We, Who Need Such Great Mysteries

January 8, 2010

I think that I’m stuck in the denial stage of grief. It’s not that I deny the fact that my father is dead – his ashes sit in a box on my mantle, surrounded, at the moment, by a few Christmas ornaments and my kids’ picture with Santa and Emilia’s bardo-drawing – it’s that I can’t wrap my head around the fact – is it a fact? – that his death is the end, that his life is over, that I’ll never see or speak with him again. The absoluteness of it all, the finality: I’m having trouble accepting this. I can’t accept this. My heart aches from its stubborn refusal to accept this.

And so I flail about, telling myself stories about ghosts and angels and the afterlife. I struggle to grasp onto my old modes of faith, to the articles of certainty – that there is a heaven, that there are angels, that after death the soul takes flight to a world that is – invisible? eternal? – and thereupon arriving is assured of bliss – that carried me through the deaths of grandparents, acquaintances, beloved pets. I read The Shack while I was at my mom’s last week and found myself unmoved, unconvinced: why should I put in stock in some stranger’s account of his weekend with the Holy Trinity, of the reassurances he received from God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit that his dead daughter was fine, just fine,  more than fine, happy, blessed, romping through eternity with Jesus at her side! Why should I be, how could I be, comforted by this when I had no such assurances about my father? What did the experience of the narrator have to do with me? If God invited me to a cottage for the weekend and fed me good food and showed me my Dad communing with Jesus in fields of wildflowers, then sure I’d feel better. Wouldn’t we all? It would be so easy, then.

The point of faith is that we don’t have such assurances. The point of faith is that we believe without such assurances. I know this. I know this.

But I don’t know where my faith is. I want so desperately to find it. I want so desperately to believe, to know, that death is not the end, that it’s not final, that it – my relationship with my father – is not over. We weren’t finished. I didn’t get to say goodbye. There were more conversations to have, more hugs to exchange, more love to express. We weren’t done. He can’t be just gone. He can’t be. He can’t be.

I find myself, too many nights, too many days, reeling from the shock of the realization that he is gone, doubling over, falling to my knees, pressing my fists to my eyes to push back the tears. And invariably, as I reel and fall and struggle, I find myself telling myself that it – this, all this – just isn’t. It just isn’t. It’s not the end. It can’t be. And so I return to the old stories, the articles of faith that used to provide comfort, that could provide comfort still, if I could hold onto them the way that I used to. I tell myself that he must be somewhere. But where? Someone said to me, some months ago, that he’d gone to a better place, and I wanted to grab them by the collar and shake them and make them tell me, where? Where? How do you know? Do you know? Tell me!

I knew that they didn’t know. I was angry that they didn’t know. I am angry that I don’t know. I want so badly to know.

I read an exchange the other day between Jean Vanier and a Canadian writer, about death. Vanier wrote about how he felt when a beloved friend died, how he waited to hear from her, how he waited for some ghostly visit or dream message. “I had hoped that (she) might find a way of communicating with me,” he said. She didn’t. “All I can do,” he concluded, “is trust that she is well.” I too had hoped that my dad might find some way of communicating with me. I tell myself that he might have (I have stories; I am not ready to share them); I look for his messages everywhere, I look so closely that I worry I will miss them for looking. I look so closely, because I don’t quite – I don’t yet? – have the faith that would allow me to just trust.

I don’t know what such faith would look like, exactly. I look to the Bible, I look to the poets. I look to Socrates, who insisted that death should never be feared or mourned, because the soul’s release from the body is a liberation for which it -  if it loves wisdom, if it yearns for the goods that the body and the material world, the cave, cannot provide – strives. Socrates would tell me that I shouldn’t be looking for faith, I should be looking for understanding. But my head is muddled because I am distracted by my heart, my aching heart, and at the moment I can see no more light in wisdom than I can in my Children’s Illustrated Bible and my dog-eared copy of The Little Prince.

I think, part of the problem is, I do believe; there’s a way of looking at what I’ve called my denial and seeing it as faith, as a fervent attachment to the belief that this – life, physical existence, the here-and-now – is not it, that this cannot be it, that death is not an eternal nothing, consignment to dust and nothing more. But the skeptic in me tells me that that – that attachment to belief – is just magical thinking, wishful thinking, and for the life of me I can’t tease these apart or bring them together, my insistence upon rational explanation and my desire to be comforted by faith.

I don’t know. I just don’t know. I hate not knowing.

I’ve decided that the only way to confront this is to really, meaningfully explore faith. I’ve explored – I continue to explore – reason; I spent the better part of my adult life plugging away at the study of philosophy, battering back faith with books. Now I want to let down my guard and see if I can find faith again – it doesn’t matter where – and, if I can find it, see if we have anything in common. Part of this undertaking is banal, and biasedly so: I simply want to find some reassurance about death. I want – I actively want, even though I know that I might not find this, that it might not be possible to find this, that my comfort will derive from something other than this – to be reassured that, as Jean Vanier quotes Rabindranath Tagore, ‘death is not the lamp that goes out, but the coming of dawn.’ This desire is so ordinary, so expected, so given. But sometimes the greatest journeys begin as excursions toward and through the ordinary, as expeditions in search of received truths. Maybe. I don’t know.

I don’t really know what I’m doing here. I’m kind of giving in to the flailing. This will serve me ill, or well. We’ll see.


Do you believe in life after death? In anything after death? In some movement of the soul beyond the body, some extension of the spirit beyond the material? And whatever you believe, do you believe it fervently? Or cautiously? Or with with many heavy grains of salt or whatever seasoning it is that tempers flights of fancy, if that is indeed what these are? It’s okay if you don’t believe; I’m interested to hear it. But I also really want to hear if you do. I need to hear if you do. I’ve been afraid to ask. But I want to know.

*apologies to Rilke.

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    Miss Grace January 8, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I don’t believe in anything after death but I DO believe in love, and that we are more than the sum of our parts. I wouldn’t say I believe it either fervently or cautiously. I believe it comfortably.
    .-= Miss Grace´s last blog ..As a human being, I FAIL =-.

    Musings of a Housewife January 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Catherine, your writing is so raw and vulnerable. I envy that.

