I went to a group for widows a while back, and a woman shared that she was angry that her husband hadn’t sent her any white feathers. Send? White feathers? She said each of their family members and mutual friends had received a white feather from her deceased husband, but she had never gotten one. What in the world are you talking about? I had never heard of this phenomenon before. She went on to share that it was common for dead people to send a white feather to a loved one. Ohh…kay. Whatever. A bit too woo-woo for me.

The next day, I was walking through the pasture after spending some time at Ken’s grave. It was a beautiful breezy evening, and I climbed over the hill and down to the lower pasture. Phoebe was running circles around me, and, as I watched her run by, something caught my eye. I looked down and… no way. I stood looking down at a pile of white feathers. I walked around looking for other parts of a dead bird. No bones. Nothing else, just feathers. White ones. It was as if a bird had slipped out of its feathers as a person might slip out of his clothing. I reached down and scooped up a handful of silky feathers. The wind carried most of them away. They fluttered around me and Phoebe chased them snapping at the air to catch them. I started laughing. Then started crying. A whole pile of white feathers. Ken?

Our family uses the Life 360 app. For anyone without teens, Life 360 is a people-tracking app. We got it a couple years ago for convenience. We liked knowing where the kids were, but also it worked for the kids to know where we were, too.

Anyway, I was still a little weirded out after the white-feather incident, and the kids and I were talking about what we thought happened after death. Do we go to heaven instantly? Is there a time when we are “asleep” before heading to heaven? When we’re in heaven, will we be aware of all the pain and suffering here on earth? Will we know whether our loved ones are sad or happy? Will our loved one’s sadness make us sad? There’s so much to think about.

During our conversation, I heard my phone’s familiar Life 360 ping, but since the kids were home, I ignored it; it was probably just a low battery notification.

About an hour after our deep philosophical chat, I picked up my phone. On the home screen there was a Life 360 notification that read, “Dad arrived at Home Sweet Home.” It’s not possible! The app’s technology is dependent on the GPS data from a working and connected phone to pinpoint a location. Ken’s phone number had long been disconnected, and the phone itself had been turned off for months. I just stared at the message. My blood ran cold. I stood frozen for a bit, then actually looked around to see if I could see anything different. After a few minutes, I took a screenshot and called the kids in because, seriously, it was weird. I needed someone else to read the notification. Was I losing my mind?

Other strange things have happened as well, and I was telling all this to my best friend, Tammy, when I visited Northern Virginia in July. We were in Caroline’s kitchen. I was sharing that I wasn’t sure what to make of the weird things that had happened. I said that I wasn’t totally convinced that these things weren’t just a bunch of coincidences, technological glitches and all that. She agreed that it was odd, but that she thought the things could have been more than just coincidence. “Totally his style,” she said, “I mean a whole pile of white feathers… come on.”

I was arguing that it was just too weird. At that moment we both looked up, and there was bright red cardinal sitting on a wire staring in the window at us. It was actually looking at us. Tammy just looked at me, tilted her head in that way she does, and smiled. Both of us knew the folklore about cardinals.

It’s hard to make sense of things.

Things here on earth are confusing enough, so it’s no wonder that things beyond this life don’t make sense. I mean, think about it, healthy people, out for bike rides, die suddenly, and unhealthy people, who’ve never exercised a single day, go chugging on into old age.

Happy couples are wrenched apart by death, and unhappy couples get to go on resenting each other for decades.

Things are just so strange. An unwed teenager delivers the messiah. The messiah lives a simple life, dies a horrible lonely death on a cross, endures the worst punishment, then rises from the dead. The almighty God of the universe told stories and hung out with outcasts. Be honest, it’s a little crazy, right?

Before Jesus came to earth, people had imagined what the coming messiah would look like and be like, but the reality was different. A lot less pomp and a lot more love.

So many people smarter that I am have theorized, philosophized, painted, and waxed poetic about what heaven’s going to be like, but I have a feeling the reality of it will be something we’re not even imagining.

Those of us still bound by gravity and time will just have to wait.

Speaking for myself, I’ve decided that I need to accept that I won’t understand some things (many things!). Because trying to come up with logical explanations might actually drive me crazy. I just have to trust and to wait. To let the feathers blow around me, let the impossible messages sit on my phone, let myself look into a cardinal’s eyes.

And to have faith that it’s going to be ohh…kay, even if it’s all a little woo-woo right now.

2 thoughts on “Notifications from heaven?

  1. I am sure you have read it – but if not – I recommend Precious Bones. In this book there is a transition period where heaven looks like the human thinks it should look until they are ready to fully transition to heaven. In the meantime, they are still connected to earth and watch/root for those struggling on earth.

    I often daydream about what my dad’s faux heaven looks like and picture him meeting his dad (who he hadn’t seen since he was a kid) as he is walking up to his childhood home. His dad says “Son I am proud of you” and then he goes into the house and my grandmother (who he hadn’t seen since since 1960) is making dinner. My older sister who died at birth is sitting down catching up with him and his his first grandchildren who died at birth are climbing all over him (for some reason they are toddlers in this story). This – IMO – speaks to essence of my dad. It’s funny how often I think of this. I think he would enjoy catching up until my mom and eventually we join him in heaven.

    I also think in Heaven the time delay when they left us and meet again seems insignificant to them because they have the perspective of eternity that we do not. That must be why our separation is seen as bearable to God. It must be when we die, it must feel like coming home from a business trip.

    Kian, I am definitely thinking of you and rooting for you and your family. I hope that the life you have built (love of family and friends) is enough to sustain you through these difficult times.

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  2. Thank you for your thoughts and for rooting for us. That’s a beautiful daydream; thank you for sharing it with me. I haven’t read Precious Bones. I’m putting it on my list of books to read. I hope I can remember to come back here and share my thoughts about it.

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