by Celia Hales

I don’t know if this experience is a miracle.  Sometimes it seems like one.  But maybe it is a departed one reaching back to the world she left behind.  That, in itself, would be a kind of miracle–one that science doesn’t understand as yet.

For many years,  I have felt, from time to time, the sensation of someone kissing the crown of my head.  This sensation always gives me a warm feeling, a feeling of being protected from all harm.  As I  look out on my day, my environment–especially when I am outside–suddenly seem clearer than before.  The sun seems brighter, or, if it is raining, I feel sudden gratitude for the moisture hitting the earth.  I feel touched by an angel.

I have a now-departed family friend named Mattie.  She helped raise me.  She had what she called my “sweet spot”–the crown of my head–where she always kissed me.  She said that this spot belonged to her.

“Come here, Child,” she would say, as I was running out the back door to go play with my little friends.

She would plant a firm kiss on the top of my head.

“That sweet spot belongs to me,” she would say, and then she would laugh happily.

I think, to my credit, that I nearly always, as a child, made her happy.  We shared lots of love between us.

Mattie has been beyond the veil of death for more than 20 years.  I wish I could say with certainty that these sensations on the crown of my head began after she died.  But I don’t know for sure.  Certainly the brushes against my hair began a very long time ago.

Has Mattie found a way to bless me from heaven?  Perhaps so.  Certainly we loved each other deeply, and love, I believe, always survives death.

Thank you, Mattie.  I’m going to believe that it is you.


by Celia Hales

I had never seen my dad in a red flannel shirt.  I was used to white shirts with ties.  But there he was in my seventh grade classroom, setting up a space heater against the bitter cold of a winter day.

You know how 12-year-old children are.

“Is that your daddy?” a classmate asked.

I thought there was surprise in her voice.

“Yes,” I replied.  “But I have never seen him look like that before!”

I was embarrassed by his casual appearance, embarrassed as only a 12-year-old, poised on the brink of adolescence, can be.

I never told him, but I think my mother did.  She would have heard about it when she picked me up from school.  I can imagine how it went.

“Where did Daddy get that awful red shirt?” I would have whined.  “It looked terrible.”

“He has had it,” she would have said.  “He got it out because it was so cold.”

That would not have satisfied me.  I wasn’t ready to claim him as my father before my classmates, looking so different from usual.

Fast forward 35 years.  My dad suffered a ruptured aortic artery.  He survived surgery, but that type of rupture carries only a ten percent survival rate.  My husband Paul and I flew to his bedside.  We shared intimate moments

I remember saying one day, “I love you, Daddy.”

I remember that he replied, “Yes, I do know that.”

Then they put him on a respirator, and he couldn’t talk to us anymore.

We got through the funeral, which featured one of my dad’s last requests, a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”  I stayed in my hometown with my mother for two weeks, to help her get on her feet.  Then I returned to my work out-of-state.

About two weeks after my return to work, I retreated after lunch to the cot room, which was a part of the staff lounge. I was exhausted from the five weeks of my father’s ordeal and the additional two with my mother.  I drifted off to sleep.

I remember hearing the door to the cot room swing open.  I slit my eyes to let in some light.

There, kneeling beside my cot, was my dad, wearing a red plaid shirt.  He was smiling, a familiar, loving smile.

I wondered, still barely awake, “Why is he wearing that shirt?”

Then I smiled to myself as I thought, “So I can recognize him.”

I drifted back to sleep.

The memory of my dad’s appearance to me a month after his death has stayed with me all these 18 years since.

Why did he appear?  I didn’t know then.  Now I think I do.  I think he wanted me to know that he would always be near.

He didn’t hold it against me that I had been embarrassed as a child by his shirt.  He would have found it amusing at the time, just as I do many years later.  It is a private joke between us.

He has never reappeared.  I do dream of him from time to time, and my dreams tell me that he is looking out for my mother also.

It is reassuring to believe that my red-shirted dad has become one of my guardian angels.