The first night I was there, the air in the room was so warm and stale, that I had to open the window to let in some fresh air. That might have helped me sleep, if it wasn’t for the constant bellowing of cows in the pasture behind my father’s apartment complex that went on all night. There was something unsettling about that sound. If it wasn’t for the cows, the trains might have kept me awake. There was a steady stream of long trains that drenched the night with the low rumble vibrations that shook the room, followed by the distinctive siren calling the warning through the silence of early hours as they approached the crossings. Between all the noise, and my reason for being here, it was a long, sleepless night.
The next morning, a friend of the family, who was also a local rancher, told me they had taken the calves from the field on the morning of my arrival. “The entire herd calls and searches for their young whenever they are taken to slaughter, which can last for days after calves become missing” he told me. That unforgettable sound and the unnerving tone, still haunts my memories of that dark period. The sound of the locomotives pulling their load into the darkness of the night, brings a nostalgic moment whenever I hear a train.
This story begins in the fall of 2009, when I became a caregiver and medical advocate for my father (Russell), who had begun to decline with regards to his health. It became obvious that this was the beginning of the end. Russell lived in a small apartment complex in the rural farming community of Groesbeck, Texas. Some call this area the center of Texas, and I often traveled to visit him here over the years. But now I had a different focus for being here with him. I would be helping him cross over in the next two months. Before, during and after his death, there emerged a common theme, which included the sighting of hawks (mostly the Red Tailed Hawk), the cattle filling the fields, and trains moving through the area that stretched as far as the eyes could see. These all became part of the moving landscapes in my dreams and memories.
Russell L. Forsyth passed in a Waco hospital on November 11, 2009, just two days after reaching his eightieth birthday. The hawk sightings increased upon his death, especially as I traveled back to the Groesbeck area in order to take care of the remaining details around his passing. The beautiful Red Tailed Hawk became a constant symbol that served as a reminder of the way that Russell loved this land, and the people who lived here. Each time the hawk has managed to make itself present after his death, I simply smile and say “hi Dad”!
In the world of animal spirits, when the Hawk shows up it means:
The hawk can soar high and reach the heavens effortlessly. As most bird totems, this power animal is often considered as a messenger who brings messages from the spirit world and the unseen. When the hawk shows up in your life, be sensitive to the messages it may carry and be receptive to your own intuition.
When you have the hawk as a spirit animal, you may have a natural inclination to receive visions, either in dreams or awake. Your extra sensory abilities and intuition are supported by the power of this animal. The hawk totem is strongly connected to the spiritual realms. When it shows up in your life, you may be called to pay attention and experience rapid spiritual development. As you develop your relationship with your totem, you may be inspired to feel your connection with spirit more fully.
Pay attention….that now sounds like such an understatement. There was one way that I paid attention during those last few months of Russell’s life, which was to capture his voice through a recording. I can’t say why I had such a strong desire to do such a thing during this challenging period. Perhaps it was to remember him in this way, but nonetheless, I recorded his voice through a few phone messages that he left me from his hospital bed. They were mostly brief messages filled with general information about his room number, meeting with the doctor, his current needs from me, and so on. One of the recordings ended in his classic style of humor, when Russell exclaimed passionately “I’m alive…I’m alive!” after a doctor’s visit. He ended that same message in a not so classic “I love you dear”. I listened to the recordings a few times over the years, mostly whenever I felt the need or desire.
Fast forward to the fifth anniversary of his death (November 11, 2014), which occurred earlier this month. Our deceased loved ones seem to have heightened energy around key anniversaries, which I was feeling as the days of early November passed by like the leaves gently falling from the trees. This year seemed a bit more intense, which I attributed to the five year mark. On the night of the 11th, I had a dream in which he appeared showing me nothing but his face, and that face appeared to be unhappy with me. The feeling that I woke up from, after seeing his face in my dream, was very uneasy. So much so, that I told Beckie (my wife) about the dream with Dad, but couldn’t speak of uneasy feelings that accompanied the images.
