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Mysterious Ways: A Picture of Hope

Even with my doubts, I knew my best friend would always be with me…

By John DeFiora, Asbury Park, New Jersey

Rows of framed images lined the walls of the studio. It was the final photography show before my graduation from The Art Institute of Philadelphia. Dozens of students and their families had come to view our work, but one important person was missing: my friend, Kevin.

I stared at the series of street photography that we’d collaborated on, and still couldn’t believe he was gone. It would’ve been comforting to think that he was in heaven making people laugh at the pearly gates. But I wasn’t sure about any of that stuff. I’ve never been a religious sort of guy.

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Kevin and I met during our first year at the Institute, and quickly bonded over our love for photography…and our antics in and out of the classroom. We were known to de-stress by starting rubber band wars in the hallway.

The second I wasn’t looking–ZIP! Rubber band to the back of the head. On weekends we’d often ride the train to random stops in Pennsylvania, just to have an adventure. Some of our best photos were taken during those trips.

Then, two weeks before graduation, Kevin died in a rock-climbing accident. On the drive to the cemetery, it hadn’t hit me yet. But when I heard the chaplain speaking at his graveside, and looked at his family and friends sobbing…

I couldn’t hold it together anymore. Not wanting to make a scene, I used what little strength I had and walked away from everyone to cry. 

When I gathered myself, I headed back. After the service ended, a mutual friend of ours came up to me. “I heard Kevin whisper into my ear,” she said. 

“What?” I asked. “Kevin?”

“I know it sounds crazy,” she said, “but he told me, ‘Tell John, it will be okay.’” 

Not being one for certain beliefs, I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. 

Now, here at our final photography showing, I started talking with some classmates, looking at their work. Out of nowhere, a print fell off the wall and crashed to the ground. Everyone turned to look. 

The photograph was Kevin’s.

And even with my doubts I knew, inexplicably, that Kevin had something to do with it. Just like a rubber band to the back of the head, it got my attention.