Aerial view of misty rainforest lakes in shapes of world continents
#63: Diane Glancy and Sefi Atta 2008
Writing Across Borders, July 29, 2022
In episode 63 of Rewrite Radio, Sefi Atta and Diane Glancy offer their own thoughts on writing across the borders of religion, culture, language and more.
In episode 63 of Rewrite Radio, Sefi Atta and Diane Glancy offer their own thoughts on writing across the borders of religion, culture, language and more.
My name is Debbie Visser, and I am a Faculty Fellow for the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing.
Sefi Atta is a prize-winning Nigerian-American novelist, short- story writer and playwright. Her radio plays have been broadcast by the BBC, and her stage plays have been performed internationally. Atta’s novels include The Bad Immigrant, The Bead Collector, and A Bit of Difference; her play premieres include "The Death Road" and "Renovation". Atta is the recipient of the 2006 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa and the 2009 Noma Award for Publishing in Africa.
Our second panelist, Diane Glancy, is a novelist, short story writer, poet, playwright, and professor emerita at MacAlester College. Her many publications include Heart: A Novel of Sacajawea, and Pushing the Bear: A Novel of the Trail of Tears, named one of ten essential Native American novels by Publishers Weekly. Glancy has received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, an American Book Award, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas.
And now, from the 2008 Festival of Faith & Writing, Diane Glancy and Sefi Atta.
Sefi Atta: The differences between traditional and modern are not so clear-cut as they are, as people want to make out that they are in Nigeria. We have our own traditional culture, and then we have the imported cultures–the Christian culture, muesli, and also the Muslim one. And I think within each culture is, there's always this conflict with patriarchy. And when I made that comment about patriarchy, I was referring to Mississippi rather than to Nigeria. The fact that they quite often want to protect their traditional ways, and politically as well with the Christian conservatives. But what I have found living there, which is very similar to what I saw growing up in Nigeria, is that it’s the patriarchal values that they're trying to protect. And, well, we know that the debate of abortion has more to do rather than to do with traditions or to do with religion, it's more to do with patriarchy. But it's far easier to talk about conserving your traditional values than to champion conserving your patriarchal rights, so people just disguise it.
But back to Nigeria, quite often in literature the way in which the traditional and modern is described is almost as though it’s the Western versus the Nigerian culture. And this isn't true because Nigerian culture in some ways, it's very traditional. The man is the head of the family and polygamy is accepted on a traditional culture. But, then in some other ways we have, for instance, women are able quite easy to have different children by different fathers. I would say that's a very modern way of looking at. It's something that's very current in America at looking at relationships between men and women. And those are just two examples.
With the Western values, we have the civil marriage where there's a man, and there's a woman, and divorce is still looked upon as being anti-Christianity. I would consider that to be very traditional. I don't consider that to be modern at all. So, and then on the other hand, Christianity brought education to Nigerians, and education is always a modern thing. So the divisions are not as clear cut as people would like to think that they are. And I often get questions saying, “Oh, you know, it must be very difficult as an African woman and having to live in this traditional culture, very patriarchal.”
In fact, it's not, you know, it's a tricky thing. On some levels, it is. And on some levels, it's not. And moving here to the United States, I found that I have not had the kind of freedom that people expect from me to have for me to have in a western society. I'm still surrounded by a lot of mothers who think it's wrong, actually not that it's wrong to work, but it's a good thing to stay at home and look after your kids. And the assumption, therefore, that it's a bad thing to work. And this is 2004 in the United States. So, I guess what I'm here today to say is that the picture is always more complex than some of the statements that I have made in the past.
Thank you very much.
Diane Glancy: I was always born at Borders. I've known them all my life. I was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1941. I’m about 24 years ahead of you. And of course, Kansas was right there. And then I was named after my Aunt. Helen Diane Hall was my name at the time, and I was never called that name. So I had a different name from what I was, and then I had two parents of two different heritages. One moved in a very linear way. And the other moved quite the opposite. By the way, at the college where I am now, I got a new dot matrix printer, and the first thing they pointed out was a bird, and it showed the colors that were supposed to be in alignment, but they weren't. And the colors bleed outside the outline of the bird. And I thought how fitting, I know that one so well.
