This is a story of a great love and a powerful connection, one to keep in your heart, always. It is exquisitely written by my good friend T.J. Banks. It is her story.
The Unseen Traveler
By T. J. Banks
(From The Way-Back Files: Until We Meet Again. Guideposts, 2003.)
The rain that early July Tuesday had been monsoon-like, forcing me to pull over to the side of the road at one point during my travels. By 7:15 p. m., it had stopped, but the roads were still dangerously slick. I’d just gotten off the phone with my husband, Tim, and could tell from his voice that the swing shift he’d worked the night before had finally started catching up with him. “You sound like you need to be off the road,” I’d remarked, telling him to skip the trip to the store he’d been about to make.
“I really want to be home,” he’d said just before signing off.
A funny queasiness took hold of me shortly afterwards. I wandered restlessly about the house, then headed up to our three-year-old son Zeke’s room and began reading to him. I happened to look up at one point and went even sicker inside. The walls of the room began pulsing, the colors in the wallpaper draining away.
A few hours later, my in-laws came to tell me that Tim’s van had crashed into a telephone pole, killing him instantly. The time of death was 7:31. (“I can’t say for sure,” a friend said later when I told her the wallpaper story, “but I’ll bet you that’s when Tim died.”)
Pain set in, followed by an eerie numbness, a winter of the soul like nothing I’d ever known before. I made the funeral arrangements, picked out the monument, gave away many of Tim’s belongings, and probated the will, hoping that once these things were done, I would somehow come back to life. I was a ghost wandering through a lonely dark wood, searching desperately for a clearing, some space between the branches that a ray of light could pierce through.
Two weeks after Tim died, I came back from running some errands and went up to my room to lie down. I couldn’t sleep, so I figured I’d just rest a bit in the cool shadowy room while my mother took care of Zeke downstairs.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a white-gold light appeared to the left of the headboard. It hung in mid-air, glowing like a flame and deepening in intensity as I gazed into the heart of it. The light flickered and danced before my eyes, then slowly…ever so slowly…faded away.
I sat up, amazed. The room, as I’ve said, was a shadowy one, thanks to the huge oak tree shading the window directly across from the bed: in the past, I’d hung crystals in that window in vain attempts to work a little rainbow magic. There was no prism in the window now, only an enormous aloe plant snaking its arms against the pains…and, anyway, a prism would’ve cast its rainbows against the walls, ceiling, and floor. It wouldn’t have conjured up that firefly flame that hung suspended in the air, beckoning and reassuring me….
The June after Tim died, Zeke and I traveled to Prince Edward Island. It was the vacation that Tim and I had planned for the three of us to take for what would have been our tenth anniversary. It was a tough trip on my own with a four-year-old, and Zeke was homesick. So I cut the vacation short and drove the rental car to Charlottetown the day before our re-scheduled flight. We stopped at the airport first to confirm the flight changes. The woman at the counter was genuinely charming and helpful, waiving the change fee. “Now,” she said brightly, looking up at me, “there’s a third person traveling with you?”
I did a double-take – after all, it was 1996, and surely a single parent traveling alone with a child shouldn’t be that much of a novelty – but explained the circumstances. The woman shivered. “That gives me the willies,” she admitted, as she directed us to a motel close to the airport.
I found it easily enough. The woman who ran it was just as friendly, and we chatted lightly as I filled out the necessary paperwork. “There’s a third person traveling with you?” she asked suddenly.
I guessed there was – an unseen traveler who wanted to make sure that we were all right and had landed in a good place.
T. J. Banks is the author of A TIME FOR SHADOWS, CATSONG (winner of the 2007 Merial Human-Animal Bond Award), [see CATSONG Amazon link in my left sidebar], DERV & CO., HOUDINI, & SOULEIADO. A Contributing Editor to LAJOIE, she has also worked as a stringer for the Associated Press and an instructor for the Writer’s Digest School, and elsewhere. She has received awards for her fiction & non-fiction from BYLINE, the Cat Writers’ Association, & THE WRITING SELF. Her book, SKETCH PEOPLE: STORIES ALONG THE WAY, is based on her blog of the same name. Both the book and the blog feature “conversations” or interviews with people who have stories worth telling.
Visit T.J. on her “A Time for Shadows” Facebook page or on her blog:- Sketch People.: “We all have stories to tell. SKETCH PEOPLE is a series of interviews with people about what they do — their passions, their purpose, and their adventures along the way. It’s that simple. And that fascinating.”
Reading your story made me think of one of my favourite writers, Catherine Marshall. She used to write a lot for Guideposts and wrote many books that are still being read today. She was quite a woman. Her first husband was Peter Marshall, who was also a Chaplain of the United States Senate and died at the age of 49, leaving her behind with a young son, Wee Peter, who was just nine years old.