    I know I don’t comment often, so I hope I’m not stepping out of line, but since you asked…

    I absolutely believe that there is eternal life in heaven for those who know Christ, and I realize the logical conclusion of that argument is not comforting for you right now. But I do believe that God is good and he allows suffering for a greater purpose that we may or may not understand in this life.

    I also believe that he desires a relationship with us, and that he puts the desire in us to want more and to want to believe that there is more than just this life.

    I promise to pray for you in your exploration of your faith, and in your search for peace and hope.

    Neen January 8, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    I believe that before we are born and after we die we are a part of a larger soul. I believe that while we are on this earth our souls are fractured pieces of that orignal soul and spend our time searching out other souls we recognize and love as other fractured pieces of our original whole soul. (Which is why we recongnize our children the second they are placed in our arms, of course we do, we’ve always known them.)
    So, dying isn’t bad, for the person who dies, they are truely going home to be whole and loved in completeness again.
    But, for those of us left behind, we’ve lost a part of what was making the world more like “heaven”, we’ve lost a fragment of our original larger soul, and that can’t be replaced, only mourned.

    (I also believe we chose to be here, to learn lessons that can’t be learned as a part of a larger whole. You can’t truely understand love if it can’t be lost.)

    I also have no idea where I picked these beliefs up, probably somewhere. If somebody knows you wanna give me a heads up. Thanks.

    I’m so sorry you’re having such a hard time with acceptance Cathrine, after my sister died it took me years to accept that she truely wasn’t going to ever come home again. But eventually the emperical evidence stacks up and your heart just gives up hope. Which, you know, should be bad, but in this case is good. (and there is very little use in your head lecturing your heart on stuff like this, your heart will just cover it’s ears and go LA, LA, LA, LA!! like a six year old until it’s ready to come to it’s own conclusions.)

    So, like the six year old believing in magic it insists on being, my heart is wishing your heart peace.

    Bridget January 8, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    My best friend was murdered at age 12 when I was a catholic little girl in a small community. God worked with me over a period of years to confirmed heaven, and that she was there. Jesus came to me in dreams and through other people(the holy spririt). Delivering me from the worst most confusing grief. the journey through that time is the backbone of my faith. i will pray for your peace today.

    i believe that heaven looks like a all inclusive resort. midnight buffet and swing bar:)

    Marie January 8, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Hi Catherine,
    I’m sorry that you are going through this right now…

    I lost my Mia Catherine almost 14 months ago and there is not a day that goes by that I question the same things. I know in my heart I will see her someday, but dang thats hard to believe when the pain that we feel RIGHT NOW is so horrible.
    But maybe that belief is what actually keeps me going…that i will someday see her again.

    Nina January 8, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    I used to not. But I do now. I do for so many reasons, but partly because life with no after, no larger purpose – if there is nothing MORE – then this life simply makes no sense. It is senseless. And I cannot live in a world like that. I cannot. It doesn’t make sense.

    I became a Christian at a somewhat fundamentalist, evangelical church, but I was raised a liberal, skeptical agnostic and I have since found my way to a gentler, more loving version of Christianity. It makes much more sense to me, to my heart, to my own view of God and faith and life.

    And yes, I believe fervently, but also with doubt. I am plagued by doubt. But yet I believe. Is faith logical or without nuance? I hope not! I believe, I have faith, I doubt, I question, I probe. I believe God is bigger than my understanding, but I seek to understand Him and His universe nonetheless.

    It is not simple, faith.
    .-= Nina´s last blog ..Design for Neatfreaks =-.

    Alexis January 8, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    As an atheist, I don’t believe in an afterlife as defined by most religions. But in the same way that standing outside on a warm summer night and gazing at the majesty of the night sky is all I’ve ever needed to feel the sensation of reverence, when it comes to life after death, the law of conservation of energy has always been a comfort. The energy, the atoms that make up my body, my essence, will continue to exist; will go on to make up other things, other beings after I am no longer in need of them.

    I suppose some people would call that reincarnation.
    .-= Alexis´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

    maresi January 8, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I’m gonna apologize in advance for the length of this comment.

    I am a follower of Jesus and believe in heaven and hell. Believing in the Christian God does not mean I always understand Him; for, after all, understanding His ways would put me on a similar level to Him and it’s very clear that I’m not. I have lots of questions and doubts, often. A song that clutches my heart every time I’m in a period of doubt is called “What If” by Nichole Nordeman. Here are the lyrics:

    What if you’re right?
    And he was just another nice guy
    What if you’re right?
    What if it’s true?
    They say the cross will only make a fool of you
    And what if it’s true?

    What if he takes his place in history
    With all the prophets and the kings
    Who taught us love and came in peace
    But then the story ends
    What then?

    But what if you’re wrong?
    What if there’s more?
    What if there’s hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
    What if you jump?
    And just close your eyes?
    What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
    What if He’s more than enough?
    What if it’s love?

    What if you dig, What if you dig
    Way down deeper than your simple-minded friends
    What if you dig?
    What if you find
    A thousand more unanswered questions down inside
    That’s all you find

    What if you pick apart the logic
    And begin to poke the holes
    What if the crown of thorns is no more
    Than folklore that must be told and retold


    You’ve been running as fast as you can
    You’ve been looking for a place you can land for so long
    But what if you’re wrong?

    What if you jump?
    And just close your eyes?
    What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
    What if He’s more than enough?
    What if it’s love?
    .-= maresi´s last blog ..answers =-.

    maresi January 8, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I also think God wants us to explore, search, and seek answers. It’s just sometimes, for some people, those answers make very little sense. The thing is, we have to decide if we’re okay with that or not.
    .-= maresi´s last blog ..answers =-.

    Blaine January 8, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    You know, I’ve always struggled with all of the major religions, because none of them really resonate in my heart what I believe. I still have a hard time explaining what I do believe, but sometimes I try.

    I do believe there is something after death. That our souls leave our bodies on this astral plane and go to another. The other plane is just ‘living’ at a different frequency, and while we cannot visit it, I do believe our family, friends visit from that other plane.