And then of course, I married a man named Dwayne Glancy many years ago, so then I have a name from a heritage that I'm not a part of either. So that absolute erasure of walking between lines. In fact, one book out there on the table is called In-Between Places. And you finally make a home of that, I am not this, and I'm not that, and you look down, and there is a vacuum. There is an open place under you, but you began to take fragments of both worlds, and you began to piece them together until there is some sort of solid ground upon which you can stand. And I've worked at that all my life, mainly through writing. Through the bringing of words together.
I knew my mother's family very well. They were very outgoing, bright people, all blonde, and blue-eyed, and we would cross the Missouri-Kansas border and go down about 69 miles to the farm. And I knew that family very well. And then, sometimes we would go down to my father's people. And it happened to be in Northern Arkansas, and my grandmother was very dark and very quiet, and there was something very morose. And I was that part of the family. I knew it right away. I've always wanted to be funny, and it never happened.
I've given readings before with funny people. And, you know, the audience is up here laughing, and then I get up to read, and it's like stepping off a cliff because I went back, and I wrote about those hidden places, the Trail of Tears–the Cherokee removal from the southeast and 1838. And I wrote about Sacagawea, was a young woman, went with Lois and Clark, ith a baby on her back. She was 16 years old; she nearly died on the trail. She was absolutely ignored by Lewis and Clark.
And then I wrote about the Ghost Dance, you know, the 1890s ceremony when the Indians knew their way of life was coming to a close. And I just finished a book about Kateri Tekakwitha, whose whole tribe was almost wiped out by smallpox. She was nearly blind. She was crippled; she was frail all her life and lived 24 years. I may have said that. So I'm just kind of drawn to unhappy things. I don't know why I keep thinking someday things are going to get better. But, but, so I guess that's enough for that one answer.
Interviewer: It's perfectly fine. All the questions can have overlapping answers that we can certainly come back to. I think that was a good idea. So if I turn my head, you can still hear me. Now, I'd like to move to an obviously closely related border. Which is the border between religions. Sefi, as I mentioned in my introduction, were raised in, both the Muslim and Christian traditions. Although I think I have this right, that you were raised predominantly within the Christian tradition. Diane, you were raised by your Cherokee father, as you mentioned your Euro-American mother, although both of your parents practice the Christian faith when you were growing up. So I'd be interested in you telling us about crossing these boundaries between different faith traditions. What have you tried to show us about these boundaries between religions in your writings? And I'm wondering if you are at all concerned with syncretism, a certain kind of mixing that at least potentially could lead to a distortion of Christianity.
Atta: This is this one…can you not hear me? You have trouble hearing me, I'm so sorry. Goodness.
Glancy: I think you should make her stand up.
Atta: I'm so sorry if you hadn't heard me before. I thought I had a loud voice. Okay, alright, okay…sit…oh man. Okay. How do I detach this?...Okay.
All right. As you said my father was a Muslim. My father died when I was eight years old, so I was raised by a Christian mother, an Anglican mother. And just to give you a little bit of my family history to get my perspective. By the way, I don't try to show anyone anything about religion when I'm writing. I'm trying to figure it out myself. And sometimes, I take out passages because I think this is not necessary. This is your own confusion and, you know, you need to edit this out of the book. But religion always shows up in my writing, and I'm not sure why. This could help you to understand why.
My mother is a Yoruba woman. And Yoruba, they’re an ethnic group in Nigeria, a majority ethnic group in Nigeria, predominantly Anglican Christian. My father is from the Middle Belt, so either you're based in the southwest. My father is from the Middle Belt of Nigeria, and from the Agora ethnic group, they’re a minority ethnic group and predominantly Muslim. Not as educated as the Yoruba, and not as well off as Yoruba, as well.
