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This story may seem like pure imagination, but it could reveal evidence of the connection between this life and the next.
Since the day my dad died, the feeling or intuition that he was close to me, somewhere, grew stronger and stronger. I felt the need to pray for him many times during the day. I began to read and reread the Baha’i writings about life after death. I imagined him in the other world, reuniting with his friends and family, immensely happy.
Dad was an honorable, just, and sensitive man. His profession as a journalist had allowed him to defend many victims of injustice. Doing the right thing often got him in trouble, but he would always face it with courage. He was not afraid of anything when it came to defending a just cause. For that reason, he had a difficult life on Earth, which is why, I thought, his life in heaven had to be wonderful.
My daughter always had a very special relationship with my father. More than his grandfather, he was her best friend. Perhaps that was why she dreamt about him every now and then. The Baha’i writings say that spiritual bonds endure beyond death, and I now firmly believe it. As long as we pray for the soul that has departed, that bond will remain strong.
My daughter is only 10-years-old, but the certainty in her voice when she told me the amazing dreams she had about her grandpa was exciting. Sometimes, she dreamt only of his face floating in the clouds, assuring her that he was immensely happy. Other times, she told me, "Mom, today I dreamed of my grandpa, but this time it was just a memory." How could she distinguish between a ‘real’ encounter with her grandfather in her dreams and her own imagination?
Are we really prepared to recognize what is real and what is imaginary?
Abdu'l-Baha, the son of the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, wrote: "When man’s soul is rarified and cleansed, spiritual links are established, and from these bonds sensations felt by the heart are produced...”
What does this mean? Do we need to have a pure heart to perceive the spiritual world? The Baha’i writings say that every child is born pure and noble; was my daughter’s pure heart what enabled her to perceive my father in her dreams? Why could I not dream about him?
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One day, months after Dad’s passing, I overheard my daughter from behind the door comforting her younger brother. She said to him, "I have to tell you something, little brother. Don't be sad. Grandpa is now very busy. Did you know that there are many children in heaven? Yes, little brother. And guess what? Grandpa is now their teacher."
From a very young age, my children attend spiritual classes for children organized by the Baha’i community. The teacher of these classes teaches virtues to children through stories, songs, and games, so listening to this conversation through the door left me shocked and very moved. I didn’t want to interrupt them, but I kept thinking about the spiritual worlds and what a great imagination my little girl had. I had never imagined my dad as a teacher of children's classes in the other world. Had my daughter dreamed it?
Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, once said that dreams often communicate visions of reality, “the purer and more free from prejudice and desire our hearts and minds become, the more likely is it that our dreams will convey reliable truth, then our dreams as well as our waking thoughts will become pure and true."
For a long time, I couldn’t remember my dreams. I also wanted to dream of Dad, and that longing grew over time until it occupied much of my days. I wanted to hug him once more, and for some reason, I felt that that was possible.
In his book “The Hidden Words,” Baha’u’llah wrote: "O Son of Spirit! My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.”
His first counsel was to possess a pure, kind, and radiant heart so that we could perceive or recognize spiritual truths, which was what I kept thinking about. Perhaps if I concentrated on purifying my heart from the things of the world, God would have mercy on me.
I spent months praying, meditating, supplicating. “A dream, Baha’u’llah. Allow me to have a dream!”
One morning at around 9 a.m., I was awakened by a voice I knew very well. We were at a conference for the weekend, surrounded by lots of vegetation. The day was sunny, but despite the tremendous light that slipped through the trees, I was shaking while I walked through classrooms following that voice. I started to open doors one after another. It was impossible! That voice was like my father's! But Dad was no longer here on earth, so whose voice was that? I crossed the hallway, opening door after door. “Is that you?” I heard myself saying. “Dad?” His voice felt closer and closer.
In the last room, I found a long table with a group of people sitting around it. He was explaining something, and the others listened attentively. None of them turned to see me or noticed my presence, except for him. When he saw me in the doorway, he stopped talking, looked at me, and got up from his chair. He had gained a little weight — although he had always been rather plump, he looked bigger. He was wearing the green short-sleeve shirt that he had always liked, the one he used to wear all the time.
I wanted to scream. How could this be? It was impossible! But my mouth wasn’t moving. I couldn’t hear my voice, but my heart was beating a thousand beats an hour.
"This is just my mortal version," he said. "We only have a few seconds."
If anyone could have seen me at that moment, I would have looked petrified, amazed, and confused, not understanding how I was able to see him and how he was able to respond to my thoughts.
Then I remembered my prayers and my supplications. I was dreaming! I ran through the classroom towards him, knowing what I had to do, like the 8-year-old girl who ran to receive him when he arrived home after work. I hugged him with all my strength, and his body felt very real. I was hugging Dad for real; it was a hug given here on Earth, of flesh and blood.
Then I started to have doubts. I was no longer sure if it was really a dream, but it was certainly a different reality. My body trembled, and my eyes opened wide. When I was little, I remembered, I would sometimes not let Dad go to work; I would hang onto him and force him to stay. I wanted him to read to me, or go on a walk with me, or to sit on his shoulders, and he would always stay with me. At that moment, as I hugged him, I understood that it was time to let him go.
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In a blink of an eye, I was back in my body. I sat up on the bed, fascinated, reliving every detail of the unforgettable seconds I felt God bestowed upon me as a gift. It was really just a few seconds, as my Dad had said. It reminds me of the words of the Bab, the forerunner of Baha’u’llah:
“Verily, God hath created the dream state in His servants that they may be assured of the existence of the worlds hereafter and the life everlasting. The life of this world and its changes and chances, after death, are even as a dream that one seeth; once the dreamer hath arisen, he will see only the effect of its interpretation.”
I am sure that this encounter with my father was granted to me by the grace and mercy of God. My father had personified his former existence for me to recognize him and had given me a final hug I had wanted for so long. Such a vivid dream is proof enough to me that death as we imagine it isn’t final, and that true life is eternal.