He’ll Leave the Light on for You

About three years ago my sister-in-law, Tammy, underwent a double lung transplant at a hospital in San Francisco.  She suffered from IPF, or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that causes the lungs to become much like a dried sponge, making it all but impossible to breathe.  The transplant was her only hope.

The operation went well, but over the course of the next couple of years there were setbacks from organ rejection and a throat cancer that had been lying dormant prior to the surgery, which then went into overdrive as a result of the immunosuppressive drugs taking the “brakes” off its growth.

My brother-in-law, Steve, was with her every step of the way through all of this and deserves sainthood for his devotion.  They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past year, although the hospital was not the place where they thought they’d be doing it when they envisioned that landmark.

Time ran out for Tammy on August 12, and she quietly and peacefully passed away.  Steve had emailed the family and their many friends the sad news, but he also said that he’d received a “sign” from Tammy the evening of her passing which he hesitated to relate because some folks might think he’d really “lost” it.  So he asked that those who wanted to hear the story should email him.  Here is what he sent.  Enjoy.

“OK, here’s the deal.  I know I said I would only send the Tammy “sign”  story to those who wanted it.  Many of you said you did and I  wrote your names down on a yellow sheet of paper.  If anyone can tell  me where that paper is now, I would much appreciate it, because I can’t  find it anywhere.  So I’m sending it to everyone on Tammy’s lists.  If  you don’t want to hear about Tammy’s “sign”, then please close your eyes until  it’s over.
As we spent our last days at the hospital, multiple people including  doctors and nurses told me that I would most likely get a sign from her  when the time came.  They had heard of it many times and because we seemed  to be so close it would probably happen for me.  I asked what the sign  would be and all said “it depends”. “She will pick it and you will know.”   So of course I started to ponder what it might be.  About two weeks  earlier I had gone out the front door in the morning and noticed our front porch  light was on.  It’s not supposed to be on during the day because it’s  controlled by a sunlight sensitive base.  I just looked at it and said  “I’ll have to fix you later”.  On the way to the hospital it  occurred to me that maybe it was serving as a “light in the window” hoping  she could make it home again.  Anyway it stayed on night and day for  several weeks.
At about 6:15pm on the day Tammy died, I had just finished sending the  emails to you folks and I walked back down the hall.  I went to the dining  room window and it looked like the porch light was off.  So I went  out on the porch and sure enough it was off.  As I watched, it blinked  three times and then stopped.  I waited a bit and then said “Thank you,  Honey, I guess you’re OK”.  It blinked one more time and then stayed  off.  I looked out again after it was dark and the light was back on.  P.S. I had not been drinking – yet.
As of today the light is still on.  As I reflected on  what had happened, I remembered our taking kids home from our house over  the years.  Whether it was a Baby-Sitter, Boy/Girl Scout, Job’s Daughter,  School Band Member or Dungeons and Dragons player, we would always ask them to  blink their porch light three times if they were in OK and everything  looked safe.  Then we knew it was OK to move on.  So I guess  she’s in and she’s safe and I’m going to have to figure out how to move  on.  By the way, after the front porch light blinked, I looked up  and saw that the bright sun was shining behind the tree in our front  yard and the tree was waving in the breeze.  That could scientifically  explain why the light blinked, but why just then and what drew me to see  it?  That part I have to leave to your beliefs.
You can open your eyes now.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to  it.”

18 thoughts on “He’ll Leave the Light on for You

  1. To you, your brother-in-law, and to all who loved Tammy, I am so, so sorry for your loss. 56 years… Absolutely amazing.

    Your brother-in-law must be one special guy to have written and shared this beautiful story. He is your husband’s brother? Their momma raised some good wife pickers.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. Hugs…!


  2. It was definately a sign. I know. I had asked my Mom for one when she died and got it. I hope Tammy’s sign will give Steve the peace that my Mom’s gave me.
    Blessing on them both.


  3. A friend of mine passed away several years ago. She had a friend from grade school days. They had faithfully written each other every month for over fifty years.

    The day my friend died, she kept telling the nurse to move, she was blocking the end of the bed and my friend couldn’t see who the woman was that was standing there. There was no one there. But every time the nurse moved near the end of the bed, my friend became agitated.

    When my friend’s husband arrived at the hospital, the nurse told him how my friend was behaving. He turned pale as he relayed to the nurse how my friend’s dear friend of so many years had passed away that morning in a tragic car accident. He had chosen not to tell her as it would only distress her.

    My friend passed away that evening and we all believe that her dear dear friend of so many years was waiting to help her to the other side.


    • Thank you for sharing this, Nefer! Just before my mother passed away, she kept reaching or pointing over to her left. I had been praying all day that my dad would come and take her with him. It’s my fervent hope that is who she saw.


  4. I am so grateful that I found your blog. You have made me laugh and cry (not all at the same time!). Thank you for sharing this story with us.


  5. I have just found this blog by pure chance and am very touched by this story. I am an orthodox agnostic as you are but I believe in signs. I have never met my paternal grandmother, who was born at the end of XIX century and passed away almost 20 years before I was born. As you know, photos were rare at that time and even if I had seen her face, of course, in pictures, I weren’t familiar with her looks. Around 15 years ago, while I was backpacking in Asia and lying on a dirty mattress in some youth hostel I suddenly felt a weight on my legs and the mattress shift on the side, as if someone was sitting there. I opened my eyes and I saw my grandmother, with a black dress, looking at me and smiling. I felt terror and couldn’t speak. I just kept asking her in my thoughts to leave, because I was scared to death. She smiled a little longer and then disappeared. I described her dress later to my aunts (her daughters), who were shocked. She used to wear that black dress, with a trapeze neck, during the last years of her life, when she was a widow. I had never seen that dress. So, signs do exist. Thank you for sharing the amazing story of your brother in law.


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