He was raised as a Muslim. I don't really remember him going to the mosque regularly, you know. And I don't him having prayer beads or anything like that. I do remember that a couple of times, he went to the mosque for a festival and took my brother, and I wasn't allowed to go as a girl and that bothered me a lot. I wanted to know what they were doing because my brother didn't tell me. So with my mother, she slept with a white Bible for as long as I remember and under her pillow. And I would know that because every time I was ill with malaria or whatever it was, I would share her bed with her. Come to find out, she never read that Bible. I just recently found that out because I was saying to her how I haven't read the Bible. I've never been able to get past the begats, you know, the Genesis section. And she said, “Well I haven't read the Bible either.”
And I said, “How come? You’ve slept with one all your life.”
And she said, “I've read Proverbs, and I've read Psalms.” Which is exactly the same for me.
Her parents were Yoruba people, but they were, they came from a very modest background. They were traders and worked very hard. Were not educated, they couldn't speak English. And they also converted to Christianity as adults. They grew up worshiping the Yoruba gods, and the Yoruba gods are gods like Shango, who is a god of thunder, thunder and lightning. Ogun, who is the god of iron and war. And Oshun was a god of love and fertility, I think. And there's so many others that I can't remember. And throughout Latin America, these gods are worshiped under similar types of names. The Santeria religion and other ones throughout the West Indies as well and Trinidad, Cuba, it's all from the Yoruba religion.
And apparently, my grandfather, after converting to Christianity, continued to practice polygamy. You know, so my mother has half sisters, and she's never been able to tell me whether he married the women or whatever happened.
So I did grow up conscious of the fact that I had a Muslim parent and a Christian parent. And this other side the native Yoruba religion, and I was raised to have respect for all of them. And not to choose between any one of them. And that has been the problem for most of my adult life. Growing up, I didn't think too hard about it except that, of course, if I accepted Muhammad as a holy prophet, then what did that mean for my mother? And if I accepted Jesus Christ, what did that mean for my father? Now, I've come to realize that it doesn't make any sense for me to have respect for all religions. So the state I've reached now is to kind of be without a religion and to still believe in a God. And that's why I suppose religion comes up so often in my writing, but I'm taking so much time now. I think I'll sit down and let Diane talk about it.
Glancy: Well I've been on my own for 25 years. I've been divorced that long and Jesus Christ as my Savior has been vital and integral to my survival, I think. I wanted to…I think that he has been…that's my opinion, is what I meant.
I want to talk just a minute about native tribes because they are vastly different just as Christianity that is so broken in many denominations, many of which do not agree and then some denominations are broken into sub-denominations. I mean, how do you define Christianity?
In the early days–excuse me–the missionaries came across the country, and they came to the Indian tribes. You can imagine the Catholics one day and the Baptists the next, and the Moravians and the Indians turned to one another and said, “Who is this God? He can't be one. Because everybody's telling us something different.”
So what the denominations finally did was divide up the Indian tribes among them. And in the north, it was the Catholics and the Lutherans, this is the Plains Indian. And I've lived in the north now for 17 years, so I know their story very well. In the South, where I was born, it was Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Moravians, and I believe it was the Methodist–there were four of them. And excuse me, I shouldn't get into this because some of the Northern tribes were dealt with very punitively with boarding schools, and you cannot speak your language, and it was very rough. To this very day, I go to conferences, and I sit with some people that hate Christianity. And they tell their story. I mean, I can hear their anger in their throats. The Baptists, however, studied the culture of the Cherokee, which you should always do if you are going to try and evangelize a group of people.
And there was a story of Silou [unsure on spelling], who was a woman, and she was killed and where her blood fell on the ground, corn began to grow. And corn is the staple of the Cherokee, like Buffalo of the Plains Indian. And they said, you know, how your food, your main source of life comes from corn, comes from blood. There's another blood that will give you a spiritual life. And I would say–and it was Jesus Christ–and I would say overnight probably 60% of the Cherokee were evangelized. And when I go back to Oklahoma to this very day, I hear Amazing Grace sung in Cherokee. Many of our meetings are opened that way.
