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Signs of Life After Death

It’s difficult to write about all that occurred after Riley passed away. I struggle with what to share. I’m just a regular person who had extraordinary things happen to them.

I would have considered myself an agnostic before this, sometimes moving into the atheist category. I grew up going to the Church of Christ as a child until we moved to Florida and we became Presbyterians. I never related to all of the fire and brimstone of the Church of Christ. I was told they thought dancing was a sin. Considering dance was my favorite pastime, I had a serious problem with this concept. But as an adult, I rejected organized religion altogether. I saw no place for it in my life. I still felt like a spiritual person who was open to a connection to something beyond what we can see and prove, but it wasn’t until Riley started sending me signs that I woke up to a full understanding that there is life after death and there is more to life than we can see, understand or confirm.

At first, I was hesitant to believe what was happening was even possible, but over time, I could not avoid the reality and truth that was staring me in the face. After a while I started to keep journals documenting all of the ways Riley communicated with me for the first year after he was gone. I will share but a few of my entries here to give you a sense of some of what I experienced.

Just about everyone I have spoken with since then who has lost a loved one describes some sort of signs that come to them regularly that they believe are sent by their loved ones from beyond (or they wonder if they are). Most people tell me about signs that come to them through nature. Millions of people have had these experiences. It’s time to start accepting that there are other ways of knowing and connecting with our loved ones and ancestors after they cross over. I can’t prove it to you, but I know it’s true. Just like you might believe in a God. It can’t be proven, but you believe. I believe, and it has enriched my life immeasurably.

I’m sharing my story for those who have lost a loved one and who are experiencing some out of the ordinary things. I want you to know that it’s perfectly normal. You aren’t crazy and you aren’t alone. Many people are not likely to share what they are experiencing with anyone as they think they won’t be believed or they will be judged. I hope by telling my story, I can help others honor the truth of their experiences so they can gain solace from them.

Some excerpts from my journal entries from 2010:

June 2010

At the burial service, just as it was about to start, a bird started singing in the trees. It was a beautiful song. I almost stopped the service and pointed the bird out, but didn’t. I thought to myself that it was Riley…in the form of a bird….singing to us that he was ok.

We came home from the burial and my sisters drove my mom up to the back gate so she could walk in from there avoiding the stairs at my entranceway. There was a garter snake by my mom’s door of the car. It was lifting its head, looking up at her door. Riley knew how terrified me and my mom are of snakes. I threw a stick at it and it didn’t move. So I threw another stick at it and that snake jumped in the air, turned 180 degrees and came slithering after me. I ran screaming down my hill. My mom laughed later saying, “Riley is laughing his head off about that one.”

Then I saw Shelley (my former sister-in-law) at the church before the memorial service. She said she heard about our snake encounter and that her mother believed all her life that snakes were significant in passing from human form to the other side. She said the day her mother died (and Shelley didn’t even know she was sick), two snakes appeared by her car. She didn’t know if I believed in that sort of thing, but she thought it was a sign.

Then I went the day after the service to thank the church minister for loaning us the church for Riley’s memorial service and Green Day was playing on his computer the whole time I spoke with him. Green Day was Riley’s favorite band. We played two Green Day songs at his memorial service. Riley was reaching out to us. I believe that.

June 2010

I was looking back from where I sat above Riley’s grave at the mockingbird that sings to me from the tree there. Seems like each time I visit the cemetery that bird flies to the same tree and sings to me. Something caught my eye and I turned back and a gopher ran right in front of me across Riley’s grave. It ran under my car, came out and looked at me, then ran out from under the car and down the hill. I believe Riley is showing himself to me through nature.

July 18, 2010

A mourning dove flew alongside my car as I drove into the cemetery this morning. As I was leaving the cemetery, the same dove flew alongside my car, almost into the window that was down, to get my attention. I stopped the car and it flapped its wings in place then flew across the path of my car into the tree.

