Mystical Premonitions and Visitations
Visions of loved ones who have preceded us in death are remarkably common for many as death approaches. Premonitions of imminent death also are common phenomena. During my 20s, I was a nun, living in a semi-cloistered, contemplative community where mystical and supernatural experiences were a way of life. Visions, dreams, and such were dinner-time conversation and a source of joy and insight. Below are a few such encounters that I had the pleasure of experiencing.
Names have been changed to protect and respect the privacy of the people in these events.
Mr. Dawson was an elderly widower who enjoyed serving as an acolyte for mass on Sundays. After mass, he loved coming to the reception room to be doted upon by the older nuns over breakfast. I don’t know why, but this irritated me. He irritated me. Perhaps I was a little too proud of life in the cloister and didn’t like outsiders getting too close.
One night I had a dream about Mr. Dawson. In it, I was his daughter. I received a call that he was gravely ill and in the hospital. I ran down hospital hallways in a frantic search to find him. A nurse pointed me to his room. I hesitantly opened the door and found him, not weak and in bed, but sitting in a chair by the window. Brilliant sunlight shone upon him through the window, making his silver hair a radiant crown. He turned to me with a smile and said “Everything is going to be all right.” Then he disappeared, and I found myself lying in his hospital bed.
The next morning, as I headed to chapel for morning prayers, I found an announcement on the bulletin board that Mr. Dawson had died suddenly during the night.
Later in the day, one of the nuns discovered that the television that Mr. Dawson had given the community had stopped working and was irreparable.
Sister Mary Edward was a character. She stood nearly six feet tall and had an outgoing personality that filled a room. (At her funeral, we learned from her brother that she had played piano for the silent movies at the theater in their home town.) She had a peaceful and uneventful death, free of pain and suffering.
A week after her death, one of the priests who served the community returned from a retreat in Mexico and excitedly told the story of an encounter he had while there. He woke up one night to find Sister Mary Edward standing at the foot of his bed. She appeared to be fully in the flesh and not at all ghost-like. He asked her what she was doing there, but she just smiled and didn’t reply. She then disappeared as suddenly as she had arrived. The priest knew intuitively that Sister Mary Edward had died, but he remained puzzled as to why she chose to honor him with a visit along her journey to the other side.
The community I belonged to practiced perpetual adoration, which, in layman’s terms, means nuns are in the chapel praying 24/7. We used a board to sign up for hour-long shifts, and you were allowed to sign up for three consecutive days. It was common for sisters to have favorite times, and I knew 2:00 am was Sister Louisa’s. She had a reputation for putting her name on the board for 2:00 am and simply never taking it down. But one particular afternoon her name was off the board and the slot was available. As soon as I put my name on the board for three days at 2:00 am, I heard Sister Louisa’s soft voice over my shoulder. “Sister, I know it’s customary to sign up for three days at a time, but may I please have 2:00 back the day after tomorrow?”
I replied “Why, Sister? I would really like to have that time. You may have your favorite time back after my three days.”
Sister Louisa looked a bit distraught and answered “Then it will be too late.” She offered no further explanation and sadly walked away. I noticed later that she hadn’t even signed up for the days following mine, which I found peculiar.
Sometime during the night of my third turn, Sister Louisa died peacefully in her sleep. To this day, I wonder how she knew.