And of course you find Cherokee who are not Christian either, born again Christian, but it really, it varies. So that was the way that the native tribes. The Cherokee are, I mean, it's like small town America anywhere. You want to get your children in college and the little league ball on Friday night and church on Sunday morning always. So it's not as different as the Northern Plains Indians. And a lot of our early traditions were like you said, all these gods and it was very sinister and hurtful, and you could do spells. And so I'm very glad to be out of all of that.
Interviewer: I have to say I was a little surprised by last sentence. I hope maybe I could get you to talk about a little bit more. Now, I'd like to move on to geographical or national boundaries. In many cases, the national boundaries pretty much ignore geographical boundaries. I suspect Sefi, you might have some things to tell us about that, especially in the African context. But Sefi, you've lived in Nigeria, England, United States. Diane, you just described your nomadic life quite a bit, both as a child and as an adult, and so you've also crossed many geographical borders. So if you could talk about your experience crossing these geographical national boundaries, and then how this experience has influenced your writing.
Atta: I belong to a lot of communities, you know, as a woman, feminist, a black person in America, and African, a Nigerian, a foreigner. Did I get that right?
And recently, I've had to admit that I must be an immigrant having lived here 14 years and spent two-thirds of my life overseas, and that's a hard one for me to swallow but, you know, these communities are constantly shifting and–sorry the identities I take on–are constantly shifting depend on the moment I’m in, and the location I'm in, and the country I'm in.
Just to give an example. I could be for one minute with a group of moms in my daughter's school discussing a basketball game or something. And in Mississippi where I live, most of the mothers in my daughters' school are republican, white women. But we could share that experience of shuffling our children to school and their tidiness, and their father's absences at the games, whatever it is. And then I could go home, and I could be discussing them, the Republican women, and their views on the war or something. And then I could get into a debate with my husband, watching the Democratic primaries about Obama versus Hillary. So I’m constantly, my loyalty to each community or nationality, if you can call them that is constantly shifting.
When I was in Nigeria, I considered myself to be a Nigerian, which I've since learned is unusual. Most Nigerians think of themselves as whatever ethnicity their parents belong to. Yoruba or whatever else. But my father was a different ethnicity from my mother , and so I always thought of myself as a Nigerian.
I started writing plays, bad plays when I was in my early teens, and I was in an all-girls school in Nigeria. And I'd always try to incorporate all the ethnic groups into my place which was unusual, most girls didn't. I also took part in a lot of plays that were written by role-playwrights. And because we're in an all-girls school, I would try and go for the male roles. I remember playing Macbeth…not very well, but enjoying it, you know?
And then I went to school in England in my late teens, and that was a different experience. I knew that I couldn't tell my stories. That I couldn't write my place, that no one would be interested. And no one actually told me that I just knew from the way they spoke about African culture, and the way they spoke about this, as if there's was superior to mine, and I didn't want to be ridiculed. I also continue to take part in school plays, but this time I was casting female roles or the black roles, you know, which was unusual for me. And then, for the first time I had to deal with racism as a black person.
I studied French and English literature. And I was told by a counselor that Africans didn't have the attitude to study English, so I shouldn't consider first of all going to a university or… And this happened to a lot of people I’ve since realized. It wasn't just me, which I thought it was at that time. And I ended up studying accounting and then becoming an accountant, and then I moved to the US, and I continued to work as one.
Since I've been here, the difference between England and here is that there's actually this dialogue. You have this history of inconvenient dialogue, which you try and protect, sometimes it lapses, and then you remember it again. And that's a good thing about being here–the fact I can talk about my experiences as a black person. In England, it was almost considered bad manners to do that, you know and not to bring it up. Here, at least I have a language for it. In England, I would say someone was being silly, but here I would say oh they're being racist.
So it's been different how I’ve seen myself as a Nigerian, as a black person, in England. And now here, and here, as a writer, I also belong to a lot of communities: black writer, feminist writer, sometimes woman writer, African writer, Nigerian writer, and all that. And I always say that for me, what's important is that the literary marketplace allows me to write an honest story. You know, and that's difficult to define what that means, but it's not that difficult to tell when writers are being disingenuous. And I found here the semblance of allowing me to express myself honestly, but the reality doesn't bear out. There's a lot of formulaic writing expected of me and that has created anxiety for me. So thank you.
