It’s amazing – the thoughts I’ll entertain in my darkest moments – the desperation that can emerge from the depths of my sorrow… Mark gets weirded out and thinks I’m cray-cray, but I don’t think my thoughts are totally unique – I’ve heard others who’ve lost someone near and dear express similar thoughts, regardless of their actual spiritual beliefs.
Mark and I are both Lutheran. And I’m also an extremely analytical person – I’ve always taken pride in my keen ability to see through the BS. If someone tells me something too curious or sketchy, I’ll take to the internet and have that story blown so wide open they’ll wish we never met.
So Mark is OMG-shocked when I start to entertain thoughts that don’t fall into perfect line with the beliefs of the Lutheran church or don’t “make sense”. And then he’ll start to list all the reasons why I might be cray-cray, in front of me, like I’m not listening!
Like maybe it is because when I was a child, my mom went through a phase – she took my brother and me to a Unitarian Universalist Church. And we were pretty hard core – like we did Sunday services, Sunday school, and potlucks – like, tons of potlucks.
Back then, at my particular church, all the members were total hippies. Everyone drove a Subaru adorned with the coexist bumper sticker (okay, I’ll admit, I don’t know whether that was actually a thing back then, but if it was, they were doing it!). Everyone was super into the environment. Lots of the women wore Birkenstocks, long skirts made out of organic cotton, and tons of beaded jewelry from all their travels across the world. But most importantly, everyone was super nice and accepting.
So I call it a phase because we only attended for a few years – basically just during my elementary school days. And now even my mom’s surprised by it all – she doesn’t really fit the above description (except for the super nice and accepting part). But we all go through our phases… And my dad is a former Peace Corps volunteer, a biologist, a retired conservationist, and later purchased a Subaru Outback Sport, so maybe we fit in perfectly all along…
The teachings were extremely valuable though. We learned about all world religions, including Christianity. The church even gifted my brother and me a picture Bible. We’d celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa – everything. We learned about tolerance, acceptance, and the Golden Rule. We focused on the commonalities among religions instead of the differences between them. And we sat in circles, lit candles, and pondered the meaning of life, never reaching any actual conclusions.
Although Mark acknowledges the immense value in my partial-Unitarian upbringing, he also thinks I could become easily confused – like in a moment of weakness and intense longing for Matthew, I might latch onto something cray-cray, because I’ve been exposed to so many different types of beliefs. I tell him that’s ridiculous, and then we both laugh at the notion.
But he still kind of thinks I’m extra suggestable, and there must be some reason for it (other than intense grief). So I’ll joke with him that maybe it’s because, when I was growing up, I had free reign over the television (this isn’t true, but compared to the Puritan-esque television rules from his home, it kind of is).
I sort of did have free reign over the television though, but just during the summer, in the couple morning hours before the sitter arrived. I’d use some of that time to watch Crossing Over with John Edward (not to be confused with Edwards).
John Edward was a medium who performed readings on members of his live, studio audience. In other words, he talked to dead people who had “crossed over”. Even in sixth grade, the whole premise of the show registered pretty high on my BS-meter.
The audience was comprised of those grieving the loss of loved ones. John Edward seemed to be a con-artist, preying on the emotions of the vulnerable. A reading would go something like this…
“Did anyone here lose a mother figure?”, he’d ask.
“Anyone here lose a mother figure? I’m seeing a mother figure. I see a C or K. I’m getting the “cuh” sound. Did someone lose a Kathy, Kathleen, Katherine, Colleen, Caroline? Anyone with a mother figure who’s crossed over?”
Some timid, bleary-eyed woman would raise her hand and whisper, “Yes.”
John Edward would turn his attention to the woman… “Who did you lose?” he’d ask.
“My Aunt Karen,” she’d manage to choke out, “She was so special to me – like a mother”.
“That’s her coming through,” he’d say.
“Was she sick before her death? Or old? Or hurting – in pain?”
“Yes, she died in a car accident.”
“Were there things left unsaid? Like that you love her? And those things you were mad about – they’re not important, and you forgive her?”
“Yes,” the woman would burst into hysterics.
“She wants you to know she knows all those things. She loves you too, and she’s watching over you. She’s with you all the time.”
