The Hand on the Mirror chronicles the extraordinary events that followed the loss of my husband, Max Besler, to cancer in 2004, but it's more than a "ghost story." It's the story of my spiritual journey, one that has brought me to a new understanding of the unbelievable power of love to cross the divide between life and death.
The title event refers to perhaps the most startling event, which was the appearance of a skeleton-like image of a man's handprint on the bathroom mirror next to the bedroom where Max spent his final months. I found it on the first anniversary of Max's death. My son Tanner, who was 15, sat with me on the patio, doing his homework as I handled my weekend paperwork from my job as publisher of the Sacramento Bee. No one else was in our home. I went into the bathroom, where I had been just an hour earlier, and I was floored by what I saw. I called for Tanner to come quickly, and he was as astounded as I was. I held his hand up to the X-ray-like image to be sure he couldn't have made, and I instantly saw that his hand was much smaller. Besides, I knew it wasn't a prank he would pull. I took photos, but I didn't want Tanner to see how shaken I was. After all, I was the adult here. So I did what I would do many times in the coming years. I delayed trying to decipher what I had seen. I was still in grief over Max's death, and I was struggling to keep my life, my son and my job intact. There had to be an answer; I just wasn't seeing it.
The events continued. Images appeared again on the bathroom mirror on the second and third anniversaries of Max's death. Many other things that happened were intimately connected to him. Clocks stopped at 12:44 p.m. – the precise time of Max's passing — then started again on their own. Receipts and cards with special meaning related to Max fell out of books I had randomly pulled from the thousands on Max's library shelves. Rugs moved. Lights flickered. The bathroom wall even pulsated, unexplained by plumbers or pest control experts.
Maybe all these things were just a collection of coincidences, but they kept happening. Eventually I decided to find answers the way newspaper people do — by researching. I talked with spiritual and scientific experts, and what I found was a revelation. Many people had these kinds of experiences. Ultimately, my understanding of our souls' survival after death began to change, and I realized I needed to share this with those who have quietly worried they might be crazy or face ridicule if they talk about otherworldly experiences. I know that the love that binds us has the power to cross boundaries that humans don't typically step across. We should be happy and grateful for those connections, not embarrassed by them. I also hope my story will spur serious dialogue about how science can help us, as it has over the generations, to understand things that we can't explain yet. And that, I know, would make Max happy.
About the Author:
Janis Heaphy Durham was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1951. After earning a bachelors and a masters degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, she was hired in the advertising department at the Los Angeles Times, where she rose to senior vice president of advertising. In 1998 she was named the first publisher of the Sacramento Bee. Under her leadership the newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes. Janis retired in 2008 and lives between Idaho and Florida with her husband, Jim Durham.
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