November is a busy month for me, so my work supplied the distraction that started to distance me from the dream, yet I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that returned night after night. As soon as I had my first real day off, I immediately thought of the dream with a sense that I had been ignoring my father. That made me feel even worse, so I asked in silent thought, ‘what did the dream mean?’ As soon as I asked the question, I immediately heard a whisper that my father was concerned about his brother Bill. “But why the mean face?” I questioned the spirit world once again. As soon as I asked that question, my mind went to a scene from the movie After Earth. In that scene, a boy’s deceased sister was communicating with him in his dream, and when he did not wake up, her face took on a graphic nature that was frightening. This was her way to wake him up…to get his attention.
My Uncle Bill had just been admitted to hospice care in the North Dallas area. Bill is the last of the five siblings from his generation. I had to wonder about how that must feel to be the last surviving sibling of a large family. I was immediately compelled to find a way to see my Uncle Bill, and to follow a thread to discover the meaning of the dream with my father.
Thanksgiving came, and we went to the Dallas area for our family gathering. Beckie and I stayed with my cousin (Don), my brother, and their wives for the weekend holiday visit. When Sunday arrived, I mentioned the dream to Don, almost in passing. He immediately told the story of his last visit with Russell. Don and Russell were very close, and Don went to visit him in the hospital in his final days. He took Bill with him, and shared an emotional account of witnessing Russell and Bill’s final embrace. He knew it would be there last. It made me very emotional to hear Don speak of that final act of love between the only brothers of the five siblings.
Thirty minutes later, I was sitting in a chair across from with my Uncle Bill. The resemblance between Bill and Russell was uncanny, especially in that moment. Perhaps it was Bill’s eyes, the way he spoke, and the sense of humor that was such an endearing characteristic of this family. The room filled with a thick energy, as if the entire family had gathered on the other side of the veil. Any silence became awkward, but the Forsyth’s are men of few words. As we ended our visit, I told Bill that we would be back to see him. His expression changed to a slight grin as he said “You’ll find me here, or in the graveyard.”
We left Bill’s room and went to my sisters‘ house for brunch, before leaving on what is normally a three and half hour trip from Plano to Austin. After several checks on the traffic, it became clear that I35 was a parking lot in several locations. The I35 corridor was clogged with holiday travelers making their way back home. Beckie and I stopped before the exit to Houston, just to make sure the traffic conditions had failed to improve, which ultimately led to our decision to choose an alternate route. We would drive past Corsicana, exit Highway 14, and drive through Mexia and Groesbeck. This would eventually lead us to Highway 79, and we would end up coming into the North Austin area on the east side, while avoiding I35 completely.
As we made our way through the country, it became abundantly clear that we would go by Russell’s graveside. I usually made it a point to do this at least once a year. It was a beautiful fall day as we turned into the Fort Parker Cemetery that was established in 1836, when the Comanche, Kiowa, Caddo and Witchita tribes attacked the settlers at Fort Parker. The cemetery was established for this reason, and you can still walk amongst the unnamed gravestones of those who lost their lives in the massacre.
You can feel the history as you enter the gates to the cemetery, which is surrounded by cattle fields and farm lands. The gates open to a paved road that is lined with huge ancient Juniper trees, unlike any that I have ever seen. A statue of John Parker greets you as pass under the arches that open to an ancient grove of trees filled with grave markers. The energy is unlike any graveyard that I have experienced, with the old growth Texas trees towering over the graves. The reverence is palatable as you drive past the stones that mark the graves of those who were killed so long ago. All of this history held by the backdrop of an open expanse of grasslands and grazing cattle that surround the small cemetery.
We arrived at Russell’s grave to discover that he had new neighbors (so to speak) surrounding him, which represented new additions from last year. Beckie and I stood there talking to him as if he were quietly listening. We talked about our visit with Bill and told him we missed him. Each time I visit those hallowed grounds, I am struck by the serene beauty of his final resting place. So I tell my father what a great choice he made.
