26: The Unforgotten

26: The Unforgotten

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

The Unforgotten

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.

~Albert Einstein

I’ve never been much of a believer in the supernatural, but my late husband, Ken Wilson, definitely was. Though he disdained stories about zombies and mummies, or werewolves and vampires, tales of psychic phenomena thoroughly mesmerized him.

For years he’d collected books on astral projection, parapsychology, telepathy, hauntings and possessions. He subscribed to Fate Magazine, and read it from cover to cover. And aside from Westerns, his favorite movie was Ghost, with The Sixth Sense running a close second. Ken didn’t espouse any particular religion, but I’ve always felt that if there had been a Spiritualist church nearby, he would have been a regular.

A few years ago, Ken was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he took the news with astonishingly good humor.

“I’m ready to visit the other side,” he said, and then proceeded to regale me with yarns about how he’d come back to haunt me and both of his beloved dogs.

“There’s no good reason not to believe in an afterlife,” he explained. “Harry Houdini did, Arthur Conan Doyle did, and I do, too. I’ll find a way. I may not communicate directly, but I’m certain I’ll be able to let you know I’m still around and thinking of you.”

“Just don’t do anything too spooky,” I pleaded. “I don’t want howls and squeaks coming off the walls of the bedroom. You know what a scaredy cat I am. I didn’t sleep for a week after we watched The Blair Witch Project.”

“I wouldn’t want to frighten you, baby, but I do want you to remember me and that I’m not completely gone. My body might not be there, but my spirit will be.”

The morning he died, I thought about what he’d promised. I’d heard that recent widows often feel the presence of their departed spouses in the corridors. But all morning our house felt completely empty as I wandered its rooms and hallways, wondering if I’d ever find the time and energy to clear Ken’s clothes from the closets.

Then that afternoon, the dogs escaped. The young man who had come to mow our lawn absentmindedly had left a gate open. Ordinarily when the pair broke loose they’d be gone for hours, but this time the dogs dragged themselves home in less than thirty minutes. And though they usually head for the river and a swim, this time their fur remained completely dry. Nonetheless, they both plopped down on the tiled entryway, acting as exhausted as if they’d swum the English Channel. They stared at me with the most sheepish expression that a pair of canine faces can assume. I suddenly believed Ken had tracked them down, scolded them and sent them home. Moreover, the house no longer felt so empty. Ken’s spirit had returned.

Not long after, a writer and editor acquaintance launched a new career as a psychic. He knew I’d been recently widowed, and offered me a telephone consultation. He told me that Ken’s spirit indeed was present on my property, and that it frequently walked around the backyard with the dogs. I believe that’s why Natty, who was particularly attached to Ken, lies out there for hours looking blissfully zoned out. He especially demands to go out at twilight and comes in only reluctantly when I’m ready for bed.

Ken had reminded me of Houdini’s avowal to contact people from beyond. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that the magician managed to succeed. But twice in the couple of years since Ken’s death, I’ve found books overturned from the case that’s adjacent to my writing desk in the family room.

The first incident, about a month after Ken’s death, involved Over Tumbled Graves by Jess Walter. Ken and I met this Northeast Washington writer when he came to our local Colville library to give a talk. Ken had accompanied me when my book group dined with Walter before his presentation. This was a book Ken had read and an author he had met. I shivered as I set the book back in place.

Then about a year later I spied a second book on the floor, apparently knocked loose from the same bookcase. This time it was Faye Kellerman’s The Forgotten. Both of us had been fans of this novelist, and had frequently discussed her mysteries. I couldn’t help but reflect on the title of this particular book as I tucked it back into place. Some time had elapsed since my husband’s death. Could he be sending me a message from beyond that he worried I’d begun to forget him?

I’m not certain I’m ready yet to declare myself a believer in psychic phenomena, but this is the kind of spooky coincidence that Ken adored. I’ve always doubted there’s any literal heaven populated by angels and filled with harps and fluffy clouds. But Ken was convinced that some aspect of the human personality or mind survives death and continues to exist on a spirit plane. As for me, I’ve always believed in the power of prayer. So that night I said a special prayer for my very special late husband.

I asked that he be guaranteed that he’s not forgotten. Not now. Not ever. I prayed he’d be reassured that his portrait still hangs in our bedroom, and informed that I’ve also put up the framed maps of ancient Briton that he never got around to displaying.

I added that I’d weed around his Asian lilies the next afternoon and sprinkle them with deer repellent. I vowed that on his birthday I’d haul down his special ceramic cup and pour him a brandy Manhattan and place it by the lilies. I wanted him to know that I’d think of something special to commemorate him on what would have been our tenth anniversary.

Finally, I conveyed that I’d continue to write about him and our life together. Ken Wilson wouldn’t be forgotten at all. He’d live on in my stories, just as his spirit continues to inhabit our home. He’d be eternally “The Unforgotten.”

Every morning I still cast a hopeful glance at the floor in front of the bookcase. I would be neither surprised nor frightened if I received yet another message from heaven, wherever and whatever it may be.

~Terri Elders

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