    I’ve heard and smelled my childhood dog. She sometimes runs through my house.

    My 9 month old son tends to look up at something that I have no idea what it is, and smile. I am comfortable believing that it is one of my Grandparents coming to visit him, since they all loved babies so much. Usually one of them pops into my mind at the exact moment that I realize he is looking at ‘nothing’ so that’s how I know who it is.

    I believe babies, since they are so new to this world, are more able to see the souls visiting from the other plane, since they haven’t been gone from it long – I also believe that babies souls come from that plane, reincarnation, and that we all choose our paths and our parents, friends, experiences, before we come to be born here.

    I see my Grandparents in my son’s smile sometimes, and I trust that it *is* them.

    That’s just me, though.

    Forgotten January 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Catherine, I couldn’t give you an answer in a short comment so I wrote a post for you. Please read it and I hope it helps.


    Lisa January 8, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Yes, there is an after life. There is life beyond this physical realm, this corporeal realm.

    I was raised somewhat Roman Catholic. My own mother lost faith after my sister died at 6. As as teen, I rejected religion as patriarchal and for the not very bright.

    In my 20s I learned more and more about life, biology, the universe, my faith returned and deepened. There is far too much wonder out there for accident. Have you ever seen the distant views of the universe? There are areas that look exactly like the synapses in our brains. Astounding. Awe inspiring.

    Then in my 30s, I started practicing yoga, specifically Tantra. I met people who believed in Chakras and Shivas and sending your intentions to the universe. Ironically, I found my own Christian faith deepening. Experiencing the Holy Spirit, feeling it deep in my body, in so many incarnations leaves me no doubt that there is more.

    If we are just tangible, corporeal entities – how are we able to feel so much emotion? How are able to be moved to tears? I’ve been moved at a church service. I’ve felt literal heart strings while making love with my husband. I’ve felt an actual pulling from his heart to mine, thousands of tiny fibers pulling at my heart.

    I’ve felt awe and been left breathless at the sight of nature.

    At 8 weeks pregnant, I suddenly lost interest in my pregnancy – my much anticipated pregnancy. I didn’t even want to go in for my sonogram, but did anyway, only to find out my baby had stopped growing. When the …this is hard to write… the death had been removed from me, the lightness I felt was indescribable. It was palpable the difference between when that little soul was in my body and when it had left, and the empty carcass it left behind. And no, I’ve never been a “life at the moment of conception person.” I don’t know what I am now.

    Now that I have a daughter, I feel how animalistic the experience of motherhood is, how rooted in my body and my responses to her. And it even more clearly draws the line between physical and spiritual. Or not draws the line, but shows me how they are different, even when they are intwined.

    You have felt the spirit, I know you have. Your father is part of that spirit even if you can’t feel him distinctly. I promise you he is.

    Eliza January 8, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    Aloha HBM –

    I was baptized and raised in the Presbyterian church. It did not give me the spiritual food which nurtured my soul (no faith in the ‘word of god’ as in the Bible). I pursued various studies – tarot, astrology, Science of Mind, along with what some would call metaphysics or “New Age”.

    I have learned that I can talk to dead people and they can talk to me. Nothing like the tv show Ghost Whisperer… but if I need to bring peace to a family, a home, it is a very helpful ability.

    For me, there is no a hell. That can actually be here on earth.

    At the time of my parents’ passings in ’05 and ’06, I was pretty settled on the fact our souls live on after our bodies end. I knew I had been in relationship with them in other lives and we would do it again.

    Reincarnation is the norm for our soul’s journey. We have the same people around because we are in an agreement to help each other grow through the emotional and physical nature of human life.

    You may find reading about where our souls go after death via the written work of Michael Newton, PhD. to be helpful. The books are ‘Journey of Souls’ and ‘Destiny of Souls’. His site is http://www.spiritualregression.org/.

    I do not believe we have a God as many would like to convince us that they ‘know’. To me the creator force is not human, not aware of us individually.

    We have the ability to co-create with our own energy what we are here to experience. That is how with a matter of moments, we can instantly change our emotional body’s reactions by how and what we think. Our minds are powerful, as are our bodies. To be in harmony between the two is the goal for many on the planet. Therefore, I appreciate the core wisdom of the Buddha’s philosophy – take the middle road.

    Please note, I do pray. It just doesn’t sound like anything you’d hear in a ‘mainstream’ Christian church. It is along the lines of the Science of Mind organization. Visit them here:
    http://www.unitedcentersforspiritualliving.org/ or their prayer group http://www.unitedcentersforspiritualliving.org/Program_WMOP/index.php

    Kinda touched on many subjects there, as there are many many pieces to the puzzle of personal belief, faith and trust.

    May your journey to your destination be fulfilling and joy-filled.

    Maluhia – Peace
    .-= Eliza´s last blog ..Sun enters Capricorn aka Winter Solstice 2009 =-.

    Omnibus Driver January 8, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Yes, I firmly do believe in the afterlife. And I believe we get little messages from there… but too often we’re looking for the skywriting, and miss the whisper on the wind.

    I wish you could remember and tell a happy or really funny story about your dad. That’s what truly helped in my own healing process… and I know it’s what my dad would have preferred to overwhelming grief.

    Hugs to you, Catherine. (See you at BlogHer?)
    .-= Omnibus Driver´s last blog ..Drive-Bys =-.

    Her Bad Mother January 8, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I do remember those stories – I have one in particular that *he* reminded me of. And I’ll tell it, soon.

    Thank you. (And, yes, BlogHer ;) )

    Omnibus Driver January 8, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    P.S. — There was a time when I was really, really angry at God. This book helped me gain some perspective. I highly recommend it.
    .-= Omnibus Driver´s last blog ..Drive-Bys =-.

    Bella January 8, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    This article pretty much summarizes what I believe; or, rather, HOW I believe. I don’t have faith in any organized religious doctrine. I don’t believe men’s words about any one or another god. But I *feel* what this woman knows and understands and so beautifully (and deeply intelligently) writes about in her book. Summary here:

    .-= Bella´s last blog ..Two Good Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Disciplinary Strategies =-.