Glancy: I have a line in my book In-Between Places, “My sense of place is in the moving.” I'm happiest when I'm in my car because I'm really kind of a loner at heart. And there's nothing I'd rather do than be in my car driving a thousand miles across the country on a research trip. Each of these books I have written about Native history, I had to get in my car and follow the trails of migration.
I went with Sacagawea up the Missouri and Columbia Rivers. I did it two summers. And I followed the 900 Mile Trail of Tears. And then I also went to Nevada where the Ghost Dance took place in 1890, well, 1888, really. And so, and Kateri Tekakwitha, I drove to Upstate New York because the land carries voices, the land carries memories. We leave more behind us I think than we know.
And so, to be in the car to be moving, and I love the trucks on the highway because they're like the old Buffalo herds that migrated. And when I had this book come out, Claiming Breath, I said just put an 18-wheeler on the front, and it came out, and it looks like a UPS delivery truck. I was kind of disappointed in that.
But anyway, so the migration, the movement has always been very integral to my work. I don't think I could write unless I could drive on the highway and find those words. I'm working on a new manuscript now, and it's called The Dream of a Broken Field. And I go back, and I try to gather all the fragments of my life and all the fragments I experienced. My father was transferred many times, and in academia, you have to move also. And, then I was married, when I was married, my husband had three different jobs in three different places. So I was always going back and forth. In fact, after I live in a house about five or six years, I just have to move, move on.
This semester, I'm at Kenyon College in Gambier Ohio, and I've only been three weekends at home, and the other I’ve always been on the road, traveling back to family to help my daughter out. I've had three children right in a row and now my son has a baby. And I wanted to be a part of their lives, so I migrated often between Minneapolis, Kansas City, Texas, where my son is. I just had to get rid of my beloved car; it had a hundred and ninety eight thousand miles on it. And the last time I was on the highway, I could feel it serge, and I knew it was not going to work anymore. So I stopped at a car dealer right on the edge of Kansas City when I returned and I bought the first car. It was a demo because I got a cheaper, and he said, “You know, I'm in a church and we can use old cars.” He said, “Would you donate your car?” And I said, “Certainly.” I said, “It doesn't run.” He said, “Well, we have men in the church that can fix it so that it will.”
So I donated it. And of course I received a tax receipt from them, and he called me a couple months ago. And he said, “We're really enjoying that car.” And I thought, “Oh, I want it back so bad.”
But now I have a little Chevy Equinox, and that was last September, the first that I bought it, and it now has 20,000 miles on it. So that's all the driving that I do.
But the broken places that the movement, the momentum, it is so much in the root of the Bible, in our Christian heritage and also in the heritage of our country. Is it all right if I just read an excerpt from this new manuscript I'm working on? And by the way, I sent it to someone I know at the University of Press, and she sent it back. She said she called me on the phone. She said, “It doesn't have a focus.” I said, “But that's the point
Peripatetic and moving around. So The Dream of a Broken Field: “I think how to govern an unruly collection of essays, a collection of broken pieces, actually. How to relay the broken with the broken. On a trip, I listened to the United States Constitution, which is really not a good idea when you've got 500 miles ahead of you. I hear how it became a confluence of many parts in 1788. Preamble, 7 articles, 27 Amendments. The first ten of which are the Bill of Rights. Then the auxiliaries it is part Magna Carta, part Articles of Confederation. It is part Virginia Declaration of Rights. It is part Federalist Papers, which are 85 essays declaring how the government should work. And part Mayflower Confederation.
“I listened to the multiplicity of groundings that ground the complexities of governing a country. I want to add the U.S. Constitution also is taken in part from the Iroquois Confederation. Excuse these broken, these lost missing places saying this to get to that. Excuse these voices that sometimes seem to come from the past, or from over the air from some distant place. Excuse these shortened unfinished lines, these uneven pieces this interrupted text, water overload places. Excuse this chopping through the brush to find the way to open the text. I'm doing this on my own. Where's my caterpillar? My road grader? My Bobcat?”
