On Sunday, 3rd March, 2019, a sister shared her harrowing but faith-lifting testimony of the power of our Services for Departed. Whilst battling for her life on the operating table, she had an encounter with her grandfather and brother; only that this encounter was not earthly.
Quite often in the mornings of Divine Services for the Departed, the sky seems solemn and grey. Maybe it is my mind, having watched a lot of ghost-themed Scooby-Doo cartoons during childhood. But somehow, the sky lights up after service, lifting that heavy feeling off me. Maybe, it is just me. But on this day, Sister Felicia, unplanned and unsolicited, shared her conviction about Services for the Departed.
Akans have a saying, “conversations plan out themselves”. As it happened, a number of us were having a hearty chat about church cleaning on Saturdays. I teased one sister about asking her departed grandpa to whip her up from her sleep on a Saturday morning, to come help clean the church.
Sister Felicia had heard the comment. “Deacon, as for this comment...hmmm?” Then I asked, “Oh why, did I say something wrong?” She continued: “Not at all. It seems lot of people don’t take services for the departed seriously. If only they knew the power in this act. I was admitted a few weeks ago and had to be operated. It was almost a fatal incident.” I responded: “Yes, I heard you were admitted, but I didn’t know you had an operation. Wow.”
Sister Felicia continued: “I almost died Deacon. I guess I actually died. Because the next thing I saw was my dead grandfather and brother. I was happy to see them but they looked at me surprised and asked what I was doing there. I was confused at that point. Then my grandpa said it wasn’t yet my time to be there and that there was a lot for me to do and achieve in life.”
I listened closely to her. Her next words were poignant: “Then my brother said: ‘Who is going to pray for us if you are here. Please go back, and intercede for us. Then my grandpa added, ‘Yes Felicia, go back. And listen to your brother, take that intercession prayer seriously.’”
Sister Felicia is not the only one to have shared such an experience in the days leading up to Service for the Departed. My own mother once shared an experience she had in the late ’90s. She had buried her dad a few years prior, and on the eve of a Service for Departed, her dad visited her in her sleep, asking her to remember him and intercede on his behalf.
Recently, I had a chat with Sister Felicia, seeking her permission to share this experience. She actually narrated an even more gripping event: “I don’t know if you noticed and would remember, but that same service in July, I cried a lot in church and had to be taken home. Even District Elder Adjei (who officiated that service but now retired) noticed it. I saw my brother in church”, Sister Felicia recounted. “He actually came to tell me he is at peace now, and that I would not be seeing him again. Then he disappeared. I don’t know what came over me, but I couldn’t help myself but cry.”
“Priest, many of us take it lightly, but if one truly involves himself in the preparations for these Services, we will experience the significance of the power we have to intercede on behalf of the dead. I have experienced it and I know.” That was a passionate Sister Felicia giving me the go ahead to share,
Maybe you and I may not have surreal experiences to inspire and affirm our convictions. However, if we open up ourselves to the opportunity and power of our intercessory prayer, we can feel deep within ourselves that our Lord will extend His Arms to our brethren in the beyond, and grant them the same peace and grace we are offered at every divine service.