Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Message From My Father Spirit Wrapped in Black Feathers

It was one year ago that my brother called me and told me of our father's passing. I was sitting in my office and clearly, my ears heard the words, but my brain wrapped them in a web to digest later. I had to get out...

As I sat in my car staring into space, a huge black crow flew through my field of vision and landed in a tree next to me. It squawked at me for what seemed several minutes… and then it flew away.

At moments like this, I can get a little superstitious. Some Native American cultures see crows as liaisons between this world and the next. They are viewed as guides that help the deceased cross over.

I would rather imagine that this was a message from my father's spirit than just a noisy bird who took a keen interest in me sitting in my car. It does not really matter if that is even logical or not… This life is full of mysteries and strange occurrences, and I do not need to know all the answers. Either way, it marked the moment vividly.

Celebrating death anniversaries may be a purely human endeavor. Other animals rarely look back at the end of someone else's life with pride, remorse or joy. Humans may be the only creature that can understand how the past, present and future glide seamlessly through one another changing our viewpoints along the way. 

What a child's parents experienced, may later be felt by the same child once grown. The only time I ever saw my Dad cry was when he told us that his father passed away. I understand more clearly what that moment was like for him now that I have felt the same sting.

"I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together." — John Lennon 

Whether this is what Mr. Lennon was exactly saying, it seems to support my view that these similar shared experiences as humans bind all people and cultures together. We all mark similar milestones in a lifetime, but not necessarily at the same rate or in the same way.


At that moment...the past came flooding back to me. All those lessons my Dad taught me, the secret talks and the shared dreams. Pulling me out of trouble and teaching me that the only way to do a job is "the right way". The last time I saw him... the last time we talked... I never knew that would be it.


One simple call made the present slip into the past as I realized that I would no longer be able to pick up the phone to call him.  I thought "I have to leave right now.... I have to change flight arrangements.... I have to plan what to do next.... I will grieve later.... too much to do..."


Keeping an eye to the future can help you cope with the present. During the week of the funeral, I kept myself as busy as possible, never letting my brain sit idle. After the funeral service was over, the walls came crashing down. There was no outrunning it any longer, and it was too painful to think about a future without his smile that was seemingly just for me, and his lovely voice of a southern gentleman. I have replayed messages from him just to hear it again.

My Dad's smile, captured by his granddaughter, Kristina


Charles Hughes never stopped moving during his life until his medical condition confined him. I believe his last 5 years were purchased with sheer stubbornness and willpower to stay at my Mom's side and raise his grandchildren. He was a man of boundless energy and creativity. He could be a mystery to those who loved him, hiding his true thoughts behind silence or sarcastic attempts at humor. He did not linger in the past, but decided to look ahead with the vision of what was important to him. I want to be like my father. If I see a crow, I will tell him this... just in case my Dad is listening.

Memorial Video of Charles Hughes

This was the memorial video that was played at my father's funeral, and replayed on the one year anniversary of his passing.

I made it with the help of my nephew, Justin who helped me scour the photo albums for the right shots. During the funeral, the video was accompanied by beautiful live music that Justin played on his guitar. Unfortunately, I did not have clean recording of that, so I replaced it with a powerful song sung buy Annie Lenox with music by Howard Shore. The lyrics fit...

In case the video does not come through in email, here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r47-EDM93II

"Into The West"

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You’ve come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea
A pale moon rises
The ships have come to carry you home

And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time
Don't say: «We have come now to the end»
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again

And you'll be here in my arms
Just sleeping


And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
Grey ships pass
Into the West