This Blog Page was originally an article, written a couple years ago, in honor of my father, Thomas E. Blackburn. (July 10, 1951 – November 13, 2007)
It’s that time of year again and the holidays are here. We will deck the halls, scurry around looking for just the right gifts, wrap presents, bake holiday goodies, and so much more. We do all of this in the anticipation of a celebration filled with family, friends, love, and joy.
During the holidays, we will think fondly of our families and friends, and of the memories we’ve shared with them. For many of us, this inevitably means, we will remember people we have lost. We will feel sorrow, because we miss our loved ones and wish they were still with us.
Losing someone you love during the holiday season can make an already painful situation feel worse. It is the time of year where most people make a conscious effort to live in harmony. Peace, love, and joy are at an all time high during the festive season. Yet, when you lose someone you love during the holiday season, that peace, love, and joy can dissolve into the worst pain, depression, and heartache you can imagine. It can feel as if the world played a very cruel joke.
My father passed away at age 56, after struggling with stage 4 lymphoma. We lost him during the holiday season. The season was filled with sad memories of a year full of severe suffering we witnessed, as my father was transformed from a strong, amazing man into a weakened state of total dependence on others.
My father served his country proudly, first in the U.S. Army, and then with the government for almost 40 years all together. He was a pillar in his community, and loved by all who knew him. He was known for his strength, leadership, patriotism, loyalty, and dedication. He touched the lives of so many.
Without my father’s presence, the holidays are changed forever. My younger brother would take over carving the turkey as the new head of the family with tears in his eyes. The proud grandpa would no longer be there to dress up as Santa for his grandchildren, or hold them while they opened their presents, and his. Our traditions were changed forever. Christmas was my father’s favorite holiday. His excitement was like that of a child, as he would always want us to open gifts from him early. Last year, for my family, the holidays did not feel right.
Soon after my father’s passing, my family adopted the butterfly as a symbol for my father. Every time one of us saw a butterfly, we said it was a sign to remind us of my father’s transformation into spirit. My father went through such a struggle with his cancer that by the end, his body was very much like a cocoon. Because the worst of his cancer was in his bones and in his hip, he lost the ability to walk, and became bed ridden pretty quickly. All of his lymph nodes filled up with fluid, causing his whole body to swell to more than double its true size. By the end, the cancer reached his brain, putting him in a coma.
I remember receiving messages the night before my father’s passing from my paternal grandfather (who passed away before my birth). He gave very clear instructions on what my mother and I needed to say, in order for my father to willingly move on to the other side. I did as my grandfather told me to do, and went to bed that night, knowing it was sure to happen soon, and that his father would be waiting for him to cross over.
I prayed to be with my father when he took his last breath. I asked months before the time came, and was given a message that I would be the one with him. The night before his passing, I was awakened many times by the sound of my father’s voice in the room simply saying, “I’m ready to be released.” He died only minutes after I got up early that morning to go check on him, and by chance, I was the only family member in the room when he took his last breath. Within seconds, the rest of the family was around, and my father was passing messages through me, as so many spirits have, “Tell your mother I love her, and tell your brother I’m proud of him.”
My father’s messages would continue through the holiday season. On Christmas, he thanked me for making the trip again, to spend the holiday with my mother. (My family is in Atlanta, Georgia, while I am in Jacksonville, Florida.) He started trying to tell me about the present he had hidden for my mother before I even left town to go there. I told my mother about it, and she did not believe me, stating that if there was a gift for her, she would have found it. He persisted until my mother, daughter, and I decided to look for it. When we found the gift he set aside, all three of us cried. We were shocked to realize that he had actually bought something and set it aside for my mother just after the holidays the year before. This timing would have been just before he was diagnosed with cancer. Now here he was, a year later, in spirit, telling me where to find my mother’s gift from him. It was a simple train station for my mother’s Christmas village, which he picked up after Christmas at a Hallmark store. That train station became a valued and cherished treasure to my mother as the gift he managed to give her after his passing. Yes, my father’s spirit still lived on. With child like anticipation, my father still wanted my mother to open her Christmas present from him. He was there, and he made sure we knew it.
He was truly released, and his spirit did emerge, transformed to beauty, just as the butterfly emerges from the cocoon.
When my father passed, his father was with him, and I am confident that when my time comes to emerge, my father will be there for me. As a medium, I know that spirit never dies. Our loved ones are always with us, watching over us during our weaknesses and strengths, good times and bad. I give messages to those who have lost their loved ones all the time. While the messages and background information can vary from one spirit to the next, one message remains a constant. They always want their family members to know that they will be with them, and watch over them. They have no pain, and they want us to be happy. Just as the love you feel for someone who has passed on does not die, neither do they. The spirit, the soul, the very essence of the one you loved lives forever.
As you remember your departed loved ones during the holidays, try not to think of the suffering they went through. Think of the new body they have in spirit. Remember them fondly, with love in your heart. Think of them simply, as a gloriously transformed butterfly.