My wife tells a story about her dad and their special connection — a connection that transcended this life and one that defies a natural explanation.
“My dad was passionate about photography. I grew up with magazines and camera equipment in the house and a darkroom my dad built in the garage. As a small child I would sit on a high stool in the darkroom and watch my dad develop photos and then hang them to dry.
“He took photos at all family events, color slides of our vacations, and, for a while, worked as a professional photographer. My own experience with photography was limited to simple cameras, and my dad’s attempts to explain f-stops and film speed to me was only partially understood.
“After my dad passed away, my mom gave me his most recent camera equipment, which I looked over and then put away thinking I would use it sometime in the future. Dad had a painful death from cancer and I prayed that he was now at peace.
“Over the months after his death there were instances where I actually sensed his presence with me. It was a brief, fleeting feeling of him looking at me and smiling. Once, while sitting on our front porch, I had this sensation again and it gave me a sense that he was indeed happy and at peace.
“And one morning I had a dream in which I heard his voice; it seemed real. In the dream he called me on the phone, but when I heard his voice I said, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I’m fine and it’s beautiful here.’ I asked if he was happy; he said yes. Then I woke up.
“For our son’s kindergarten graduation, 10 months after dad passed away, I took out the camera and again looked it over, feeling a bit overwhelmed. I remember thinking I could just set the camera to simple settings and give it a try, but I had never used the telephoto lens before. I thought about my dad, took a deep breath and went to the graduation.
“The children lined up to process, and I saw our son in the doorway, fairly far away from where I was standing. I muttered, ‘OK, dad, you need to help me here. I don’t know what I’m doing.’ With the telephoto lens, I took a photo of our son in the doorway, then took a few more as he received his ‘diploma.’
“The results were astounding. Most of the photos taken at the event were average, but those taken with the telephoto lens were beautiful and close to perfect; they were the quality of photos my dad had taken with that lens when our son was a toddler.
“How could I have done this on my own? I had asked dad to help me, and I believe his spirit was with me and guiding me. To me these photos were tangible evidence of my dad’s love and presence that day. He had regretted that he would not be present to see his grandson grow up, but God’s love and mercy provided a way for him to give us a gift our son could grow up with.”
Very simply, my wife and her dad — who shared a close and loving bond while he lived on earth — were connecting to another dimension of life, the everlasting life Jesus promised us through his resurrection:
“Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25-26).
Some might call that supernatural or paranormal. I call it the faith we profess to believe, the faith that suggests all things happen for a good reason, even things we don’t quite understand or find an explanation for in the world we live in — for now.
Nelson is former editor of The Tidings, the former newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.