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The Gambler

By Leila Briggs

For obvious reasons I have been thinking a great deal about my relationship with my father over the past few days. He died just before my seventeenth birthday. In the physical, our relationship could be very tense. For a time, this tension carried over into the spiritual, after he died. I would often fight and disagree with him in my dreams. Over time though, he became a spiritual resource of support and my protector.

He was present spiritually, on a regular basis, as I started my spiritual journey and serious exploration of my abilities. He told me multiple times he would make himself known and his guidance known physically when needed.

During one meditation my father said, “You will know I am with you when you hear ‘The Gambler’ by Kenny Rogers.This is a sign for you to take a moment to stop and think.” I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at this odd statement. I simply responded, “Okay if you say so” and then forgot about it.

Years Later…

My mom and I were backpacking through Ireland. We were on a mission to find a ring of churches that I believed connected to a past life. We both felt this was important for my healing and my ability to physically function. We found a particular ring that we believed to be what I was seeing and interacting with in my dreams.

We were taking our time exploring, checking each church, each pathway, and each stone. In some ways it was fun finding what resonated or matched my dreams. In other ways, it was scary. It was a moment where everything was becoming a little too real. Odd events, conversations and intense experiences seemed to follow us over the course of a week. This was not unusual for me; but it was unusual for someone to experience it with me.

One morning, at the historical site, we deviated from the open pathway and started hiking up the side of the mountain. We were moving in the direction that we were being called.

About a quarter mile from the pathway full of people, everything went silent. We were out in nature, but there were none of the normal nature sounds.

Slowly we began to hear a foreign noise that at first we couldn’t place. We realized together it sounded like a dog or an animal panting. It was the only sound that could be heard in the silence. We didn’t see anything. As we continued hiking, there was a definitive moment when we heard “the dog or animal” shift. We got the impression it was running straight for us. Now we clearly heard panting and growling! It was getting closer and closer.

We decided to make a run back to the common pathway. I pulled my camera out as we ran back and snapped pictures. (In one of the pictures it looks like there is a blur of a dog running past us.) The panting and growling followed us all the way down the mountainside. At the common pathway, it stopped abruptly. Now, all we could hear were the sounds of visitors.

We immediately noticed an older man staring at us in an odd, almost menacing way. He was tall and gangly. He glared and grimaced at us, as if he were a dog himself. I froze for a moment. My mom pulled me to the side and we started walking further into the public part of the park so there would be more people around us. The man followed us.

My ears were ringing and my heart was pounding. I was trying to process what had just happened. The man continued to follow us, adding to my anxiety. Up ahead there was a small inlet to a lake that people gathered for picnics. We turned off into this section. The man started to follow us but stopped a few feet from the water. He stood frozen for a few moments staring at us and then left.

There was a group of Irish teenagers by the water playing with their radio. As soon as we stepped into this space, “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers began to play. They all began singing along.

It was a surreal moment. Everything seemed to settle. It felt safe. It was a moment of grace, a moment to think and strategize. My mom and I dropped to a picnic table to rest and reset.

“You got to know when to hold em’, know when to fold em,’

Know when to walk away, and know when to run.

You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table

There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealins’ done.”

My father made his presence and protection known. It gave us a small window to shake the fear and re-establish our centers to carry on. Though I laughed out loud when he originally shared his intentions with this song, on this particular day I didn’t laugh. I welled up with tears of relief as we sat there and listened to the lyrics of The Gambler.

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