Grief and the Handkerchief: Feeling the Deceased Presence


BY: Diane Snyder Cowan
CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

April was a difficult month for me in my grief journey. It’s been five months since my dad passed away, but I’ve been too busy to really let my guard down and feel my feelings. And so when April arrived with my wedding anniversary and holidays, my dad’s absence was palpable. Then suddenly, my parents’ winter home sold after being on the market for two years. Did my dad have something to do with that? I’m not sure, but I was elected to go pack up. I thought this would be a memorable experience with my mom, but at the very last moment something unexpected happened and she couldn’t travel.

With trepidation and excitement, I went off to Florida. My goal was to feel my dad’s presence. Since his death, I haven’t felt it. In my work in the bereavement center, I hear so many stories from grieving people telling how they can feel their deceased loved one’s presence and what a comfort it brings. My mom feels it. I don’t.

So that was my goal – as if you can plan for that type of thing. I told myself to be open and it would happen. And it had to happen in the three days I was there.

The flight was fine. The car was ready. UPS was reserved. The donation site was ready for pick up and trash needed to go out that first night. I began working as soon as I arrived. No feelings. After several hours, I finally went into my parent’s bedroom and announced ‘I’m here.’ No feelings. I emptied all the clothes out of the closets. No feelings. I saw an old brown cardigan that my dad wore many times. Nostalgia, I decided. No feelings of dad.

One morning, as I was fighting with the king-sized mattress to remove the dust ruffle, I noticed some garbage under my dad’s side of the bed…a stray sock, some Kleenex. I made a mental note to check under the bed in the guest room where I was spending most of my time as I was uncomfortable dressing and changing in my parents’ bedroom. The mental reminder quickly escaped me.

Over the next two days I packed, I tossed and I waited for pick-ups. I took several walks. I talked out loud to my dad. I sobbed. I wept. Yet I did not feel his presence. And I was getting a little annoyed.

The last morning, as I was putting on make-up in the guest bedroom, I dropped something on the floor. When I bent down to pick it up I remembered that I needed to check under the bed. And there it was. Underneath the bed was a single white handkerchief.  After I caught my breath, I clutched it to my chest, smiled and promptly put it in my carry-on. No feelings of presence, just a little note to let me know he was there.

After thanking the apartment for many wonderful years and blessing it for the new residents, I left with my heart filled with memories and a token of my father’s love.

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