Six months after my husband’s death, I move to a small town in Pennsylvania, located on the main line. Narberth is charming and quaint in an old world sense. It immediately reminds me of a town that played a major part in my childhood. Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show was my fantasy of where life was pure and good. Aunt Bea, Sheriff Andy, and Opie were my escape from a life far different from what they portrayed .
My apartment, located on the third floor of a walk up at 280 Haverford Avenue, overlooks the downtown area. It is the perfect place for me to begin the long healing process from his suicide.
I move here for a job promotion but there are other reasons as well, none of which are clear to me. My last conversation I have with my mother before moving, I say something prophetic. ‘I am going to miss you mom, but for some reason I have to go. I don’t know what, but something is waiting for me in Pennsylvania .’
I settle into my new space, surrounded by my possessions, my two cats, and my memories of the life I left behind. Many of my objects have special significance from my life with my husband. Because of this, I still feel his presence.
Before long, I am a regular at the Greek’s, a small restaurant a stones’ throw from my apartment. Great food and atmosphere; a place where I enjoy a quiet dinner at the bar with my thoughts and a glass of wine.
It isn’t long before I become ensconced in the community. I make friends with several people I see in town when I am shopping or enjoying an evening stroll. I start to date, but nothing serious.
There is an old dusty bookshop in town. I spend hours searching through the metaphysical section. One book in particular speaks to me. The Silver Cord, Lifeline to the Unobstructed by Martha Josephine Barham, R.N., Ph.D and James Thomas Greene,Ph.D.
I read it from cover to cover, underlining important passages. I still have this book as it is very meaningful to me. Its message rings true even today.
I find myself very open to the atmosphere and I am sensitive to the world around me. I pick up on situations I normally wouldn’t and see them in a different way. The world and how I perceive it alters.
I have dreams about my husband. Some are happy; a few are disturbing. I wake from them forgetting where I am, still living in the vivid dreams. The ones where he is still alive and present on this earth are the hardest to recover from.
During the year I live in Narberth, I have several strange events happen.
One afternoon, I am sitting in my garden den meditating on my life and how I came to be where I am. My sadness is crushing. It is a magnificent fall day and I have the windows open. A gentle breeze wafts through the windows and kisses my tear strewn cheeks; my phantom lover. The colorful leaves on the trees stir enough to evoke memories of raking them as a child. I hear a fluttering outside the window to my right. There suspended in mid-air, is a sparrow peering in. Fluttering his wings to stay afloat where he can peer at me. A quiet thought enters my mind as if someone is speaking to me, “Don’t be sad, there is a reason you are here.” My sorrow eases.
My first thought is he must be a psychopomp; my husband’s guide. Psychopomp, from the Greek word psuchopompos means the “guide of souls”. They are creatures, angels, spirits, or deities whose responsibility is to escort deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but to provide safe passage. For reasons unknown to me, I am comforted by this sight as opposed to frightened, and he is gone as quickly as he came.
On another occasion, I am driving past the post office a couple of blocks from my apartment. A man, who looks exactly like my dead husband, steps into the road. Slamming on the brakes, I hang my head and cannot breathe. I look up, and he is gone. The encounter shakes me to my core. I race to my apartment, and once there, I fall apart. I cannot believe what I saw.
I spend a lot of time in my apartment, reading, meditating, and contemplating life. Winter comes, and I see snow for the first time in my life. It is lovely the first few days, blanketing the rolling fields I pass each day on my way to work. And even though men suitors are plentiful, I am lonely. The winter compounds this feeling of alone-ness. I ache for someone to share my life with.
Spring comes and I have another experience that I cannot explain. I stop at the Narberth post office, and when I come out, there is a frail old woman who seems lost. I stop, ask her if I can help. She says yes, I need to go to the doctor. I don’t know why but I offer to drive her. We get into my car, and she begins to tell me about her life. Her name is Mrs. O’Donnell. I ask about her family and she says her husband died and now she has no one. I tell her my husband died too. She looks at me, and says but you are so young to go though this. Tears welling, I tell her I am doing my best to cope. She tells me with the utmost of conviction, “You will be fine dear. There is a plan.” We arrive at the doctor’s office, and I help her out of the car. She insists she can make it the rest of the way on her own. The doctor’s office, in what was once an old house, looks deserted. She opens the door and steps in, closes the door. I am uneasy and concerned. I wait a few minutes in the driveway, and go to the door. Locked tight. I knock but no one answers. I circle the house and see no signs of life within. I knock again, still no answer. It appears Mrs. O’Donnell has vanished into thin air.
Shaken, I make a note of the phone number for the doctor’s office and rush home. Once there, I call. A woman answers, not with Dr. so and so’s office, but with a simple hello.
I ask, “Is Mrs. O’Donnell there?”
“Yes, she is here with us now. “
“Is she okay? I am the one who brought her there today and I am worried. She says she has no one.”
“She is more than fine dear. No need to worry about her. We will take care of her from here, and send her on her way.”
“Can I help in any way?”
She whispered “No dear, you’re not ready yet.”
I am stunned and left speechless as I drop the phone into its cradle. It’s as if I were talking to an alternate universe. An ethereal being. There was a surreal quality to the call that I cannot even today explain.
I move from Narberth in August of that same year. A friend of mine is going overseas and wants me to rent his house in Manayunk. My lease is up on my apartment in Narberth, so I agree to do so. A new adventure awaits.
It would be another year before the real reason I came to Pennsylvania made itself known to me.
But that, my friends, is another story for another time.