‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

A few days after Christmas last year, I had a visit with my dad.  We talked in the middle of the night, in my living room.  Aside from the strange timing, this visit is odd only because my dad died in 1998.

Something woke me in the dead of night. It wasn’t the animals.  I didn’t hear anything unusual that I could identify.  But I knew suddenly, and with absolute certainty, that I was not alone in my house, as I should have been that evening.

I came downstairs and saw him, my dad, standing there by the back door, looking into the back yard.  He was wearing what he always wore around the house- jeans and a polo-style shirt; navy windbreaker, tennis shoes.

Ever practical, I asked him how he got here, how he knew where I lived.

He told me they let him come back, for just a little while. He had brought me Christmas presents.  I was strangely embarrassed that I had none for him, but this was an unexpected visit.

He wanted to know if I am happy. I thought for a moment about all the ways my life is not like I had always planned it would be. Yet I was still able to tell him, truthfully, that yes, I am happy.

I asked him about heaven.  He’s rather ambivalent on this point. It’s OK, he told me. Not like what he expected from all the hoopla about it that we hear, here on earth. In fact, it’s not much like that at all. But he’s there with my grandparents and other relatives who have died; with Freddie and Beau, our beloved dogs from my childhood. So it’s happy, because the ones we have loved here are with him in the afterlife, and it’s like- or even better-  the best of times he had with them here.

He told me then that he would have to go. That these visits aren’t granted often, and they’re regrettably short. But since I wasn’t there the morning that he died, he wanted to see me. But he still needed to go see my mom. He had gifts for her as well.

I told him to come back whenever he can, no matter where I am. I will always be glad to see him.  And then, for the first time in twelve  years, I hugged my father, and told him- knowing for certain that he heard it- that I love him.