So with my writing, I continue to chop away at the unknown, and it always happens in the process of travel.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.
The next topic I'd like for you to take up and, again, this will overlap with previous ones but to to think about language in particular. You’ve both crossed boundaries between languages, between English and traditional, language of your ancestors. So I think the parents of the narrator and everything good will come, cross back and forth between speaking English. And give me that pronunciation Yoruba.
And just real quickly, I’ll let you go. And then Diane, you've described how the American Indians were de-languaged. Beautiful word. And have wondered in your writing, “What do I do with the hollowness where the Cherokee language should have been?”
So if you could just talk a bit about this attempt to cross the boundaries between languages, especially when you're writing I think almost solely in English. I think that would be a correct description.
Atta: Yes. And I've also only spoken English. I don't speak Yoruba very well, I have to say. It’s not something I'm proud of. And that's because my parents spoke different languages and they could’ve taught us both, but I guess they were lazy or something. And, we ended up only speaking English in our house, but not the same English I speak here today. It's a different rhythm, a different way of pronouncing words. And, obviously, I think a lot of people know this, and quite often, black people would say we speak different kinds of English, but I think everyone does. There is a way you speak at work. There's a way you speak at home. And for me, you know, there's a loss there because I don't speak my own traditional language, and that's a handicap when I'm writing about people who do. And trying to pass off as someone who understands it better than I do.
And then the next challenge for me is trying to write English in a way that Nigerians speak English–or [how] the Nigerians I'm writing about speak English. And in a way that people can understand growing up Nigerian. And I don't necessarily mean non-africans because even within Africa, there's a difficulty in understanding local references because not enough of our stories have come out.
People read my works, and say that I have a good ear for dialogue. I don't know if I do or I don't, but what I can't stand is to read books by African literature–sorry–African writers that sound as if they’re words spoken by an Edwardian English person, you know. And that's what I grew up reading. And I was kind of rebelling against that when I started writing. So I started from that point of view, that I'm going to write that stilted English anymore. Even though I'm translating from a Nigerian language into English, it doesn't have to sound so formal. And I moved from there. I think it's an instinctive thing. I don't think too hard about that to be honest with you. When I'm writing, I try and go to I suppose a higher place, a more creative place and not think about it too logically. I know that a lot of African writers have. It's there's a whole body of, sorry, there's a whole school of thought dedicated to this question of native versus traditional versus English and native language versus English, and I don't get involved, I’m not really that interested to be honest with you in that. That's about it. Thank you.
Glancy: My father's mother was illiterate. I have her ex on the land deed when their farm was sold after a little creek, it was actually a river, was dammed.
She could not write English; she could speak it, of course. But there was a way that I remember her thoughts were expressed because when you are between two languages, again in places, you kind of borrow from both. And, a lot of my experimental writing comes from going back and trying to piece together the way she spoke–sentences will be out of order, and things will be set in a very colorful way. So I don't know the Cherokee language, but I know the leaps and the lapses and the odd way that things went together. And so that's what I try to work with in my writing.
Interviewer: I think that's really fascinating. I thought that both of your answers have a lot in common with each other, so.
The last categories that I have, I was debating about how to phrase this, there's so many different ways to do so, but I'm thinking about the boundary between this world and the spiritual world. I'm going to make a very broad generalization and say that both traditional Native American cultures and traditional African cultures, as different as they are amongst themselves, believe in the influence of ancestors and the spirit world on this world. In Christianity, Jesus not only combined divinity and humanity, but he also crosses the border between Heaven and Earth, between the spiritual world in this world, and His kenosis and incarnation.
So I would like for y'all to tell us how you think about this divide between–and pick your terms–between the dead and the living, between the Divine and the human, this world and another world. And does this other world beyond this one have a place in your writing, and if it does, how does it show up?
Atta: You know I tried to think if I ever…I suppose I have in a way, but I think, I don't necessarily write about it.
Gosh, I don't know where to begin. I suppose I could tell you a story about when my husband's father died, and it's a personal story. And might make me a little sad, but it did happen…actually you go first.