    PaleMother January 8, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    This is one of those questions where … I’m not sure my answers will get to the heart of what you are looking for. That said, here goes anyway:

    “Do you believe in life after death? In anything after death? In some movement of the soul beyond the body, some extension of the spirit beyond the material?”

    Yes, but not because religion tells me so. Don’t get me started about organized religion and the stereotypical believer and why they ‘believe’. And not because I am afraid of the idea that “we are consigned to dust.”

    “And whatever you believe, do you believe it fervently? Or cautiously? Or with with many heavy grains of salt or whatever seasoning it is that tempers flights of fancy, if that is indeed what these are?”

    The uncertainty is a such a bitch. What can you do? I mean, you can deny it. Fervently or cautiously. But that doesn’t erase it.

    As Louis Pasteur once said, “The greatest derangement of the mind is to believe in something because one wishes it to be so.” Uncertainty about the afterlife is the human condition.

    For myself, I just try not to focus on the uncertainty — I try not to give it more weight than the possibility that there are very serious limits to our perceptions and our knowledge. I try to balance doubt (rather than deny it), with my strong instinct that there is more to it all than meets the literal, rational, physical eye. I trust my instinct over any doctrine and over other people’s opinions. Although I know instinct seems unsatisfyingly intangible in a Big Mac world.

    I had a friend who was a medium. A “rescue” medium, to be specific:


    I am sorry that I missed your earlier post asking about ghosts. :)

    My friend passed away unexpectedly a year and a half ago. At that time, we’d known each other for about three years and we were fast friends (he was recovering from a serious illness when we met).

    What I liked about him was that he was not the least. bit. flaky. He was credible in a well-rounded way that a lot of the people who (claim to?) do that kind of work often are not.

    He did not ~ever~ accept payment for helping people and he was positively fanatical about keeping the lowest possible profile (the subject of celebrity mediums was a non-starter with him. You got the sense that he thought that fame and The Work were spiritually incompatible.) He did not advertise what he did; the work found him. Case by case.

    He never once set off my cynical alarms nor violated my common sense … and I am a person with a very healthy skepticism. I was cautious about the things he was telling me, especially in the beginning. And he encouraged that stance and was not offended by it. Questioning everything and thinking outside of the box was, in fact, a key part of his job as he described it.

    “I look for his messages everywhere, I look so closely that I worry I will miss them for looking. I look so closely, because I don’t quite – I don’t yet? – have the faith that would allow me to just trust.”

    Here is what my friend had to say about losing his own mother and dealing with the craving for communication (which never came, in spite of his relevant talents and expertise) after she died:


    As for looking for messages, you would think that when your medium friend dies, if anyone could get a message to you, it would be him. Like you, I have a few stories. But none of them (to date LOL) would satisfy the cynics.

    “attachment to belief – is just magical thinking, wishful thinking”

    Did you mean, “attachment to the idea of an ~afterlife~ is magical thinking”? Because that is our cultural bias … “rational” and concete is superior to that which we cannot prove, touch, define, explain, factualize?

    We can be attached to DOUBT as well as to a particular belief. We can be attatched to intellectualizing … but there are limits to our brains … limits that bind our thinking and our perceptions … but those those limits don’t necessarily apply to the the universe outside of little ourselves.

    I agree with your statement — when knowledge remains persistently just out of reach, you are right … attachment to one theory or the other … to doubt or belief … hinders understanding. NTM inner peace.


    ~Believers~ are always on the spot to defend their POV. (People once believed the world was flat.) ~Seekers~ remain open to possibilities and wait for more information. And as such, they are less likely to miss what comes their way, subtle or obvious.

    It’s funny you should mention Rilke. This is one of my favorite passages from him:

    “…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

    HTH, though I am afraid none of this will console you about the loss of connection with your dad. :(

    magpie January 8, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    I don’t know. I fervently believe that when we die, we die. When we’re cremated, we’re ashes. My mother died last spring, and I know that her ashes are in that box, in a velvet bag. And I’m a dyed in the wool atheist, at that.


    But. She’s around. We still talk about going to Granny’s house. We talk about Christmas with Granny last year. Her name is on a brick at the daycare – “we’ll always have Granny at daycare”. She’s around. Somehow, though I don’t know how. I feel it in the things around me, in the things I know in my bones.

    Even though she’s dead.

    Does that make any sense?
    .-= magpie´s last blog ..Pointless Feckless Aimless and Graceless =-.

    kootnygirl January 9, 2010 at 12:12 am

    It makes perfect sense, and was beautifully said.

    baltimoregal January 8, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    While I don’t believe in any one faith or creed, I do believe that life is not as simple as birth or death. I have had two experiences with death that have taught me this.

    The night before my Great-Uncle JC died I spent some time visiting with him alone, while his family took a break- he had been rushed to the hospital that day. He was in a lot of pain so I held his hand and talked to him. I teased him about his pretty hair and talked about other little nothings. He looked into my eyes and said, “I’ve had a good life.” I knew right then that he would die that night, the night before his 92nd birthday. I knew that he knew it too, and that he was ready. When I came out of that room my mother took one look at my face and knew it, too. His family wasn’t ready to accept it but he died just hours into his 92nd year.

    The night my uncle/godfather died suddenly at 58, I couldn’t sleep. It was the night of my 32nd birthday. And when my mother called me the next morning I knew someone had died. Some months after he died, my Uncle David visited me in a dream, not in any form or words, but in feelings. He let me know he was at peace, and gave me the ability to let my mother know her brother was OK. It was a great gift.

    I don’t believe there are good deaths. Nor do I believe there are certainties in life. I do think people are more than their physical beings. While I cannot imagine your loss (honestly, the thought of going through the loss you are going through terrifies me) I hope you can imagine that something, somehow, goes on.
    .-= baltimoregal´s last blog ..USA Network Video – PRIVATE EYES =-.

    Stacey January 8, 2010 at 5:58 pm


    My Dad passed away in 1999 at the age of 53 suddenly and unexpectedly. I was devastated. I was angry. I felt cheated. I felt so many things. Today, I still feel many of those things. They are just ,after almost 11 years,easier to deal with. It’s cliche sure but time does help to heal some wounds. I’ll never be ok with the fact that I lost my father. I just get better at dealing with it.

