by Ann Goffe
My son Daniel was a walking enigma, a charismatic bundle of contradictions. He lived his life with the sensitivity of an angel and the self-destructiveness of a demon. By his early teens he was diagnosed with bi-polar and anxiety disorders, ADD (attention deficit disorder), and alcohol dependency. By his late teens, he was a high school dropout and an opiate addict. To the world he bore all the trappings of failure. But to his close-knit, far-flung friends he was a legend and a star, an irreplaceable, unforgettable friend.
Daniel died from a drug overdose on the night of June 21, 2011. If it was before midnight, he left on the last day of spring. If it was in the early hours, it was the first day of summer. Either one feels appropriate and poignant. He was 23 years old.
On a flawless July evening we gathered, 200 strong, in a neighborhood garden to say goodbye. There was great sadness but another feeling quietly engulfed the group. The evening lit up, vibrating softly in a gentle explosion of love. I listened as Daniel’s friends paid tribute to his person and the way he touched their lives. He appeared more like a local super hero than an addict and chronic underachiever. The roles should be mutually exclusive but Danny, true to his paradoxical nature, had played both with ease.
After the memorial I began to meet regularly with Daniel’s friends to share memories. Each one cherished tales of hilarity, bravado, tenderness and caring. Daniel was a spellbinder, a 21st century pied piper…. he beckoned some childlike part of ourselves, a buried, joy-starved spirit that loves each other and life. The fierceness of Daniel’s addiction had been matched by the fierceness of his ability to love. His love had inspired his friends to feel uniquely loved, to be their best selves, to live their dreams.
Our reflections into Daniel’s past were suddenly and dramatically shifted to Daniel in the here and now. Members of our gathering, including me, reported a gathering storm of strange encounters, elusive but compelling, unbelievable but undeniable, which persuaded us that Daniel was with us in the moment. He declared his presence, and his ability to intervene – to reassure, tease, protect and make you feel your dreams. Just as he had always done. The only reasonable explanation was para normal.
When in doubt – Google, and I discovered the phenomenon of After Death Communication. An ADC is a communication from the departed loved one without the use of psychic mediums, or devices. They are known universally and millions of Americans have reported ADC events. They can be distinguished from average circumstance by the timing and context, the uncharacteristic behavior of the creature, and by the receiver’s sudden association to the departed.
ADCs are most common in butterflies and birds but can also come from the skies in rainbows, shooting stars, sunbeams and sunsets. In another kind of ADC, there is a manipulation of electrical energy causing interference with electronics and appliances.
I marveled at these small miracles which bring so much comfort and assurance. Little did I know, Danny planned to use all of the above symbols, and add a few tricks of his own.
Danny’s ADCs felt like an invitation to step further into this new world of friendly wildlife, and stunning skyscapes. I consulted a psychic medium and through Donna Daniel became a messenger, a go-between two worlds, making experiences of the new world tangible and real for those in his old world. He reached across the living dead divide to offer us the assurance of things to come, to show that neither time nor space can conquer love. That in the end love is all that matters.
On the anniversary of Daniel’s passing we gathered by the river, his band of wounded pilgrims, to say goodbye again.
I looked at the young people around me, and it came to me that what had kept me going for the past year was love. Love, as I listened to Daniel’s friends time and again, with wonder, tears and joy, revisit their lives with Danny. Love, as this re-living brought Danny’s energy, his impossible, irresistible, lovable and loving self, into the room. Love, as each time the gathering lifted my spirits from sadness to celebration. Love had shown itself more powerful than grief, more permanent than life. In the end, love is all that matters.
I addressed the gathering:
“Most of you know that over the past year I have been talking to a psychic medium called DonnaD. Through her, Daniel has sent many messages and I have shared most of them with you. There is a special one for today. I quote Daniel:”
‘I appreciate the gatherings you have for me. They make me know I am remembered. Now I am using my power and my talents to help other people in heaven. I will help you too. I will never leave you. I will be like an Angel on your shoulders, for inspiration and guidance (and to stop you doing foolish things like driving drunk). You must live your live lives, be who you are”.
We launched Daniel’s ashes from the river bank in a small vessel made of Jamaican wood. His sister made sure it didn’t crash. Then we watched him sail away into his new life, and held him close in our broken hearts.
Sometimes the pull of the undertow is very strong, and yes, sometimes I do go under. I will visit this netherworld of grief, I have no choice; such is the inevitability of loving and losing. I will visit, but I will not dwell there. In the spirit of a poet unknown
I will look at this world for the both of us.
As long as I can I will laugh with the birds,
I will sing with the flowers,
I will pray to the stars,
For the both of us.
And this will be no cold or broken hallelujah. For if the Beatles are right and in the end the love we take is equal to the love we make, then on the 21st day of June, 2011, Daniel was born a Prince. Joyous, light and free at last, already rich in the currency of the New Kingdom.
I am considered a person of reasonably sound mind and conscience, and certainly a credible witness. My experience of Daniel’s death and afterlife invited me, my friends, and now my readers to take a leap into a world where the usual markers don’t count. There has been an ongoing debate between my inner Skeptic and my inner Believer. Throughout this dialogue I have asked myself a recurring question:
Why when we profess belief in an after life, do we feel fearful or crazy when we see signs of it?
I leave that for each person to answer in their own way. I do not seek to convert for Daniel’s life was not an example. It was a roller coaster ride of sadness and joy, heartache and solace, laughter, tears, tumult and rest. His life was, and continues in his afterlife to be, simply a love story: a tribute to the power of love that offers even ultimate human tragedies a softer landing, the possibility of a happy ending.
About the Author: Ann Goffe has a colorful career past as a community organizer, small business entrepreneur, and natural health counselor in her native Jamaica. She has also lived in the Eastern Caribbean and the United States, settling in Philadelphia where she practices psychoanalysis and life coaching Ann is the founder and director of the Trickster and the Prize, a workshop which represents the author’s ten-year quest to find the meaning of, and the means to, well-being. Her work, which is based on research in psychology, folklore, and religion, on her clinical observations, and a relentless self-inventory, presents a new and hopeful answer to an old question: why do we human beings, in spite of our best intentions and strongest desire, fail to keep our word to do our best and make our dreams come true? In 2011 Ann’s younger son, Daniel, died at the age of 23 of a drug over dose. His death heralded a series of extra ordinary events, unbelievable yet undeniable, that rang with a clarion call from Daniel: neither time nor space nor flesh, not even death can conquer love. And in the end love is all that matters. For the Love of Daniel is a tribute Daniel, written with the desire to share the good news.