Your story drew me in from the beginning. I am a person that believes we are warned when changes are about to take place in our lives. Sometimes they happen right away, and sometimes not, but the feeling that something is about to happen is there and I have learned not to ignore that feeling.
Thank you for sharing and especially about that third person. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses that have passed through to life eternal.
P.S. Thank you my dear Samantha for this feature. It was a joy to read this Monday morning and it was very encouraging to me.
Shalom my friend.
Patricia, thank you for your words of wisdom. I know T.J. will want to read this. I will pass it along to her, and she may reply. So, watch for that if you can.
Thank you, Patricia. How interesting that you mention Catherine Marshall and that she wrote for Guideposts, too. I read her book CHRISTY years ago and found it very spiritual, very moving. There was a series based on that book, but I did not care for it: the writers introduced a lot of soap-opera-ish elements in it that undercut that spiritual element.
I believe that the two worlds are more interconnected than we realize — that those who loved us in this life, love us still and find ways to be with us.
Love you, too, and sie gesundht, as my grandmother used to say.
Catherine Marshall wrote three books after her first husband, Peter Marshall, died that have left deep imprints on my life. They are non-fiction, 1. Beyond Ourselves, 2. To Live Again, 3. Something more. I bought them and read them so often and highlighted them in red, yellow, blue, green, whatever colour that I hadn’t used to indicate that my eyes had opened to a principle that I had not seen before. Her first fictional book was Christy and her second book is called Julie. I started reading Julie and have never finished it. I don’t know why, but it didn’t draw me in as Christy did. Christy was a fantastic book.
I am glad that I wasn’t in the States to see the television adaptation of Christy. I am one of those people that thinks a film adaptation can never take the place of actual book and how the story is told. So, I stay away from a lot of movies because I have read the book and the descriptions from the book are so clear in my mind, that I am often disappointed when I see the film.
C. Marshall second husband was Leonard Lesourd. He had three children and she helped raised them. Lesourd was one of the senior editors of Guidepost Magazine.
Peter Marshall, her first husband was a Scottish and I must admit I am partial to Scots because I have some Scottish genes in me. When I visit Scotland, I feel at home, like I’ve returned to my roots.
Just wanted to share with you a little more about my relationship with Catherine Marshall. In fact, I have a letter that she wrote me personally. I had written to her about my own writing desires; that I knew writing was in me and she wrote me back a very encouraging letter, personally. Today we have computers, but back then I received a letter from her and I still have it.
Wishing you a nice day, Lady and thanks for the German. That is cute.
Thank you for all the additional information on Catherine Marshall, Patricia. I really didn’t know much about her, as CHRISTY was the only one of her books I ever read. And, FWIW, I just looked her up and found that we share the same birthday as well as a Guideposts connection.
I, too, dislike film/T. V. adaptations of books that I love. For me, there are only a few that come close to the books that they’re based on: “Watership Down,” “Pride & Prejudice” (the BBC version), “The Age of Innocence,” and “Possession.” In the case of “Christy,” the writers played the-doctor’s-wife’s-not-really-dead card so that they could have her appear and mess things up just as he and Christy were about to marry. That, of course, spoiled an important part of the book — namely, that he had lost his faith because of his wife’s death.
I think it is wonderful that Catherine Marshall wrote and encouraged you. What a treasure.
What a beautiful and yet sad story. It made me shudder a bit, and I got the urge to send my husband a message after that. Beautifully written and so poignant.
True, Celine. I will pass along your comment to T.J. I think it will mean a lot to her.
Thanks for coming by.
I am glad that my story touched a chord, Celine. The ties that bind us are such mysterious things.
My dear Tammy, I have no doubts as I’m sure you are aware. What a beautiful, soulful, loving experience. I know they visit us from the other side. The picture of Tim gave me the most calm, spiritual feeling. You wrote this experience so well, that words escape me. Thank you for sharing your love story.
I have forwarded your comment to T.J., Marsha. Well-put. I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks!
I know, Marsha. Your comment about Tim’s photo moved me. It’s one of my favorite photos of him — his intelligence and quicksilver personality really shine through in it.
I’m glad that you shared my story, Samantha. Thank you — I hope it helps others who are grieving.
Yes, it does, T.J. Plus, it’s comforting to know that we are not alone. It confirms what we think we see or feel, that presence of the other who has passed. This phenomenon intrigues me, and I’d like to explore it more. Additionally, this is simply extraordinary writing. If all three of my readers see it, hopefully that will help a very deserving writer. 🙂
This is a lovely and endearing story. I had posted on Tammy’s Sketch People site as well.
Yes, I saw your post on T.J.’s blog, Gwynn. I posted a comment right after you. I could not resist reposting T.J.’s story here. It is so poignant, true and beautifully written.
Thanks. I know T.J. will appreciate your compliment here.
What can I say, Gwynn, other than thank you for understanding (no pun intended) the spirit of this story?