    I dream about him from time to time and the dreams are so real that I truly believe it is him “visiting” me via my subconsicous. The year after he passed away I got married. It rained, I mean torrential downpours, everyday for a week before my outdoor ceremony. That evening there wasn’t a cloud in sight. It was beautiful with just the perfect sunset. During the ceremony,the flame of our unity candle almost blew out with a gust of wind that seem to come out of nowhere since it wasn’t particularly windy. It flickered and then stayed lit. I look at these things as his gifts to me. He was there. Watching over me. To some that may be silly but it comforts me and that is all that matters.
    You do what you need to and grieve the way you need to grieve.
    I wish you much love and peace in this journey.

    ~Stacey (@twinmomoftwinz)
    .-= Stacey´s last blog ..Well Hello 2010, you look pretty good from afar =-.

    Jana January 8, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    I don’t know. I wish I knew. I wish I could make the spiritual and intellectual parts of me somehow reconcile. But I can’t. For a while sometimes, I will believe strongly and easily. And then, one day I’ll doubt and I’ll keep doubting for a while until the cycle completes again.

    A priest once told me that even for him, believing was sometimes very difficult. That made me feel a little better.

    Even in my most skeptical periods, I still pray. I still want to believe. I want it to be true.

    I earnestly hope that you find some answers, some comfort, and some peace.

    katie January 8, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    I really like Emmett Fox’s thoughts on spirituality and reincarnation. He has some good books that have helped me with spiritual ideas throughout my adult life. He takes a metaphysical, philosophical view on the bible and God. His ideas resinate with me and have helped me find peace in lifes ups and downs.
    I hope you get through this time with as many smiles as possible.

    Mandy January 8, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    I understand your struggle and desire to believe. As an atheist, I personally don’t believe in an afterlife. That doesn’t mean that grief is any more or less painful for me. Just perhaps different. Also, I hope you don’t berate yourself for feeling grief and all the uncertainties that come with it.

    Perhaps you have already read it, but you might want (at some point) to read Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”. If nothing, it is an interesting exploration in dealing with the process of grieving from a first person “in the moment” point of view.

    Thinking of you.
    .-= Mandy´s last blog ..Exposition =-.

    Amy W. January 8, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    I wish I could believe in something. I fear there is nothing, but I desperately hope that there is more.

    Jennifer January 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    CS Lewis said something to effect of humans not having a soul. We are souls. We have a body.

    The body is temporary, and the soul is eternal. I had the opportunity to sit by my grandfather’s side as he died. In those last days, he would speak to old friends that had gone before as if they were there in the room. These weren’t just crazy babblings. My granddad was not one for idle chat. He was a man of few but important words. He was making plans with them. The hospices nurses told us that they think all those that have gone before rush to the gate when you are about to go through it to welcome you to heaven. They believe that everything the patient sees is real. And they experience this all the time. They see the same sorts of scenarios in all the people they care for at the end. They would tell you that no one dies alone. When the gates to the afterlife are opened, everyone is there to guild them through. I find it hard to believe there isn’t an afterlife when so many people experience the end in such a similar way. I don’t know if this helps, but maybe it can just be another clue to get you where you need to be.
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Friday Fluff: Emo Bunny =-.

    Karishma January 11, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Oh, Jennifer, thank you. I can’t even tell you how much. I read this post and burst into tears from the relief it gave me. My grandmother died in October. It was a mess. My uncle didn’t want to “worry” anyone, so he just didn’t tell anyone how bad it was until it was too late for the family, from the dozen locations they were in, to see her. No one got to say goodbye to her. Not one. Her two daughters were there as she passed, but she was unresponsive by them time they had arrived. I was at the airport, in hysterical tears, heartbroken, knowing that she was just too sick to make it through my 20 hour plane ride. My point is…. I have sobbed, these three past months, absolutely destroyed that she died without her family surrounding her. That no one got to say goodbye, that she was alone, that she couldn’t hear how much we loved her, how much we respected her for building this family and quite literally keeping it alive during some horrible times. That we lost our chance to tell her things that we had never gotten around to telling her before, and death gives us no second chances. The thought that she was alone through the bulk of almost a month in the hospital, just because we had no idea what the true circumstances really were until 36 hours before her death. And this? What you just said right here? Was exactly what I needed to hear. I just hope the comfort lasts, that I don’t reenter the little pit of hellish grief I’ve dug for myself.

    Tracy @HallofFameMoms January 8, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    These are hard things. I’m sorry for your loss.

    There are answers to your questions. God gave us those answers in the bible. Heaven and hell are real. Real people go to both places. The determining factor for each one of us has nothing to do with good works or being a good person. It has to do with whether or not we have personally put our trust in Jesus Christ (God in the flesh)regarding what he did for us. He died to pay for our sins so that we could be adopted by God. Our sins separate us from God and if we die without the forgiveness of God (only obtainable through a personal relationship with Christ) then it is impossible for us to live in heaven with God.

    For more info take the http://www.theGoodTest.net or email me if you want.

    Becca January 8, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    I believe that there is a place that everyone goes to when they die. I believe that people who have done amazing things or who have been an inspiration to others (adults & children) become guardians of the living. They become angels, muses and protectors. I also believe people are given the chance to live again. When a child is born they receive their soul and that soul comes from this place. As for those who have done bad, their souls are recycled and cleansed before being allowed back into a newborn.
    I believe cherubs aren’t just chubby winged babies and toddlers, but those who have become guardians, they protect, help people find love, inspire people etc.
    I believe this is why people say they have experienced their past lives, because their souls are recycled.
    A few months ago, a friend of mines 2 year old daughter died, and my belief was the only thing that helped me. I firmly believe that she has earnt her wings and has become a guardian. She was a very sick child, always in hospital, having operations, always in pain, yet she always smiled. She was good as gold, so precious and inspired so many people. I honestly believe that she is now a protector of other children and helping them to cope with their illnesses.

    That’s my belief.

    KimW January 8, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    I don’t know what to believe. Faith is not a gift I was blessed with and I’m not sure I’m up to the exploration.