July 21, 2010

When I was in Ocean City with a friend and Shelby, I bought a bracelet on the boardwalk with butterflies which had flown close to us on the beach there. A few weeks later, while I was doing yard work, I lost the bracelet. I searched all over the yard, but knew it could be anywhere in my yard. I never found it. Last night in the middle of the night I woke up. I saw on the wall in my room a bright light shining on the wall, like a slide projector light. Inside the square of light was a colorful butterfly. It looked like the butterfly from my bracelet. As I became more awake and aware of my surroundings, I thought…where is that light coming from? Then it faded away as I became fully alert. So I was now in tune that butterflies were significant today. I told Shelby about what I saw and that the butterfly looked like the one on my bracelet. I was working in the yard all morning and dragging brush to the back corner of my property. I passed that way about four times and there was nothing there. Then on the 5th time, I saw my bracelet with the butterfly which I had lost weeks before. It was sitting on the ground right in front of me. I started to cry because I knew Riley was communicating with me. A butterfly later flew all around me. Riley is with me.

July 26, 2010

I was driving to meet friends for dinner. I was thinking about Compassionate Friends (a support group for people who have lost a child) and how they too believe in communication with the other side. I thought there are probably millions of people who believe in this. At that very moment, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day (played at Riley’s memorial service) came on the radio. I hadn’t heard that song since the service. I was so overwhelmed that I had to pull over and cry. Riley is with me. He is here with me every day.

August 10, 2010

I go and sit out in the English garden often. I try to go each day. It is there where I feel closest to nature and at peace and close to Riley. Tonight when I arrived, this dragonfly went nuts, flying all around. It kept flying in a straight line right at me over and over again and would turn off just before reaching me. Once when I lost sight of it, I looked to my left and there it was flying in place. Then it flew right in front of me and flew in place…as though…to give me a better look at it and then flew to the left and flew in place again. Was amazing.

August 20, 2010

Two nights ago I dreamed Riley and I were sitting in the living room having a conversation. He told me that he was O.K., that he had friends, that he spent time with grandpa who “helped him move the furniture in.”

Last night I opened my eyes in the middle of the night and saw floating in the room a jumble of colors. There were all different colors mixed in a ball. Each color was made up of small colored balls. It just floated in the air above my bed. Then it was gone.

August 26, 2010

I woke up last night and I saw an angel with wings floating over my bed.

August 29, 2010

When I got home I sat in my garden. A dragonfly came and sat on a branch for a long time. I chatted with the dragonfly for a while.

Later I sat in the yard again. Birds flew, squirrels walked foraging by…all from afar. A bird flew to a nearby limb. I thought, “I need love and support” and the bird flew right to me and into the little tree I was sitting under. It looked right at me and flew away. “Thank you Riley.” Just then, another bird I hadn’t seen before with lots of brown flew right near me. Then a hummingbird flew nearby, stopped and flew in place a few seconds and took off. I was thankful for these signs of love.

August 31, 2010

I was at the US Open in the fourth row on center court with my friend Steve. The match was about to begin. And there on the court, right by all the photographers was a butterfly fluttering along…and it was gone. I didn’t see it fly away…it was just gone. I did not see one bug or butterfly or bird the rest of the match.

During the match, it turned out that we were in the wrong seats. When we moved to the right seats, I sat down and there in front of me was the word “Believe.” The woman in front of me had a tattoo just below her neck on her back and her hair was up in a ponytail so I could see this message.

It was very late and I was on the train back home…caught the 1:06 am out of Grand Central to get my car which I had left back in Mt. Kisco. It was now 2:00 am and I was so tired from the three hour journey back from the Open. I thought to myself as I was driving home, I can see how people fall asleep while they’re driving….I’m so sleepy…I hope I can stay awake. Just then, up ahead I saw something on the road. It was a huge box and I was startled and had to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting it. Riley was protecting me. He didn’t want me to fall asleep. He put that box in my way. ”Thank you.”

September 7, 2010

Tonight, I looked out my window and saw that huge dragonfly in my garden area where I sit each day. I ran outside and I swear when I was coming near the garden I stopped to see what the dragonfly would do. I couldn’t believe it. The dragonfly flew to a spot in the shrubs where I could see it and it stared right at me, flying in place, as though saying, “come on!”

So I went in the garden and the dragonfly flew all over up and down amuck, often flying right at me and then running off. I asked it to slow down and it flew slower for a while. I said, “get over here” and it sped like lightning across the yard over to me. Riley was inside that dragonfly. I have never been more sure of anything in my life.

I spoke to him and told him I wished he could have started school today. I knew his friends were thinking of him. He should have started 8th grade. Then I thought who needs school when you can fly like that? It must be so cool to fly like that.

