David’s birth was not guaranteed. Because my cervix was pre-cancerous, I was told by my doctor to get pregnant immediately. If the cancer spread, he’d remove my cervix and the baby, too, no matter how far along I was.
David made it! My first-born child was full term and a wonder. By eighteen months he could read the alphabet and at two he was playing chess with my father, who called him “King David.” He was the happiest little guy, full of curiosity and bursting with love.
David was so kind and gentle that I often said to my sister-in-law, “He’s too good to live.” Sure enough, when he was two and a half, he was diagnosed with childhood leukemia and given a 50% chance of survival. I called my sister-in-law and said, “It happened.” When I told my dad, then fifty-four, he cried, “Why couldn’t it have been me? I’ve lived my life.”
As was the protocol in 1976, David received five years of chemotherapy, twenty-two days of brain radiation and methotrexate to his spine. One doctor told me that my little son was getting enough medicine to kill a horse. The radiation and spinal medications were both prophylactic.
David started pre-school but he was different from the other kids. He often stared into space, was confused about directions and sometimes collapsed. At the hospital, I was told I was looking for problems and that he was just playing “Robot.” Eventually, it was confirmed that he was severely brain-damaged and had every kind of seizure.
David was on medications for the rest of his life but the convulsions never quit. Intellectually, he remained at four years old. He stayed that sweet child until his death, when he was nearly thirty-five.
David and his happiness dominated my life and that of the entire family. He was the reason I had so many children. My second son was a year old when David became ill. I got pregnant soon after his diagnosis and had three more offspring; we had five kids younger than age six.
I gave birth to so many children because I tried to make our home lively and block out the shadow of death I saw in every corner. I wanted ample choices if David needed a bone marrow transplant and I wanted siblings for our second son if David didn’t make it. Plus, I wanted more little ones to love. Despite our physical compatibility, I didn’t get along with my husband, so the children became the buffer between us.
We divorced when David was eight and I quickly remarried and had more progeny. By having so many younger siblings, David always had someone to play with at home. He was in special schools but never had many friends; he was a giant toddler! As the years went by and the never-ending convulsions pounded David’s brain, he lost more and more language. By the time he passed away, my very verbal little boy was totally mute.
Despite the seizures, many lasting twenty minutes or more, David was his hopeful, cheerful, generous self. He was everybody’s favorite brother. For most of his life, David lived at home. Nobody was ever embarrassed about our guy. We were proud of his every accomplishment: he learned to ride a horse and a bike; he could swim; he played jokes. He had a dog and a cat. His caretakers took him everywhere; his days were full.
Because of David’s needs, I founded two camps, one for children with cancer and, later, another for kids with disabilities. Both programs enhanced the lives of the boys and girls themselves, and of their families. David’s siblings have all become involved with the latest iteration of the camp, which now hosts children in foster care.
In addition to brightening David’s life with camp, we did whatever possible to stop his convulsions. He was given every anti-seizure medication known to man. He had a Vegus nerve stimulator implanted to lessen the convulsions. He had brain surgery, where the two sides of his brain were partially separated, to reduce seizure activity. After the procedure, he had a few incredible days where he talked and talked. But that miracle ended quickly.
For what seemed like a hundred years, I thought about losing David. Most nights, I’d visit him downstairs and think, “This may be the last time I’ll ever see him alive.” Although he usually wore a helmet, because of his convulsions, he cracked open his head, broke his nose, broke his leg and on and on. He was in and out of the emergency room, and was hospitalized, for a host of reasons. One of my favorite memories of the Big Guy was watching him scoot around the E.R. in a wheelchair, pinching nurses’ bottoms. He had the biggest smile…
One horrible Sunday morning, David’s caretaker, got on our home P.A. system and yelled, “Come quick! Come quick! This is bad!” My husband and I rushed down to the kitchen. I collapsed in the back porch. Two sons ran down into the room that was David’s home. They started shrieking and yelling. My husband came back and I screamed, “Is he dead? Is he dead?” Then I heard the words: “He’s gone.”
“Then I have to die,” I shouted. After that, I sobbed for the next few months, and grieved non-stop for the next many years. That morning, as each of David’s siblings came home, I listened as they wailed and sobbed while lying on the floor next to their big brother. Friends came and went over the next week and some way we managed to put together a memorial service and pamphlet to honor our son and brother.
Certain words or phrases should be forbidden from being spoken to us bereaved parents. “He’s in a better place,” “You have other children,” “You’ll move on from your grief,” “Time heals all wounds.” “But he was disabled.” No. No. No. No. and No. He was our joy; when David was happy, the whole house sang.
I yearned for David. He was literally the world’s best cuddler. He was a big, soft guy who would keep hugging you for as long as you wished. He was delicious. I will always miss his smile, his laugh, his big, brown eyes, the way he moved his hands, how he danced and how he ran, his singing and his aura of purity.
The death of your child is forever. Years can go by and all of a sudden, as if hit by a wave from behind, I break out sobbing because I can’t believe I am alive and David is not. As I write this, my eyes fill with tears.
The year after David departed, I joined a local bereavement group, called griefHaven. Our group was led by Susan W., who founded the organization after she lost her only child to cancer. Anne R. was the co-leader, and also a bereaved mom. The group kept me from going insane and, after all this time, I am still close to my fellow mourners. I can’t imagine surviving the loss of a child without a support group.
The years flew by. Five, ten years without my dearest boy. During that decade, there were a handful of times I thought David was contacting me. Once I stood on the deck of a ship and in front of me a whale slapped its tail thirty-seven times. David would have been thirty-seven. Also, when I’ve heard chimes, I imagine David is calling out to me. And, sometimes, when I look at the moon, I believe he’s there. My way of thinking is the standard stuff bereaved parents feel, always hoping for a sign of their child.