    Part of my issues is that my sister died (many, many years ago) and under every version of Christianity I’ve seen, she would be in hell. I cannot accept that. My sister was flawed, but she was not evil. So, how can I square that with the thought that whole segments of society would condemn her to such suffering? And purgatory – that doesn’t sound like such a good thing either. She suffered in THIS life. Why should she suffer again?

    But, I don’t cotton to the notion that everyone goes to heaven. That seems overly simplistic to me.

    So, I’m left with rather amorphous thoughts and beliefs and hope. But no faith.

    Rhonda January 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Ditto to momma_trish-she expressed it beautifully!
    .-= Rhonda´s last blog ..I’m MOOOOOOOOOVING…… =-.

    Karen Murphy January 8, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    This is the quintessential human question, isn’t it?

    What is our true nature? What happens when we die? Why are we HERE?

    A long time ago I found that the idea of reincarnation made sense to me. A lot of things have happened since then — experiences, births, deaths — to help shape my perception of the world. This is how we learn and grow, by BEING. It’s essentially what we’re here to do. The conclusions we come to aren’t as important as the experiences themselves.

    My universe-view merged into my livelihood: I’m a channel (like a psychic) and I bring messages from entities who exist on other planes. My perceptions have shaped my entire life. Kind of like giving oneself to the church, only this isn’t a religion for me — it’s more like a way of life.

    The biggest difficulty people have, I’ve found, in finding meaning for things, is trust. You asked this question about faith — how do you KNOW? If we just apply our intellect or logic to things, then we are limited in our potential understanding. Our bodies, brains, and emotions are capable of telling us so much more. But we tend to second-guess. We want proof.

    So how can you know that your dad’s okay, and that he’s still with you in some way? I’d just try to be open to the possibility of knowing this, one day. Somehow. It won’t necessarily be a ghostly visitation or spooky knocking on the walls. But your body remembers what it feels like to be hugged by him. I’d start with something simple like that. Ask to feel that again, however that felt to you. Ask — whoever you have to ask, God, whoever — that you find a way to really KNOW. And trust what you already know about you and your father, about your connections, what you shared. It sounds beautiful.
    .-= Karen Murphy´s last blog ..Dead boy emerges =-.

    Rita January 8, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    While I have always had a strong faith, it was so very difficult for me to understand how my dad could be at peace in heaven when we were suffering from our grief.

    When facing some possible extremely serious health issues a couple years ago, someone I hardly knew described for me his experience when he was clinically dead for 4 minutes during his surgery.

    What he described gave me chills. I had read of people who had experienced death, but had never met one. He explained how amazing his “train ride” was and that a messenger was with him to explain the process. He specifically remembered that he was told something amazing that he wanted to share with his wife.

    I asked him if he had asked to come back and he said he would not have. He told me that even the love of our children bring with it stress and there is only joy on the other side. It was somewhere he never wanted to leave, but he did come back from being clinically dead. In the recovery room, he told his wife the amazing thing the messenger told him. She remembers him telling her the message. But now neither of them can recall the message.

    He looked at me when he was telling me the story and said, “I know there is a heaven, I was there and all I can tell you was that the amazing message that I was told we are not to know here. That is why my wife and I cannot remember it.”

    He is not some kind of kook. He’s an executive with a successful company and most people do not know of his experience on the other side.

    I have to belief that our loved ones who have passed know something we don’t and I think our concept of time is not the same as it is on the other side. I believe they know we will be with them “in the blink of an eye” even when it’s decades to us.

    I so wish you peace. Don’t be discouraged when it comes ever so slowly.
    .-= Rita´s last blog ..The Highest Price =-.

    The New Girl January 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Catherine, I can so relate to this feeling. After my mom died, I remember being like, ‘But. Where IS she?’ It’s so surreal, death.

    Candygirlflies January 8, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Hi, Catherine–

    I am so sorry. There are just no words of comfort that are enough for what you are going through right now.

    I just wanted you to know… that my dad and his father before him were both “men of science”. My grandad was a professor, and my dad a medical doctor. I was fortunate enough to be able to work with my father at the hospital as a volunteer in the palliative care unit, and was able to watch him care for his patients and their families. It was quite an experience for a young teenager, to say the least.

    I once talked to my (very British and very proper) dad about death, and if he really, truly believed in a God. We were Anglican, and went to church and all, but I really needed to know the true contents of his heart, with all of his experience.

    His answer has always stayed with me, and helped me through extremely difficult times of loss. He said that his own father had once told him that NO ONE should ever try to prove or dis-prove the existence of God using “science”: that they should be forever separate, and remain The Great Mystery.

    Then, he told me that there were many things in life, and most certainly in medicine, that simply could never be explained or understood. He told me that he absolutely believed that miracles do occur. There had been many things that had happened during the course of his career that no one could ever fully explain.

    He assured me that the great life force– that miraculous “spark” that ignites our spirits– is far too strong to simply be snuffed out when we die. He told me that he was convinced that it is not extinguished, but that it must somehow move on to another “plane”.

    In one part of our service at church, we pray for those who are “on another shore, and in a greater Light”. That is the way I comfort myself. My dear ones are out there somewhere. I feel it.

    And besides. My own dear dad said so.

    Love to you– xoxo CGF
    .-= Candygirlflies´s last blog ..Of pride. And prejudice. =-.

    Kim January 8, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    I tried to read this, but the tears started. My father died two and a half weeks ago, and I still cannot grasp it.
    I’m sorry about your dad…..I printed this post out and am going to try and read it, because right now, I have no faith at all. Not after losing a husband and a father in 9 months time. And I’m deeply afraid that I’ll never have faith again.
    I hope you find some peace. Take care.
    .-= Kim´s last blog ..Before and after….. =-.

    Melanie January 8, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    I am not religious, but I can’t rule out some kind of after-death existence, only because I have had three separate interactions with my mother after her death.