We noticed an unusual thing was occurring as we stood in the shadows of the living giants. There was a Daddy Long Legs (spider) that would continually run across the gravestone. I have had experiences with these spiders, but have never seen one in this type of environment. Nor I couldn’t figure out why the spider was not remaining hidden by the grass. Once it was off the marker, it could not be seen. It was as if the spider was trying to tell us something. What are the odds of a spider with the name ‘Daddy’, showing itself in such a fashion anyway?
When the Daddy Long Legs appears, it means:
The Daddy Long Legs, as with all spiders, spins silk. When it appears, something new is being spun in a relationship, usually the weaving of a deeper relationship with a loved one. New harmony and balance are strong around us and our activities with others right now. Where there is one Daddy Long Legs spider, another is usually very nearby, indicating our success in endeavors now is achieved best by working with other
(Look closely to see the spider between the NOV and the 9)
When Daddy Long Legs appears, we can expect a surprise. New understanding, creativity, and ideas are flowing, especially in relationships. Now is the time for deeper exploration of these relationships, so we can achieve greater harmony and reach our goals.
Surprise….that would be an understatement! We left the Fort Parker Cemetery feeling satisfied and happy, yet there was an emotional response emerging from my soul. I missed my father. I missed his humor, his smile, his voice and his presence, as we drove down the two lane country road in the land he called his home. We circled by his old office, and the memorial bench that bears his name, on the main street that runs through Groesbeck, then continued down Highway 14.
Beckie fed me some apple pie as we traveled down the road, with the long shadows hitting the green fields and the golden light exploding from the fall leaves as the Sun moved toward the horizon. Then it happened, something unexpected, unexplained, and beyond anything I could imagine. Beckie has a flash drive (computer storage device) with music files that we listen to, on her incredible Boss stereo system in her car.
Beckie pressed the ‘media‘ button, which would normally open up a screen with a menu on it. From there, we would choose our music selection. But not this time. As she pressed the media button, a track started to play without delay or warning. The name of the track was marked ‘Dad’. It was those voice recordings that I had made five years earlier, and there were two tracks that played together for a total of 45 seconds. Two tracks playing on one single track? That is impossible in the world of digital music!
As that familiar voice of my father filled the vehicle on six speakers of full surround stereo sound, we heard the message from so long ago. Beckie and I went into shock as the track ended with him exclaiming “I’m alive….I’m alive” before ending with “I love you dear”. The shocking event sent us both into an emotional outburst, which immediately forced us to pull over to the side of the road. As Beckie and I looked at each other through our tears, we laughed out loud, as we cried out loud. The short track ended and switched to some music. The music was one of my songs that I recorded called All My Love.
The chorus goes like this:
So I’m sending out my open heart
with wings to find you, wherever you are
All my love, all my love, I’m sending you
All my love, all my love, to sleep with you
All my love, all my love, to be with you
All my love, all my love, to dream with you
The next song that played was another one that I recorded called Angel Dance, an instrumental inspired by the thought of angels dancing. One punch after another, delivered from the spiritual realm. After that song finished, I was able to push the ‘back’ button and hear the tracks of Russell’s voice repeating as we held our breath in disbelief.
As the track ended for the second time, I looked out the window and realized that we had stopped in front of an old family cemetery with about ten grave markers. The moment was now forever etched in my mind….in my soul. We dried our eyes and composed ourselves for a few minutes, before continuing down the road. The next several miles, there was one Red Tailed Hawk after another, flying past the car windows as the sun began to set on the Texas landscape. The cattle seemed to line the road back to Austin, and the trains carried us into the early evening with their whistles escorting us back home.
We never found the tracks marked ‘Dad’ on the flash drive, and still have been unable to locate them. All we could manage to utter from the silence of ride home was “that was brilliant Dad!”
train photo by http://bobbylajoiephotography.zenfolio.com/