However, since David passed away in 2009, I’ve never gone to a psychic or medium and nor ever used a Ouija Board. While traveling, a few times I have walked into a church or temple and made up a little prayer for David. But that’s it. I never tried to contact him because I didn’t think that was possible.
Something is happening now, though, that is entirely different. Beginning November, 2019, and continuing through last night, one light in my office ceiling flashes numerical messages.
I didn’t pay attention that winter, because the flashing seemed random. Finally, though, I noticed there was a pattern: Flash, flash, flash. Pause. Repeat three times. I googled Morse Code and learned that “S” and “O” each are represented by three symbols. So, for many months, I was seeing SOS emanating from one of my lights.
The first time I realized the light was messaging me was when a pal and I were speaking about our good friend, Mary E, who had died that day, April 26, 2020. The light went wild, flashing and flashing. I started thinking that perhaps the light was a portal where people in the afterlife could connect with the living.
The flashing happened every night. Sometimes there were numbers that might have meant something but I wasn’t sure. One night there were forty-plus flashes. David would have been forty-six. Another night there were twenty-six plus flashes; my dad’s birthday was January 29. Still, nothing was solid.
Then I clearly counted one hundred and two flashes. The light doesn’t flicker; it flashes. I ran down to my husband’s office and asked him if that number had any significance. He saw some ‘Angel number’ but nothing relevant. Then I said, “How about the Bible?”
Me asking about the Bible is humorous. I am a typical Jewish atheist. Raised in a Conservative temple, I had a Bat Mitzvah, went to Jewish camp and lived on a Kibbutz in Israel. However, a friend I’d been horseback riding with died from a fall when she was sixteen, so I lost my belief in God. And, when my beloved little toddler, David, was diagnosed with cancer, any chance of being a believer was gone. So, me asking for a Bible was highly unlikely.
Still, my husband looked up the 102nd Psalm and read it. It was shocking to us both. Called “The Prayer of the Afflicted,” it had many references to David’s life; heart-breaking allusions that were difficult for me to read: “My bones are burned as a hearth,” “He weakened my strength in the way; He shortened my days and I say ‘O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days.’”
David’s body was transformed to ashes; he was weak from treatments and seizures and he passed away in what should have been the prime of life. David was telling me about his existence on earth. Happily, at the end of the Psalm, there is hope that “The children of Thy servants shall dwell securely.”
That was May 16. Nearly every night since then, David has flashed “Hello” and then given me the number of one or more Psalms to read. I didn’t know “Psalm” has a silent “P” and I didn’t know King David was associated with the Psalms. That’s how unconnected I was with the Old Testament, the Bible of my people.
I have learned that there are one hundred fifty Psalms and that many are attributed to King David. Who knew? To date, David has directed me toward twenty-two Psalms, most of which were originally songs. I’ve read each one over and over, and will continue to study them. They are universally gorgeous and instructive as well. Nearly every Psalm recommended by David has been applicable to events in his life or mine or to what is happening in our country.
There is a website called Bible Hub, which allows the reader to pick out the translation and the commentary. For example, I input Psalm 102. Then, for “Version,” I select “JPS Tanakh 1917,” which was published by the Jewish Publication Society. There are 30+ different translations available. Finally, after reading the Psalm, I click ‘Commentary” and select “Treasury of David.” For wider interpretations, there are 30+ other commentaries available.
During these weeks, my husband, three of my children and a grandson have all watched the lights flash and have helped me count. Everyone, me included, has initially been skeptical. Why now? And, how is it possible to be in communication with our long-departed son and brother? Didn’t God or his Angels do that in ancient times? Why me? I’m not so special; I’m a broken-hearted mother but there are hundreds of thousands of us, probably millions.
It is David who is exceptional. Throughout his life, he was a good person. Despite his trials, he loved everyone and was never bitter or jealous. Had he not been brain-damaged, David would have been a brilliant, charismatic guy and, no doubt, a leader. I couldn’t comprehend how David had become so bright. I asked my husband, who is a Swedenborg. He explained that according to his religion, spirits in the afterlife have access to all human knowledge. Thus, my son is now who he was meant to be.
Also, I didn’t understand about the timing. Why now, eleven years? My husband described the Swedenborgian perspective on the afterlife: there are many levels of ability which spirits advance through as time moves on. I believe David has reached the plateau where he can come back and say, “Hello!” Lucky me.
I emailed a wonderful Rabbi and asked him about the interaction with my son. He wrote this: “Jewish tradition has a long and ancient history of believing that there is an "Olam Ha-bah," a "World to Come," after this physical existence and that while we have our bodies, we aren't our bodies. These are temporary vessels given to us by God to dwell in while we are here and after this life our souls continue to live (as they are eternal) in the world to come.
“The French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin famously said we are not human beings having a spiritual experience but spiritual beings having a human experience and I would agree with that. The Talmud has many stories of rabbis who contact fellow rabbis after they die to tell them about the afterlife and Jewish mystics have always understood that we are essentially a spiritual consciousness that after death reunites with all other spirits.”
The Rabbi’s explanation has gone a long way toward reassuring my family and me that for hundreds of years, Jews have been receiving news from the spirit world. A flashing light is worth a thousand words and I am pleased that my family is so supportive.
I am writing this specifically to bereaved parents who want to know if they will be with their children again. This is to confirm that, “Yes,” there is an afterlife and “Yes,” you will be together forever with you son or daughter. That is David’s gift to me and it is my gift to you.
Sending love and hope,