By Carolyn Rapp
My father, Oscar, loved big band music – swing music from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Of all the great bands of that era, his favorite was Les Brown and His Band of Renown. When he died at 82, his enthusiasm was as strong as it had been when he was a teenager.
Oscar was healthy and active, living in a retirement community in Florida, so I was shocked when I got the call saying he had died suddenly of a heart attack. He had just spent Christmas week at our house and now, five days later, he was gone.
For security the locks on his apartment were quickly changed and when my sister and I arrived we were given a new set of keys.
Over the next couple of days we met my father’s friends. His next-door-neighbor, Lois, was an especially helpful, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman. It wasn’t until three days had gone by that she said, “There’s something I want to tell you. Do you have a minute?”
We sat together sharing a cup of tea in my father’s apartment and she told this story:
“Your Dad and I were friends. Music friends. He’d come over to my place and I’d play the piano for him – the classical music that I like. Then I’d come over here and he’d put on his kind of music, you know – swing music.
Well, the morning after he died, I heard music coming from his apartment next door. I thought, ‘That can’t be.’ I knew they’d changed the locks and that you hadn’t gotten here yet. So nobody was supposed to be over there. I put my ear up against the wall and listened. For sure there was music coming from his apartment – one of those tunes he liked so much. So I walked down the hall and stood right in front of his door. The music was definitely coming from inside and it was loud! I tried the door but it was locked, so I went to my apartment and called security. Then I waited in the hall outside your Dad’s door.
In a couple of minutes, the security guard turned the corner and started down the hall, but when he got about two-thirds of the way – snap — just like that, the music stopped. The security guard never heard it.
Then he opened the door and we went in. Nobody was there. Everything was neat as a pin, just the way your dad kept it, in the living room and dining room, so we headed for the bedroom. There was a stack of magazines on the bed that your dad must have been reading. On top of the magazines were his glasses. But the lamps on both sides of the bed were on and the radio was playing softly. On the other side of the room the window was open although nothing on the desk below the window seemed to have been disturbed. Both of us were feeling that something strange was going on.
The guard said, ‘Maybe there’s an intruder,’ and he checked the closets. There was no one in the closets, so we went back in to the living room to make sure the patio door was locked. It was, so we went back to the bedroom to close the window and turn off the lights and radio. When we got there, the glasses were not on top of the magazines anymore. They were on the floor, but not next to the bed where they might have been if they’d just slipped off. They were out in the hall – a good 8 feet away from the bed. The guard looked at me. I looked at him. A shiver went through both of us. He said, “You saw it and I saw it, but if I write this up in a report, they’ll think I’m crazy and they’ll fire me.’ So he didn’t. But I believe your father was here in this apartment just as sure as you and I are sitting here right now. You know, he left so fast that I think he came back just to let us know he’s OK.”
I liked that story. It made me feel good, and it made me laugh. Who but my father would come back just to hear one last Les Brown tune! We had a memorial service the next day – and my father didn’t show up. No tricks, no music, no flickering lights. During the next week I sent letters to his friends to let them know he had died. About a week later, I got a letter back from his dear friends, a couple named Deen and Darcy, who also loved big band music. Darcy told me how much my father had meant to them and then she wrote,
“This is going to sound terribly spooky. Sometime in early January, I had this fleeting thought pass through my mind that Oscar had died. I never mentioned it because when I have those ‘premonitions,’ people think I am nuts. A few days later, maybe January 4 or 5, Deen and I were out and when we came back our telephone message machine was blinking. We played the message, but it was nothing but music – big band music. We both thought, ‘Oscar,’ but then we thought he woudn’t leave just music with no message. Still, none of our other friends like or own that kind of music, so we were puzzled. Then your letter came – and we wonder if the music might have been your Dad’s spirit saying goodby to us.”
I’m sure it was, and I hoped that he would visit me too. But no luck. A friend suggested that I read HELLO FROM HEAVEN whose authors, Bill and Judy Guggenheim, interviewed hundreds of people who had experiences with after death communications (ADCs). After reading it, I talked openly about my father’s “visit”. While a few people thought I was crazy, most were intrigued by the possibility and there were a least half a dozen who eagerly recounted their own stories of visits from loved ones – stories of hope and comfort and love.
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Carolyn Rapp is a writer and storyteller who lives in McLean, Virginia. She is now writing a memoir for her children which will include this story with the hope that they will stay open to the many possibilities of life.
She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org