Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Feathers from Heaven
(Melissa with my grandson Georgie, showing off the prized feather find!)
(Michael, Melissa and Sarah Gantt)
(Joshua Gantt, Forever Young, who would have been 27 this week.)
My dear friend and neighbor for a decade in Greenville, Texas -- Melissa Gantt -- recently moved to Seattle, which happens to be down the road from where my son, Zach, and his wife Julie and little boy Georgie have moved. On a visit to the great northwest last week, we had "old home week" with my daughter Rachel & Zach, Michael and Melissa Gantt, together again... only thousands of miles away from our small town life of years before. I was awash in joy and the comfort of being together again when, as we walked to the restaurant near the Pikes Market dock, we spotted a lone white feather. Melissa picked it up with a knowing smile, handing it to Georgie, as Rachel snapped a picture. Here is the story behind the white feather, in honor of what would have been Josh Gantt's 27 birthday this week. He was not only Michael and Melissa's son, and Sarah's brother... he was like a brother to my children, and my daughter Rachel's first "love" and first kiss. His smile could make young girls and even old women go weak in the knees. We miss him.
Feathers from Heaven?
(from my book, It's Fun to Be a Mom, Harvest House Publishers, 2007)
“Hope is the thing with feathers on it” Emily Dickinson
When one of my closest friends, Melissa Gantt, was driving along one day, she reached over and found a white feather attached to her shoulder. She picked it off, smiled, turned to her husband Michael and said, “Look what my angel left me.” They shared a good laugh and drove on, not giving the incident much thought.
A couple of years later Melissa was at the funeral of her grandmother when her husband, Michael said, “Look on your shoulder” as he pointed to a white feather that had somehow landed there. Not long after this second feather experience, Melissa found herself in the emergency room. Her little girl, Sarah, was being examined for a head injury after hitting her head on a dock in a waterskiing accident. She was afraid, as any mother would be, and every breath was a prayer. When she and Michael were allowed in to see their daughter, there on the sheet, was a feather.
Michael, normally not a sentimental man, took the white feather that had found its way to his daughter’s bedside, and later brought it to the car and put it in a special box, as a keepsake from above. All would be well, both in Melissa’s heart and thankfully, with Sarah’s head. (She’s since had yet another head injury, and subsequent visit to the emergency room after falling off of a golf-cart onto concrete. We tell her she’s blessed to be hardheaded.)
Then one day, the unthinkable happened. Melissa's son Josh, just shy of his 20th birtday, drowned in the lake where we all lived, laughed, and loved during most of the years of our kids growing up together. The loss is too big to contain in words; however, since the day Joshua left earth for heaven, it has been raining feathers.
There was one large white feather stuck to the front door of the Gantt’s home the morning after Josh died. I was with Melissa on a trip to Montana several months afterward, a girlfriend getaway to do some healing and have some fun, when, just before we left to go home – I saw Melissa reach down and pull a white feather from the top of her suitcase. “I have a stack of them now, I find them everywhere,” she explained. “And Josh’s girlfriend called to tell me she came back to her desk at work today to find two white feathers in her chair.”
On one particularly hard day, not long after Josh died, Melissa allowed Sarah to stay home from school. My friend held her daughter as she cried and grieved convulsions of sorrow that went with the missing o her brother. Then Sarah wiped her tears, stood up and headed toward the kitchen for a drink of water. “Sarah,” Melissa said, laughing through her tears. “Look at the seat of your pants.” Sure enough there was a white feather attached to Sarah’s behind. “That would be just like Josh,” she said, one hand on her hip, then smiled for the first time that day.
Not long after, I was standing in front of a mirror in a hotel room, far from my Texas home, when I happened to notice a white feather stuck to the front of my shirt. Half-joking, half-wondering, I said aloud, “Josh? Lord? Anything you two want to say to us today?” I said it spontaneously, with a chuckle in my voice, but I remember the incident clearly because I spoke the question aloud, even though I was alone. Though I would never claim to be altogether normal, I don’t usually talk to myself out loud.
That afternoon I flew home, and met my son Gabe for dinner. Before we had barely settled into the restaurant booth he said, “Mom, I woke up from the weirdest, but best dream about Joshua this morning.”
“Really?” I asked, more curious because of my own fine-feathered experience that day. “Tell me about it.”
“Well,” he said, “I dreamed I was walking along the lakeside road and Josh came walking toward me. I knew it was a dream, and I knew Josh was in heaven and I was still on earth, but I could talk to him. So I asked him, ‘Josh, what is God like?’ And Joshua said, ‘You know Gabe, God is a lot more down to earth than we thought.’”
Yes, I thought, I believe that. Now more than ever. In fact, He may be close enough to let a feather fall from his hand and onto our sagging shoulders.
I do not know if the feathers we are finding are truly heavenly signs of comfort. I’ll concede (but not without some protest) that this could all be coincidence.I also do not know if Gabe’s dream was anything more than a dream. How could I prove what will remain a mystery until the veil of this life has been lifted? Until we discover, someday, what has truly been going on behind the scenes of the Days of our Lives, no human being can speak authoritatively on “coincidences” around us. The Bible only explains enough to reassure us there is a fascinating life beyond death, more wonderful than we can possibly imagine, but the description is just vague enough to leave plenty of room for plenty of surprises.
Who knows? Perhaps one of the mysteries solved in heaven someday, will be bumping into a ministering angel whose job it was to look for people whose hearts were heavy-laden –and lighten them with feathers.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” Psalm 91:4