September 9, 2010

I went outside to my garden. As I was approaching, I saw my dragonfly flying back and forth waiting for me. I stopped again to see what would happen and it flew towards me out of the garden, did a loop to loop and flew off. I went and sat down. It came back briefly to say hello and flew off again. I asked him to come back and then a little bird landed in the shrub next to me and started singing loudly, followed by another bird. A hawk flew in the sky. One of the birds flew into the tree next to me. A blue jay flew in right at me and then across to a tree. Three very small butterflies flew around the garden. An ant crawled on me. An aphid then crawled on me. The weather is turning colder. I wondered if my lesson today was that Riley can be seen in all living things…not just that dragonfly or in butterflies. He is all around me. I wonder if this lesson is to help prepare me for the long cold days to come when the butterflies and dragonflies are no longer around. He wants me to know that he’ll still be with me. Where there is life, there is love. And there is Riley.

September 10, 2010

I woke up in the middle of the night and heard something I couldn’t identify, but sounded like a party going on in Riley’s room. When I was fully awake it faded to silence and I went back to sleep.

September 20, 2010

I was at the top of the stairs and it sounded like light footsteps creeping up four steps. I then felt a rush of warmth and energy wash over me. Riley was there. I felt him!

September 22, 2010

As I was waking up, a butterfly….the same butterfly that appeared in the light on my wall so many months ago…appeared in my head. I often see shapes and light and energy when my eyes are closed and I’m going to sleep. This time it was white light in the shape of that butterfly. No color…just the white shape of a butterfly.

September 30, 2010

Some random things that have happened recently,

Jeff and Shelby left the house. I was upstairs and I heard a squeaking noise. I went downstairs and the door to Riley’s room was closed (it’s always kept open).

Also, the door to Riley’s bathroom was closed and it was stuck and I really had to tug to pull it open (this door always remains open too and has never been difficult to open).

October 9, 2010

Light in the shape of wings flashed into my head as I was waking this morning.

[This is what I drew in my journal that morning, before heading to the church which I had never been to before for a friend’s wedding.]

So I go to the church for my colleague’s wedding in West Nyack and I’m sitting there waiting for the ceremony to begin and I look at the beautiful stained glass. And my heart stops because I see those exact wings in the stained glass….the same exact design I saw as I was waking up this morning. And there is a young boy angel above the wings. I took a picture to preserve this image. This was a vision of future events.

October 10, 2010

Went to the cemetery and my dragonfly was there. I thought to myself, “I feel like I’m going crazy sometimes.” As I left the cemetery I turned on the radio and the song “Crazy” by Celo Green was playing on the radio at the part where it goes, “Does that make my crazy?” Very funny!

October 12, 2010

I read a forward by Elie Wiesel (Holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning”) to a book entitled, “Remembering the Death of a Child.”

“…whoever survives the test whatever it may be, must tell the story, that is his duty.”


There is so much more that happened than what I’ve shared here. I’ll share more down the road, but I just wanted to give others who are grieving a sense of my experience and how Riley communicated with me, particularly in nature. These signs helped me heal and find peace.

You can imagine my delight and excitement when I reached the top of the ridgeline of my hike in Saguaro National Park the other day and saw a dragonfly, the first one I had seen since starting my National Park journey. I knew Riley had been with me since I started this journey. There are birds that fly around me in ways that I know his spirit is present. The dragonfly is his closest spirit animal though. The dragonfly flew back and forth right in front of me and I said, “Hey Riley, thank you for coming. It’s so great to see you,” and I cried, tears of joy and sorrow, all at once.

The desert symbolizes all of life, the desperation for water, the stability of just another hot and sunny day, the impossibility of surviving in this unforgiving place. All of the life before me lives and dies in this place. It is a delicate balance. Each plant and animal is interdependent on the others. As too are we humans.

The circle of life is so present here in the desert. And with Riley’s dragonfly visit, I am reminded that the circle is endless. Some of the petroglyphs I saw in the park today at Signal Hill were spiral symbols, the endless circle. The Native people who lived on this land hundreds and thousands of years ago understood this circle and left their mark. The circle continues forever. We are all part of that circle which continues on after we leave this plane. It has no ending. I am sure of it.


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