    The most memorable was three days after she died; my brother and I were spending the night at my aunt’s house. I closed my eyes and started going into that half-state between awake and asleep, but then I opened my eyes and I was in my own bedroom at home. I walked out of my room and into our living room, and there she was, looking healthy and beautiful and younger than I’d ever seen her, holding her arms out to me. As I walked to her to curl into her hug, she said, “I’m with you and I’ll never leave you.” But a split second before I could actually touch her I jerked bolt upright, in the dark, at my aunt’s house, screaming, “Mommy! Mommy!”

    Many years later I told this story to my dad, and he told me that right after he started dating again, he saw my mother outside our back window, looking in at him disapprovingly. He thought it was a trick of the light, but she stayed there and stayed there until he ran to the window and whipped the curtains closed.

    There are more things than we could ever understand in the world, and nobody can say with absolute certainty that anything in the spiritual world does or does not exist.

    I hope you find something that gives you peace, Catherine. You deserve it.

    Jozet at Halushki January 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Start with a rosary. Or start with prayer beads. And just say the words, not like a stream of magic words, but as a mantra…as something for your waking mind to do, to occupy itself…so that your soul can figure this out.

    So that your soul is open.

    I know how it is. You are smart. So smart. And you are going to try to work this like a lock box, like an algebraic equation. And you’ll puzzle and get closer and closer, but only still infinitesimally smaller increments of not getting closer to a solution. Like Pi running out but never ending.

    Pray. Pray not for guidance or magic or answers. But pray to give your intellect something to busy itself with. Get rid of the static.

    This is spirit work. This is the work of the eternal infinite universe that curves in on itself and contains everything and brings it back to us.

    You know already that him disappearing altogether cannot be the truth. The understanding of this is trying to break free from within you like a child trying to be born. Midwife your body…give it some quiet busywork to do. This child will be born.

    Your dad is standing right next to you. You will know this again. You can.
    .-= Jozet at Halushki´s last blog ..Worldless Wednesday =-.

    red pen mama January 8, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    (haven’t read all the comments)

    I do believe in an afterlife. I’ve no idea what it is like. But i like to think that I will be reunited with my son. I hope in such a way that I get to caress his cheek, and see him smile, and know the color of his eyes.

    But, simply, I do believe.

    Bless you.

    .-= red pen mama´s last blog ..Animal, Mineral, Vegetarian =-.

    Andrea January 9, 2010 at 12:17 am

    My brother-in-law passed away on Jan 6, 2009. I watch my husband struggle with his death every day. There is no time table for the grieving process. There is no right or wrong way to believe. I am a Christian and I believe in heaven. My brother-in-law was a Buddhist. We all believe and find our own paths to the faith that comforts us. For some people, it’s something they just know. For others, it’s a much longer journey to travel. I know for Mark, it took him years to find a faith, a belief, that gave him comfort. That faith helped him through the long and painful journey of his cancer until the end. My faith has helped me through his journey and his passing. I don’t see him or feel his presence but I know, wherever he is, he is no longer in any pain and he is happy.

    Sorry this post may not make much sense as I am typing it right before I go to bed. But I understand where you are coming from, I really do.

    bea January 9, 2010 at 12:31 am

    This post reminds me so much of C.S. Lewis’s book, A Grief Observed. Have you read it? I think you would find it comforting. Lewis came into his time of grief from a very different position from you – not only was he sure of his faith but he had built an entire career on being sure of his faith. And in his grief after the death of his wife he just couldn’t get back to that place of certainty. I think you described that so perfectly in this post – your need to believe is so loud, right now, that it drowns everything else out. It’s the dark night of the soul – that time when you desperately want God to show up, not for Job or for the guy from The Shack but for you. And somehow God’s voice just doesn’t seem to come through at those times, but occasionally what can get through is the voice of other people who have been in the same place, and who can tell you that at some point the rawness of that need quiets down enough for God’s still, small voice to be heard.
    .-= bea´s last blog ..Future Shock =-.

    Jozet at Halushki January 9, 2010 at 8:44 am

    I love this book.
    .-= Jozet at Halushki´s last blog ..Worldless Wednesday =-.

    Amanda January 9, 2010 at 12:40 am

    I’m afraid I don’t believe. I can’t. I’ve tried. I was raised atheist (ok, Dad was the atheist, Mom was the vague anything-spiritual-ist who didn’t talk about her journey, but believes in UFOs, people who can talk to the dead on TV, and various right-wing conspiracies)….

    Ok, went off on a tangent there. My point: I am sad to say that I can’t believe in the survival of what I think of as my self, beyond death. I can accept the possibility of some kind of soul energy, or something, surviving and, y’know, merging with the greater soul flow… but it’s not my memories or my personality, because they’re in my brain tissue. So.

    Faith is not available to me. I think you have to be raised with it.

    Stone Fox January 9, 2010 at 12:44 am

    Buddha taught that we should not to go blindly into faith. Look and examine and find out for yourself. Believe what you see. Don’t be afraid to SEE. Do you look at a tree and see God’s miracle? Or do you look at a tree and see millions of years of universal cosmic energy (trippy, i know)?

    Something I realized not too long ago: I would not live my life any differently if I believed in God. I am content to not know the answer. I am content to not question. I am trying to be a good person for the sake of being a good person. Because all people are tied together. Because the Law of Karma is real, I am sure of that. I WANT some good stuff coming my way. I am trying to be a person who is spiritual and decent and whole enough to stand before Whatever Comes Next and know that I’m gonna be just fine.

    When my mom died a year and a half ago, I needed to believe that she was still around us, even though it contradicted everything I had believed up until that point. I wanted to feel, even for a short time, that my mother was watching over us. I wanted to help my 3 year old understand death by telling him that Nana’s body was gone, but her spirit was an angel who would be listening if he needed to talk. I realized after having the first (of many) of these what-happened-to-Nana? conversations, that saying the words felt right to me. I didn’t feel like a complete liar. Faith is constant, but beliefs can evolve and change. I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but I believe in angels. Maybe by now my mother is the Boss of Angels (that wouldn’t surprise me), or maybe she’s a 17 month old baby learning to run and enjoying another go around on earth.
    .-= Stone Fox´s last blog ..Letters of Intent, Jan 8/10 =-.

    divacowgirl January 9, 2010 at 1:18 am

    I’ll admit being a Christian helped me with the loss of my mom. But even more was reading books on grief…faith based and otherwise. It just helped me to know that other people felt the way I did.

