I think it began on Tuesday morning, though as time has seen fit this past week to "glob" itself together for me, I couldn't be quite sure. At least, that's when he told me it about it. One evening, quite randomly, Charlie mentioned that in the wee hours of the morning, he had heard what he recognized to be Native American flute. Nothing else, just the soft sound of a flute. Not just any flute, he was adamant that it was definitely Native American.
Charlie is the type of person who sleeps light. I'm sure it is the protector in him that causes him to just sleep at the edge of the dream zone. He hears everything and he always gets up to investigate until he has identified whatever night sound he has heard to his comfort and satisfaction, until he returns to bed. He said he'd heard it for two nights straight. I was surprised, because he hadn't mentioned it the first night. I was even more surprised to find that he'd gotten up, gone outside into our backyard to listen, and came back to bed without my knowledge. I never even stirred. I honestly didn't think I'd been sleeping that well this week. At least, when I woke up every morning, I felt like hell. I just attributed this to my grief and that he'd heard what he'd heard in such a place during my sleep that I was deep enough not to be stirred.
I began to ask him how he felt about what he'd heard.
"Mmmm. I don't know. I guess I just thought it was strange to hear something like that on a weekday, at 2 or 3 in the morning. I thought maybe someone in the neighborhood was playing it and the conditions were just so that the sound carried on the wind. When I figured out exactly what the sound was the first time I heard it, I just smiled. You know how I love Native American flute, so it was nice. Just seemed weird to hear it at that time."
Then, he told me that on the second night, when he heard it again, he got up quickly and ran outside because he wanted to see if he could actually SEE anyone.
"I stood out on the backyard patio, looking over our fence, thinking that someone was walking behind the house in the easement. But there was no one around. Again, just the sound of the flute."
He shrugged his shoulders. We don't have neighbors behind us. No houses, just an easement utility dirt "road" that the county uses every once in awhile. He just attributed it again, to pristine environmental conditions that allowed the sound to carry a distance, perhaps from a wanderer stopping to rest in our nearby park. Wherever it was coming from, it was coming from a distance. At least Charlie thought so. My thoughts I kept to myself for the moment. I did ask him, however, if the sound bothered him or made him feel uncomfortable.
"No. It was peaceful, serene. Almost meditative. Very comforting. I went right back to sleep."
On Saturday morning, Charlie and I drove to my sister's house in San Diego. Having lived near tribal land her whole life, and working with and for indigenous people her entire career, Lokelani is well acquainted with Native American lore and tradition, so when Charlie started to tell Loke and her husband Phil about what he'd been hearing, she crossed her arms in front of her, rubbed them with her hands, like one would do if they were cold, and asked him if he'd seen any owls. I knew where she was going with her question. It's interesting that in both Native American and Hawaiian cultures (which is basically saying the same thing because Hawaiians consider themselves Native Americans) the owl holds a very strong place in spiritual belief. To Native Americans, the owl is the ruler of the night and the seer of souls. To Hawaiians, the owl is revered and considered sacred. Pueo, The Protector. Charlie told her that no, he hadn't seen any owls LATELY, but we do see them every so often in the neighborhood. Still, Loke said; "You're being visited. Someone will either visit, or has already been to visit you. That's the flute."
Now, Charlie is a realist. He doesn't really believe in folklore or native beliefs, though he doesn't dismiss them out of respect to me and my culture. He's also seen a few things since he's known me and my family that cannot simply be "explained away", so he's open-minded when we have discussions about our own spiritual experiences. As is well-known, I struggle with my own belief system, but NOT with my spirituality. Though I don't really believe there is a heaven or hell or that you have to "work" your way into them or have "faith" in the promise of a paradise in the hereafter, I do find a comfort in thinking that I am occassionally "visited" by loved ones who have left this mortal coil. Also, following the belief of native people, I believe those spirits can visit us in different forms. I have very much felt the presence of two of my lost loved ones numerous times. So when my sister mentioned a visitor for Charlie, I KNEW exactly who it was. I felt it when he told me it happened, but now I was sure.
He had mentioned that he'd first heard it on Tuesday morning, at 2 am. Ellie left us on Monday morning. That would have been our first "night" without her, the first night he didn't have to get up to let her outside. Yet, he'd been "summoned" to get up, and he went outside, just like he always did with Ellie. It didn't happen just once, it happened again the next night. Although, that was a few days prior and it hadn't happened since. Just twice.
"It's Ellie. I know it's Ellie. She came to you at the time she always came to you. In the wee hours of the morning. You were the one she came to. Always to Daddy. It was her way of telling you that she was ok. You grieve quietly, but you've been watching out for all of us. She wanted to connect with you in a comforting way. I know it's Ellie." My sister nodded her head in agreement. Yes, it was Ellie coming to see Charlie. What else could it be? Charlie didn't disagree, but he didn't quite get on the bus. He was still of the mindset that it was someone in our neighborhood.
Charlie thought quietly and then said; "Well, maybe. She did come to me without fail every night. But why the flute? And why the Native American flute in particular?" I knew his hesitation to latch on to what we were thinking
None of us really had a response for that. So we just let it marinate and we moved on to the next subject as we do when we're together, the four of us. After talking about everything under the sun, we all called it a night and retired. The next morning, over coffee, Charlie told us that he'd heard the flute again. Here, 90 miles from home. And again, it was between 2 and 3 am. So now, he couldn't attribute it to something in our neighborhood. It was HIS sound. It was a message meant for Charlie and Charlie alone. The third time's a charm.
It didn't take me a minute to figure it out, and though I hestitated to say it because anyone else would think it was a ridiculous stretch, I felt it was right on target. I knew instantly. It could only be Ellie. One of the things that the four of us used to love to do is to go to the indian casinos. We don't do it anymore, but back when we did, one of Charlie's favorite games was called "Wolf Run". The wheels have pictures of wolves and their cubs, and one of the wolves looks exactly like Ellie. So Charlie would always say; "I'm gonna play the Ellie game." The music that plays during that game is a Native American flute. On Charlie's birthday last year, Sis and Phil gave him "Wolf Run" for his computer, so that he could play it at home. There could be no doubt, it was his little wolf coming to tell him that she was okay. That her spirit was running free, but that she was with him. My husband's patronis is a wolf, and her name is Ellie.