My second cousin appeared to me in an orb shortly after his death. God and the Holy Spirit work in mysterious ways. This is the story of one of those mysterious ways.
Harlan was my dad’s only cousin on the Stratton side of the family. Harlan was known for being mischievous. Harlan also had a sense of humor. Sometimes it was hard to separate the mischievous side and the humorous side. Harlan had this unique laugh. Harlan’s laugh was loud, forceful, with a deep tone, and a genuine belly laugh. You could always tell when he appreciated a good joke.
Harlan was born in 1929 and my dad was born in 1920, so dad had nine more years of life experiences. It was those life experiences that caused my dad to say of Harlan, “How could that kid have done that.” My dad would never admit it but I think he did similar things and thus acquired his wisdom.
Harlan married Dorothy in 1951 and they farmed for two years near Nevada. Harlan then became a herdsman for the Amana Colonies. From there he went to Plymouth County Iowa to be the county extension agent. A work that combined his love for livestock and kids.
Harlan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1959 and he battled that illness for 38 years. He passed away on March 4, 1997 and the chain of phone calls to relatives reached me. The funeral would be in my home town of Nevada. I knew my father would not attend. My dad’s brother Art would not be able to attend because of his Alzheimer’s. Art also loved cattle and 4-H and those things were a bond between he and Harlan. I didn’t know if my brother could get time off work. I could take time off work and I decided Maxine and I should attend the visitation and the funeral to represent our family.
I knew my father would not attend. He disliked crowds of people and also disliked funerals. My mother had suffered a fractured vertebrae. She was recovering but was on medication and had to be careful of her movements. My mother told dad he could go and she would be okay but Dad refused to leave her. Dad talked about getting someone to stay with my mother. That infuriated her and a heated discussion between two very stubborn people ensued. She took it as an insult that she couldn’t take care of herself. An admission she would never make. So two stubborn people stayed home, together, neither willing to give an inch.
Maxine and I attended the visitation. The large crowd was not unexpected. Harlan was well known in the arenas of 4-H and County Extension work. As I was approaching the funeral home I met Jim Christy. He was the county extension agent in Story County when my brother and I were in 4-H. He and Harlan were a lot a like. They loved helping kids grow and mature via 4-H. We had a good visit and then I made my way into the funeral home.
My brother and his wife were already there. Because of work, they would not be able to attend the funeral the next day. The funeral home was full of people. Many relatives and friends I had not seen for a long time. We talked of Harlan and of all the good things he represented. The way he lived his life had a positive impact on all of us. As the visitation concluded, Maxine and I made our way to my parents home to stay the night.
I talked with mom and dad about the visitation. I told them who was there. I told them Harlan’s family was doing well. I described the casket and that it contained a farm scene and mementoes of 4-H work.
As my parents aged I came to expect the house would be very warm and the TV very loud. I covered up the floor register so the bedroom would cool off during the night. The weather was cool, but not cold, so I cracked open a window to hasten the cooling. As usual, I decided to go to bed before Maxine. I crawled into bed, pulled up the sheet and pushed back the covers. I lay there enjoying the fresh air and pondering the visitation. I was thinking about Harlan’s life. The room filled with cool fresh air and then the unexpected occurred.
As I looked up toward the ceiling, a vision of Harlan appeared to me. Harlan appeared in an orb that just floated in the air. The orb remained stationary. I could see him from the waist up. His face was full and he appeared as a young man. He looked like he did before he was diagnosed with MS. Harlan did not speak and I did not speak but Harlan communicated a feeling of joy and calmness. He smiled as he looked down at me. He laughed as only Harlan could laugh, with that deep down belly laugh. His presence only lasted a few seconds and the image vanished. The room was filled with a calmness I had never experienced. I went right to sleep. Later when Maxine came to bed she closed the window and the noise woke me. There was still calmness in the room.
I was perplexed. I wondered why this experience had happened to me. I believed it was a reinforcement of my belief that there is life after death. It was the Holy Spirit at work again. Experiences with Eileen had taught me that the Holy Spirit was at work in the life of Maxine and I. But why, why now?
The appearance was a joyful experience. I told Maxine about it. We had heard stories of other people experiencing the appearance of people who had died. It had never happened to either of us before this night. I pondered about telling Harlan’s family about the appearance. My experiences with Eileen had caused me to be more open to sharing spiritual experiences. I knew Harlan’s kids would be together next week when they were moving their mother to Boone. I decided to share my experience with Jacque. I had her e-mail address. I felt close to her if for no other reason than she was Harlan’s oldest child. There is just this unexplainable bond between cousins who are the oldest kids in their respective families.
I sat down at the computer and wrote a note telling Jacque about her dad’s appearance. I hoped sharing would bring Harlan’s family the same joy it brought me. Harlan was in the next life and healthy. Jacque appreciated the e-mail and shared it with her mother, brother, and sister. She also shared with me that she had experienced her father’s presence in other ways the week and day prior to his death.
Being an engineer, and a volunteer firefighter, I always ask why did this happen. At the time I felt the “why” was to reinforce my belief in life after death. The experience did just that.
Hind site being 20-20, I now know there was an additional reason. In June of 2000 our daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Maxine and I had the experience with Harlan as a foundation to reaffirm there is life after death. The Holy Spirit gave us this experience to reinforce our beliefs. Beliefs that we would call upon many times as we worked to recover from the tragic loss of our daughter.
Harlan’s appearance was a joyful experience and later that experience would be of great help in getting on with life. Once again the Holy Spirit was involved in the lives of Maxine and Gary.