    I can tell you that there will be a day when you feel better. Unfortuately there isn’t a timeline for that. But it happens.
    .-= divacowgirl´s last blog ..My Plans for 2010 =-.

    Redneck Mommy January 9, 2010 at 1:29 am

    I have been looking for Bug in everything, everywhere, always since the moment he left me.

    I will be by your side; together we will search, hand in hand, until we find peace at the very least.
    .-= Redneck Mommy´s last blog ..Suck It =-.

    Moo's mom January 9, 2010 at 1:40 am

    I’m just amazed by the admission of uncertainty of so many here. I find that comforting in a way I can’t describe. As for me, Agnostic, when you’re dead you’re dead. And I’m okay with that.
    At most Day of the Dead celebrations (and I can’t recommend participating in/ creating your own highly enough), there is a reading tgatvyiu goes something like this (and pardon my poor paraphrasing) there is more than one death- the first is when our body is no longer alive and then our soul departs. The last and worst death of all is when we are no longer remembered. By remembering the departed, we keep them alive.
    That’s one I can live with.

    Eliza January 9, 2010 at 3:11 am

    Aloha –

    Don’t know where my words went today regarding your writing today, HBM. So I’ll boil my post down to these points:

    There’s faith in a Divine co-creative force in my life.

    There’s knowing our souls live forever.

    Knowing that our path on this planet allows us to have experiences of all kinds which allow our soul to grow and expand in its personal destiny which is way beyond our earthly understanding.

    We will see our loved ones again. Perhaps not as our loving parent, perhaps we will birth their body for their soul to inhabit or be their sibling, and so on in the words to describe relationship.

    I have found help through the writings of the Science of Mind philosophy as well as those of Michael Newton, PhD.

    Blessings always –
    Maluhia – Peace
    .-= Eliza´s last blog ..Sun enters Capricorn aka Winter Solstice 2009 =-.

    Miriam January 9, 2010 at 8:09 am

    I am an atheist. I think religions, and heaven, are beautiful, beguiling lies, and although it would be comforting and strengthening to believe, I just can’t live a lie. Truth gives me more strength. Philosophically, I like the ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer, existentialism and the Stoics.

    My maternal grandparents died three years ago, six months apart. Their absence has left a hole, a void in my world. I found that no matter how much time has passed, the void is still there. I realise that I will always, always miss them, and it will always make me sad.

    So, because I got tired of being unexpectedly jerked to tears by a stray thought, I have decided to imagine them still alive. Living in the comfortable home they built themselves in the 50′s, arguing about politics, making tea and washing up, fixing, gardening, embroidering, crotcheting, waiting for us to visit. As though they would in “heaven”.

    I know it is a lie. It is a lie that makes me feel a little better, and allows me to think of them with a smile in my heart.

    It is as though I have erected a little picket fence around the abyss of death. I know the abyss is there, but the picket fence stops me stumbling in by accident.

    ami January 9, 2010 at 11:17 am

    My father died 12 years ago from suicide. I was 22 when I found his body. That moment in time remained the worst moment of my life for 11 years, and was only recently surpassed by my daughters illness that brought her too near to death (she is big and healthy now).

    My father and I were always close, so I was sure he would come to me and tell me he was ok. He never did come. No dreams, no ghost figure, no static on the telephone. He was quite simply gone. I was forced to figure out things for myself. Now, after many years of therapy I can say that his biggest gift to me was to not linger.

    Quite simply, I believe now that life is too beautiful not to believe in more. I don’t know what that more entails. I hope I get the opportunity to come back and do this crazy life thing again though. Some of it (like having kids and falling in love) is just to cool!

    What I do know for sure is that my God knows when even the smallest sparrow falls. I know that my father’s soul is tucked away somewhere in that vast universe. His soul is learning to overcome the things that he could not overcome on earth. I know that in my version of heaven, all things are made whole again.

    Mandi Bone January 9, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I lost my grandmother when I was 17.She was more than a grandparent in my life. I see her in my girls.I know she is with me. As for faith I am still working on that.

    Sierra Black January 9, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks for this lovely post. I had a conversation with my daughter about this the other day, hopefully it’ll make you smile: http://childwild.com/2010/01/04/do-you-believe-in-god-mama/
    .-= Sierra Black´s last blog ..Playing Princesses =-.

    m January 9, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    My grandpa died when I was 6- I went to church, was taught about Jesus, & was too young to question faith. At around age 11, I decided I’d pray & ask God if I could talk to my grandfather through him. I then proceeded to explain to my grandfather that I worried he couldn’t hear me when I spoke to him this way (through a prayer) and that if he could in fact hear me, to please make my cat (who was currently sitting behind me on the couch) get up & go sit in a specific place across the room (a place where he never sat) when I count to 10. I counted to 10 & my cat got up and moved across the room. I was terrified & told my grandpa that I changed my mind! No more signs!

    This odd event happened before my own eyes. I believe it worked bc I was still too young to be skeptical about God. Faith wasn’t a battle I was fighting yet. I was just a child innocently wondering if my grandpa could hear me. And I missed him.

    I still struggle with faith, but this event remains with me. I can’t deny its occurrence, even in my darkest moments. But I believe a struggle of faith is something that humans were SUPPOSED to endure. It’s a HUGE part of being alive, no? The not knowing, the struggle with doing the “right thing” despite the difficulty in seeing or knowing the bigger picture, etc.. If we had the proof we were all looking for, life would be so easy! But because we don’t have that proof, life is much more character building- it has a purpose.

    Melanie January 9, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    My dad passed away from pancreatic cancer 2 years ago. He was diagnosed and gone in 11 days, so the swiftness of it was brutal. Being that I live in Texas and he in California, our last visit was a week before he passed away, and his last words to me were, “I’ll see you again.” He was not religious, but his words couldn’t have been more perfect. Sometimes I’ll smell his pipe smoke, or see a hummingbird out my window, and I know he’s here with me. Someday I’ll see him again; he’s sending me signs that he’s with me still. Watch for the signs from your dad; he’ll send them.

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