In a story Janis Heaphy Durham wrote for the August/September 2015 issue of Mysterious Ways, she reveals a promise that her husband, Max, made to her shortly before he died of esophageal cancer. Max assured her that, after his passing, he would send her a sign that he was still with her, that there was an afterlife.
Tanner, Janis and Max became a family in May of 2000. “I was divorced with a 9-year-old son, managing a new job. I didn’t have time for love,” Janis writes. “Then Max reached out. He astonished me.”
Janis and Max in Yosemite, the year before he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. “Max didn’t want to die in a hospital,” Janis told us. “We’d sit overlooking our garden and talk. About music, good food and wine, philosophy, his passions. About the trips we’d taken. ‘I will still be here,’ Max insisted. ‘My love will never die. It’s immutable.’”
On May 8, 2005, the first anniversary of Max’s death, a right handprint appeared on the bathroom mirror of Janis’s home in Sacramento. “Like most wives, I could recall precisely what my husband’s hands looked like,” Janis wrote in her book, The Hand on the Mirror. “The wide palm print...the long, narrow fingers, was reminiscent of the shape of Max’s hands.”
In July 2005, shortly after the handprint appeared on the mirror, Janis and Tanner took a trip to Portofino, Italy. Only after the film was developed did Janis discover the name of the boat directly behind them in the harbor: Max.
In November 2008, Janis, having found love again with Jim Durham, moved some of her things, including an antique Persian rug, into their new home.
They began to notice that when they awoke in the morning, the rug had moved, despite no one walking over it in the night. Here it's moved to the right, away from the wall on the left.
Jim and Janis began keeping track of where the rug was positioned every night, and where it ended up in the morning; the white card marks where the left edge was the night before this picture was taken.
Janis took the moving rug as a sign to “move on” herself. She parted with the last of Max’s books, donating them to a library.
In May 2007, another handprint appeared on Janis’s bathroom mirror the week of the third anniversary of Max’s death. This time, the left hand.
In July 2010, a footprint appeared on a suede club chair in Jim and Janis’s home. It doesn’t match either of theirs. “It made me feel as if someone were speaking to me, but in a foreign language,” Janis says.
After her mother died in August 2012, Janis traveled to her mother’s hometown for the memorial service. “Where was Max on this important day?” Janis wrote. She found a sign of him—literally, on her last day in town—on the plaque of a bridge that hadn’t been there when she last visited, and on the sign for a business she’d never noticed before.
“Ultimately, I viewed both the Max Bridge and the Besler Industries sign as synchronicity,” Janis wrote (Besler was Max’s last name). “They were messages from Max and the spirit world that our connections with loved ones are not limited by place. I believe my grandparents, my parents and Max have been united in the afterlife. And they wanted to make sure I knew it.”
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