My first experience with death was when I was five years old, and my grandmother passed away.
My main memory of her was visiting with her in her bedroom, where she was connected to a big oxygen tank. She loved to sit by a window and work on a needlepoint piece and look at the outside world. She was sweet and kind.
The oxygen tank left a ring on the floor which is visible to this day, a reminder that Grandma was there.
When she passed away, her body rested in a coffin in the living room for a few days. I asked my daddy to hold me up so I could see her. I was struck with how peaceful and pretty she looked, and I reached out to touch her hair.
Years later, after becoming a registered nurse, I remember standing at the bedside of a patient who was soon to pass away. I held his hand and realized that even though his eyes were open, he was seeing beyond this life. As he took his last breath, I was overcome by the feeling that he was not dead. Everything that made him who he was had gone somewhere else. The hand that I was holding was part of the "empty house" where he had resided for 87 years.
When my dad passed away, I continued to feel his presence for weeks.
One day while driving my car, I felt his presence so strongly that I pulled off the road and asked him for a sign that he was still present. All of a sudden, an owl flew right in front of my car! Now when I hear an owl hooting, I whisper to myself, "hello, Daddy!"
I firmly believe that loved ones who pass away are close by - maybe in the next room. They are gone to us, the living, but they are somewhere else.