Since I posted last, time has flown for me. In deep contrast to the glacial pace of November, the winter months and early spring, time has suddenly accelerated out of control hurtling me forward directly into something I had perceived as being so far away. In five days, I’ll look back seven months and remember my daughter saying, “I love you, too,” for the last time, leaving home for the last time. When she came back through that door it would be as ashes held close to my heavy heart in a small box. Like the head-on collision that took her life, I am now head-on with the task of opening this small box on her birthday in honor of her wishes; to be planted with trees by her loved ones. I still can’t believe she’s gone. I don’t believe she really is. I am beginning to understand the anger I have felt toward those who have told me she is dead. In my heart, she is not dead and she never will be. The sensation is in my heart when I hear someone say it, “she is dead.” It isn’t a sadness, it isn’t a despair, it isn’t grief; it is utter incredulity… “NO – SHE – ISN’T.”
Some may call this a phase of the grieving process but I choose not to believe in those either. I have experienced enough grief in my life to know that it isn’t nearly that tidy. Would that it were. Would that we could simply go down the list, bargaining, denial, anger, guilt, regret, depression, acceptance, check, check, check, done. No, it doesn’t work that way. You’re lying to yourself if you think that it does. I’m trying to do you a favor by suggesting to you that it doesn’t. I also know that when one is grieving the loss of the physical presence of a loved one in their life, the last thing they need is someone doing them any favors.
Who really knows anything for sure? Who can prove anything one way or another? No one. Not me, not anyone. So how do I know my daughter is not dead? I just know. “Prove it,” you may be saying. That’s what people tend to want. Proof.
Recently, on the sixth month anniversary of Dannica’s passing, in fact, I was called to serve on a jury. It was an interesting experience; one I’d not had before. I took my job for the day very seriously. I listened intently, I closely observed everyone involved, I took notes, I wrestled inside with the emotion of viewing everything through the filter with which I’m currently equipped, and I did my best to make a decision based on the evidence as it was presented. Is he innocent? Is he guilty? Where’s the proof? Before we were dismissed to deliberate we were asked to weigh the evidence and make our decision with “moral certitude.” In other words, to ask ourselves, “If I decide this way, will I be able to sleep at night knowing I made the right decision?”
In the end, we decided the burden of proof had not been met. We decided not guilty. And then there was that moral certitude thing. Guess whose mind circled the events of the day like a starving vulture all night long?
It was around this Jury Service time that a friend of mine told me about a television program called Long Island Medium. I looked it up On Demand and watched a few episodes. Finding it quite entertaining, I began to relax into the way the Medium conversed with those who have crossed over. I laughed and I cried along with those whose questions were answered, hearts comforted by messages from the “other side.”
I have my own questions, ones I may never know the answers to. So many questions. I have done my best to piece together the puzzle of my daughter’s death and I have arrived at conclusions that allow me to sleep at night, most nights, or at least most parts of most nights. Ultimately, having my questions answered changes nothing. My baby is not in my arms, not hanging out in her room, not at work, or with her friends… whether I know exactly what happened changes nothing. Or does it? Hearing the Medium’s messages, having some of their questions answered, was enough for some of these people to move forward more peacefully in their lives after being able to release guilt, regret, fear, some of the uncertainty.
Not long after discovering the Long Island Medium, I learned of a book by Annie Kagan; The Afterlife of Billy Fingers: How my bad-boy brother proved to me there’s life after death. I purchased it on my Kindle immediately but I found myself putting off reading it. I was compelled but kept feeling like it wasn’t the right time and I did other things instead. What I didn’t realize until I actually read the book a couple of weeks later was that several things needed to happen in my own life first that would later be validated as messages from my baby girl. Reading the book after these things happened was her way of telling me she knew I was going to read it right when I was and not before. To some this will sound fluffy. So be it. In my heart it makes sense and it excites me and that is why I share it. I understand it may do nothing for you. I understand your skepticism. It doesn’t bother me.
So, I spoke with another very dear friend of mine who happens to be a judge. I told him of my experience as a juror and of my sleepless night of moral un-certitude. He told me, “Anything you are convinced of as the result of expert testimony constitutes proof.” Such a concise definition but one that wasn’t present in my brain when I needed it to be. Thankfully, I now have a new definition and understanding of what constitutes proof for me.
I asked my daughter to send me an elephant so I’d know she was okay. An ELEPHANT! In the moment I knew it was a crazy thing to ask for. How could she send me and elephant? So I asked for a bird. A bird she could probably send me. Then I questioned myself…what if she sent me an elephant and I was looking for a bird? I sat for a moment and then asked for everything… “Send me and elephant AND a bird!?” Not two days passed and what do you think showed up in my email but an inspirational message with photos of, yes, an elephant and a little yellow songbird. I am convinced. To me this constitutes proof. She is with me. She hears me. She can tell me so. And she did.
Again and again I think back to the question posed to me by many in those first dark days, “What has this done to your faith?” I remember saying that my faith was stronger than ever. That seems a contradiction in light of the fact that I’m now more agnostic than ever. None of us can ever really *know* until we are there and at that point, we are not here.
None of this is really proof of anything unless it’s proof to me. That’s all the proof I need. It’s the only proof that matters.