I experienced a near-tragic situation in my home recently that opened my eyes not only to the belief that my deceased parents continue to protect me and my family, but it also made me keenly aware of how fleeting life can be. It’s been almost 10 years since I moved back into the house I grew up in. I decided to return to it a few months after the deaths of my parents who had been living there for over 40 years.

My mother took her own life a few days before my father died, when she realized that he would not be coming home from a hospice. I sometimes wonder if my mother regretted her decision and now in spirit she continues to do what she can to help me and my children. When my mother was alive, she used to talk about how intrigued she was at the prospect of coming back as a “ghost” after her death. In fact, it appears to me now that she may be able to be of more assistance in spirit form than when she was alive.

There are a lot of great things about living in the house I grew up in. It makes me feel grounded and gives me a solid sense of truly belonging somewhere. I am also discovering that it may be even more special advantages than I realize. Every once in awhile I sense the presence of my father and mother in my house. It’s always a very non-threatening and subtle feeling. Once in a while I am made aware of their presences by a familiar scent. Sometimes I even see what’s best described as tiny silver colored sparkles that resemble a camera flash. I have wondered if it was just my eyes playing tricks on me, but after what occurred in my 16-year-old daughter’s bedroom a couple of weekends ago, I am becoming convinced that my parents are still around, trying to be helpful. In this particular case I believe one or both of their spirits intervened in our lives to rescue us from a potentially deadly fire .

My daughter’s bedroom is in the basement of our home. On this particular evening, my daughter had two girlfriends sleeping over. They had lighted some candles around the room and thought they had blown all of them out before they went to sleep. One of them however, was hidden behind a large picture frame on a wicker table and as a result my daughter didn’t see it and failed to blow it out before going to bed. I had no idea what had taken place the previous night. All I knew was when I woke up I smelled a fire.

The next morning my daughter was visibly shaken but also tremendously relieved as she began to explain to me why I smelled smoke in the house. She told me that she and the other girls had been sound asleep for over two hours when she abruptly woke up with a sense of urgency. She commented about how almost nothing is able to rise her once she has fallen asleep. She couldn’t understand what prompted her sit up and feel wide awake at the precise moment necessary to avoid the danger lurking in her room. When my daughter sat up in bed she immediately saw the table the forgotten candle had been engulfed in flames. She woke up the other girls and they managed to stay calm enough to throw a blanket on the fire and run to get pails of water to extinguish it as it was about to catch onto a wall. My instant reaction was that my mom and dad had something to do with the timing.

The next day, my daughter I were still pretty shaken up about the fire and our thoughts about how much worse it could have been had she not woken up when she did. I had to open our doors and windows for a few hours in order to rid the house of the smell of smoke. Now, even several days later, I can still smell the memories of that night when I go in the basement.

It serves as a reminder to me that the life I normally take for granted could have literally gone up in flames in a matter of minutes. In the weeks prior to the fire, I had been telling myself that I had to figure out a way to stop making big deals out of the small things and learn to lighten up. My daily ritual of self-imposed deadlines had gradually taken control and had pushed me out of the present moment. The fire helped me to remind me that the way I was living was silly because the present moment is all there is. It’s also comforting to think that the spirits of my parents may very well be with me in the present moment.

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Karen Barta-Gaskell is a native Minnesotan from Minneapolis who has worked in radio and television journalism for more than 20 years as a newscaster and reporter in the Twin Cities, Duluth and Oklahoma City. She continues to work in communications, in addition to her freelance writing. Contact her by e-mail at kjgaskell@att.net Copyright (c) 2001 Karen Barta-Gaskell

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