This is a tale of ancestors, angels, and spirit guides. This tale is about the manifestation of whatever lies on the other side into physical form in my world. Connecting the events is tricky. Let me introduce my mother, Artis Ann and her Papa. Artis Ann was Papa’s only child. This photograph was taken before he left for World War II. Four years and four amphibious landings later, he finally came home.
You see the day that Paris fell to the Nazis my grandfather took my grandmother on a country drive to let her know that he would be reenlisting. He said, “The world is ending, and I have to help save it.” My mother was his motivation. In almost every photograph of the two of them, you will see Papa looking her way.
I have no doubt he is sending physical manifestations to remind her today as she fights cancer. The reminders mean different things to each member of my family, for the messages are for all of us. This entry merely serves as the collection of some. From the way I see things, Papa sent three of his siblings to deliver a very specific item to my mom and my family.
All of these manifestations serve as reminders to her that there is an infinite supply of love waiting for her whenever her time comes to pass into the next realm. Stay with me as I try to weave together a tale of a plane crash, a needlepoint sampler, and a painting.
A Plane Crash
In September of last year, my brother received a letter in the mail inquiring if he was a relative of my uncle Perry, Papa’s baby brother. Perry was stateside after World War II, fulfilling a training mission when his B-24 “Liberator” crashed in a blizzard in the New Mexico wilderness. My mother would have been four years old at the time of his death two weeks before Christmas of 1943. Papa was in Italy.
(crash site near Mt. Taylor, NM)
Perry was the only airman on board that was married so when volunteers at the crash site recovered a wedding ring and some coins they decided that Perry must have been the bearer of this ring.
Tears well in my eyes, not thinking of a young groom and his widowed bride, but of the care a volunteer took to put on a glove to handle this priceless artifact of history. The care that was given not only to the crash site but to finding a member of the family to whom it could be returned humbles me deeply. As much as I am disgusted by the world sometimes, the universe truly amazes me at each turn.
A Needlepoint Sampler
A few months later, close to Christmas, my brothers and my mom were cleaning out her garage at the cabin on the Devil’s River. My middle brother found what I thought had been lost to moving numerous times. Papa’s younger sister, Caroline made this for me when I was eight. It had been at least twenty years since I had seen this heirloom designed for me.
I never met Papa or Perry, but I remember Caroline being the most wonderful great aunt. She spent hours upon hours to make beautiful things for me, a small child that she did not know well. And each year at Christmas I love opening my boxes to her sweet homemade ornaments.
Her needlework lay unprotected in a box in my mom’s garage where the heat easily reaches 110 in the height of summer. It is in perfect condition, reframed, and hanging in a special place in my bedroom.
And like clockwork, a few months later my mom was contacted by an art dealer in Seattle. Papa’s middle brother, Ward, was an artist in the Pacific Northwest. A painting had come up for auction, and while certainly not his most famous, it is by far my favorite. It is the type of painting where you could get lost in a corner and be transported to another thought or place.
(Ward Corley, 1949)
On the birthday of one of my mom’s best friends, who has previously passed into the next realm, this painting arrived. It cannot be coincidence that her friend Amy was also from the Pacific Northwest, specifically the Seattle area.
I can easily imagine scenarios of conversations between Amy and Papa. It is hard not to, but if I do that then I might miss the blessings of the present moment. There are so many blessings all around us. I am grateful to think that Papa loves his baby girl enough to send her sweet gifts every now and then. They are far better than the sticks of gum that she received in his letters home from World War II. Despite the distance of an ocean or the space between heaven and earth has always let her know that he loves her.
I hope she feels his love surround her each and every night that she falls asleep because I feel his love for her.
I never met Papa, but his love for family and country have deeply influenced me. He is the reason that I studied Art History and Italian at the University of Texas. He is the reason that I moved to Rome, close to Anzio, the most difficult of his amphibious landings. He is the reason I have an amazing mother.