dog. I made no mention of what had happened. He seemed "normal"! Again, I couldn't be sure that any of what had transpired was real.
Once I was alone on the path again, I saw three people approaching in the distance.
As I got closer, I saw an elderly black woman, dressed for church in a large fancy hat and old-fashioned dress on - a 10 year-old girl with a white frilly party dress and black patent leather shoes, and a teenage boy with long slacks and a button-down shirt on.
I thought to myself that they looked rather out of place and oddly dressed to be walking in the woods in ninety-degree heat early in the morning.
As we were about to pass each other, I noticed the boy's face - he seemed "different" somehow, and he seemed to sense my sadness. As we passed he reached out his left hand to me - surprised, I grasped it with my left hand - and as I did, I felt a surge of power and love come into and through my body and soul. I felt Karen and my mother and instantly "knew" that they were okay and at Peace.
At the same instant, the elderly woman shouted "HALLELUJAH"... and then burst into singing a beautiful Christian HYMN!
I can not remember anything about the Hymn, except that my heart leapt, and I could feel God's love pouring through me. The boy continued to hold my hand, smiling at my heart as he passed.
Then they continued down the path into the woods, the woman still singing loud and strong.
I was left standing there in shock, my mouth agape, my heart and spirit soaring. I believe that these "out of place and time" strangers were ANGELS sent by my Karen to comfort me in this time of grief and sorrow.
My life was instantly changed and energized by this incredible spiritual event. I know that Karen is with me - in every butterfly, rainbow and breeze of wind ....and that she will be walking with me in my favorite place in the woods and in my heart and soul forever.
To all my family and friends - Open your hearts to God's beauty and take nothing for granted, cherish each day with your family, friends and those that you love. Take time to notice the little gifts of nature and people.
Go with God and be at peace knowing that your loved ones are safe and are watching over and protecting you.
Postscript - I visited a medium fall of 2006, and many things she said helped me realize this was not something imagined that my loved ones are still present and watching over me.