Reading over. The woman would nod, and express her thanks, and continue balling hysterically.
In her interview later, she’d speak to the awesomeness of John Edward and how it was totally Aunt Karen coming through, because how could he have possibly known that Aunt Karen died in a car accident, and there were some words left unsaid?!
And, sixth grade me would be left to scream at the television, “I could have done that!!!!!!!!”
Shortly after Matthew died, AB and JVB stopped over for dinner with Olive Garden. I remember choking on my gluten-free rotini pasta, tears streaming down my face, after AB said, “Maybe someday, somehow, Matthew will return to you in some different form.”
AB is Catholic, but apparently holds some Hindu beliefs. As mentioned, I’m Lutheran, but the thought was oddly comforting. And I’d take any comfort I could get in that short moment.
In the hospital, the bereavement nurse explained that many families who lose children see signs – they often feel the presence of the lost child in their everyday lives. So sometimes I look for signs of Matthew, even though I don’t know whether I believe in signs. It’s only been three months, and I haven’t seen many. But I’ve seen enough to wonder…
Was that Matthew? When we were lying in bed that one night watching a crappy movie about grief, but mostly just talking about Matthew, and a huge bolt of lightning basically struck our house and blew out our Apple TV. When it struck, it looked like there was a huge fireball in the backyard, and my mother in law claimed she felt the electricity move through her arm. It was kind of a big deal.
Was that Matthew? When I started to run out of gas on a busy interstate during rush hour (I’m pretty confident grief kills brain cells), but I had just enough gas to get to the end of the closest exit ramp before my car died. And then the nice woman who happened to live 30 yards away drove by and told me to knock on her door, because her husband could put some gas into my car. They keep gas on hand precisely for dipsticks like me – who does that?!
Was that Matthew? That beautiful blue jay, who’s crossed my path twice during my weekly walk with a treasured friend, on a trail I’ve walked since one week after he died.
Was that Matthew? In those fresh strawberries at continental breakfast last Saturday at the Hilton Minneapolis. Did he know I was about to run a 10K in his honor? Does he know I think of him each time I see those perfectly beautiful red strawberries (the food I ate the most whilst pregnant)?
Was that Matthew? In those beautiful rays of sunshine, cutting through the thick forest, shining onto the path, as I ran that 10K in his honor. I’m confident all the runners saw those same rays of sunshine and thought they were signs from their own lost children – but whatev – I’m going with it.
Is that Matthew? Right now, as I sit here, sobbing uncontrollably, writing about all these possible signs?
The other day I was flipping through channels, and I stumbled on a reality show called Monica the Medium. It’s on ABC Family – duh. I was curious, so immediately set to record on DVR, so I could watch later – like a few minutes later.
So, this show is like Crossing Over with John Edward reincarnated (interesting choice of words, amiright?). This girl named Monica does the same thing! Except she’s this weird college girl who does spontaneous readings in bars and restaurants, simultaneously and inadvertently chasing away any guy who might possibly have been interested in her, because now, said guys think she’s a nut job! But that’s beside the point.
The point is, I wish I could run into Monica – so she could give me a reading. But she’s in Pennsylvania, and I’m not. But if she could tell me just one thing that would give me comfort – just one thing specific enough that it could have come only from Matthew, I’d burst into hysterics, based on the one in a billion chance she’s right – that he’s talking to me, through her, reassuring me he knows how much I love him, and that eventually, in a really long time, everything might be okay.
And with all this, I realize Mark, and some others are wondering what the hell is wrong with me?! From all I’ve observed, there’s no cause for concern. Desperate times can produce desperate thoughts. It’s all part of the journey.
Eventually, I ultimately return to my beliefs – the ones that say Matthew is in heaven, and I’ll see him again one day. I hope that’s true, and it is certainly comforting. But because the human, or American, condition is to always want more, sometimes I daydream about running into Monica, so she can provide some extra insight about Matthew and what he might be doing up there (even if she really is just some nut job). And I think that’s okay.
How have your spiritual beliefs been affected by the loss of your loved one? Do you see signs your loved one is present in your life? Leave a comment. Want email updates to alert you of new posts? Hit follow in the lower right hand corner, and enter your email address. This may only be visible on iPad or computer.