Glancy: I'm very fond of the next world. I think sometimes I think about it more than this world. I've just finished, as I said, The Reason for Crows in which Kateri Tekakwitha dies at the end, and she actually enters heaven. And what was it she saw and thought and felt.
And then when I was researching the ghost dance book, The Dance Partner, they actually see the next world. They danced and danced for days, and whether through a deprivation of water and food, you began to hallucinate, whether there was actual intervention of God, giving these people hope that were absolutely without it. Who knows exactly what happened. So, I write a lot about that. And when my grandmother died, by the way–my mother's mother–she kept saying a force was out in the hall, the force was her husband, of course, and he'd been dead 14 years. And I've been with other relatives who died, and the others were there waiting for them to help them cross into the next world. I mean, you could just almost feel I'm getting goosebumps as I talk about this. It is not a journey in which we are alone, but others who have gone on come back. In fact, when my father died, he looked so much like my grandmother as he laid there on the pillow. Even my mother said that there was just a transference.
So that's a part of the Native culture that I really like. There is a very thin veil between the worlds, the ancestors are with us, and those to come, I suppose.
Are you ready yet?
Atta: I'm not ready yet, but I'll try and talk about it in the third person. If you can imagine someone whose father died, and then he goes home for the burial, and his wife is left at home with his daughter. And before this, his wife had never really been…well, in a sense I knew that there was another world, but it had never manifest itself to me. Anyway, the wife.
And while the daughter is sleeping, a radio comes on in the daughter's room, and the wife hears it at about 11:00 at night. And so the wife, not understanding why this radio is coming on, when her daughter's meant to be sleeping goes to check up on her daughter, and there is song playing, a country song, because we're in Mississippi and listen to local radio. And it's about being a lonely man, and, and all that. And the wife begins to understand that this is the way in which he has chosen to say goodbye to her daughter. So she lets the song play, and then she turns it off. Two days later, she’s speaking to her husband's cousin, who then says to her, “Guess what, prof?” We call him professor, prof. He was a professor of medicine: “He visited me.” And I said “How?”
You know, said, “My car radio came on, and I didn't turn it on.” And I said, well guess what? We had the same experience just a couple of days ago.
And then we were–since I'm now in the first person–we're moving to a new house.
Ridiculous. Helps the tears up. I'm very tearful when I talk about death. And we were moving to our new house, and this white dove lands on our roof and just stays there for a whole day. Not moving. And I cannot believe this because I know that this is another way of him saying goodbye, and I've never had these experiences before. And, but it's so strange that all these things happened to me, and then when I asked my father, and my son, my husband, I said, “Did you ever get any kind of message from my father?” And he goes, “No?”
But I was so sure that that was what was happening.
Have I written about it? Not in any kind of meaningful way, no. It's not something I've explored in my writing, but I'm sure there's this other life, and there's a continuity. And it means something and, you know, it sounds very real to me.
Okay. Thank you.
Glancy: You know, I wanted to add one of my real worries because I love to give voice to historical characters who did not have a chance to speak. Because I believe in the afterlife, I'm going to see them someday. And what if they say, it wasn't really that way at all.
You know, I had one other experience, too about, as I said, I've been divorced a long time, and my former husband died a couple of years ago, and I was on my way back from Kansas City to Minnesota. And if you drive a long time on the highway, things begin to happen, you think about other things that you would not think about in your own house. So I was thinking about him because he just died, and I was thinking, what is life about, what is the thing that we need when we come to the end of life? And there was such a strong thought that went through my head, and it said to look back and not regret.
So I don't, you're not supposed to commune with the dead, that may have been the Lord speaking. I don't know what it was. It may have been my own thoughts, but it was a moment of closure and clarity that we should live our lives so that we do not regret when we die and look back.
Heidi Groenboom: Rewrite Radio is a production of the Calvin Center for Faith and Writing, located on the campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, MI. You can find more information about the Center, our initiatives, and our signature event, the Festival of Faith & Writing, online at CCFW.calvin.edu and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @CCFWgr. You can also subscribe to Rewrite Radio on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Thanks so much for listening, and stay tuned for more from our archives.