OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause I am a woman of faith, I believe that a person’s spirit lives on after the body dies. My belief was reinforced five years ago when I was still a fairly inexperienced speaker.

I was preparing for a presentation in Visalia, California. Two days before the event I decided I needed to make some major changes to my presentation. I worked all day and late into the evening the day before I left. I made additional changes to my PowerPoint slides on the plane, and after I arrived at the hotel, I continued to edit and tweak until midnight.

I tossed and turned all night. I woke up every hour on the hour worrying about whether I’d gotten it right. At 5:00 a.m. I found myself standing in front of the breakfast buffet at the hotel. I decided to fix a piece of toast. When it popped up I put it in a bowl, and then I looked at it and thought, “That’s stupid. No one puts toast in a bowl.”

In an attempt to salvage my mistake, I poured milk over it, thinking I could make milk toast. I decided that was a bad idea, so I added some corn flakes. Then I had a real mess. I was really upset and I started berating myself by saying things like, “You can’t get anything right! You are messing everything up! You can’t even organize a bowl of cereal, how do you think you are going to pull off a full-day presentation?”

As I was standing there beating myself up, I sensed the presence of someone else in the room. When I looked up, I saw a woman standing at the entry. I gasped and said, “Oh, my goodness! You look like my mother!”

She smiled at me, and I cried out, “Oh, Mama! It is you!” I ran over to her and put my arms around her. I started rubbing the hump around her shoulders and I said, “How’s your back?”

She laughed and said, “I don’t have a back!”

I exclaimed, “Of course you don’t!” and we both howled with laughter. We laughed so hard tears rolled down our cheeks and we couldn’t catch our breath.

And then I woke up.

The obvious explanation is that I had a dream. I don’t doubt that. I was in the bed in my room when I had that encounter with Mom. At the same time, I am one-hundred percent certain that part of my experience was real. I know I saw the love of God on my mother’s face that morning. Her smile was absolutely radiant. In her expression I saw boundless joy, absolute peace and unconditional love. I believe with all my heart that she had come to give me reassurance, to encourage me, and to tell me to lighten up.

My friend Hazel lost her husband suddenly and unexpectedly 15 years ago. Recently, she was faced with a major life crisis. She went to her bedroom, sat on the side of the bed and yelled, “Damn you, Roy! Why did you die and leave me alone to figure all of this out! I need you now more than ever, and you’re not here! I am so angry with you!”

That’s when she caught a whiff of Roy’s aftershave. He didn’t appear to her. She didn’t hear him say anything, but she knew he was with her.

Life beyond death is one of our unknowable mysteries. I don’t understand it, and I can’t explain how any of it works, but I am absolutely certain that love is eternal.

We must remember that we are all mortal. Death is part of the plan. It’s hard to accept, adapt and adjust to losing someone we love, but if we can believe that the life we are living right now is only the beginning, it may be easier to keep on going when a loved one dies.