Wednesday, October 4, 2006

do you believe in life after death?

Last night, my mom told me a story that gave me goose bumps. I had to share.

My father died of cancer when I was two years old. My only memory of him is of the time he took me for a walk over the CHOC bear paw prints (CHOC = Children’s Hospital of Orange County). My dad used to work at St. Joseph’s Hospital across the street and before they renovated the area a few years ago, there were bear paw prints on the sidewalk leading from the main hospital to the children’s hospital. As a teen, I became a candy striper at St. Joe’s and recollected that memory as I walked over the faded prints.

I suppose there is a religious undertone to believing in an afterlife. As much as I try to disassociate myself with my strict Catholic upbringing, I have maintained this belief. My mom never remarried so I grew up without a father figure. Despite his physical absence, there were times when I sensed something around me, a type of aura if you will. There were times when I felt my dad around me. I can’t really explain it. I just know that he’s there. One can make the argument that the alleged existence of the afterlife is just a way to help people cope with the loss of a loved one. However, I will not argue against this. It doesn’t change the fact that I can feel that my dad is with me.

I try to see my dad’s grave whenever I go home. The first time Jesse came with me to visit my family, I took him there. It was important to me that he join me for my visit.

My brother took my father’s death pretty hard. He was the only boy in the family and suddenly had to become the man of the house at the age of 11. He’s never really spoken of his feelings about our dad’s passing and I’m sure he keeps them bottled up inside, never to be seen by anyone. On certain occasions, he has brought his wife with him to the gravesite. Up until recently, he had never taken his kids. I suppose he didn’t want to subject them to the sadness of a cemetery. He also probably didn’t want them to see him upset.

A few days ago, my sister-in-law’s grandfather died. He had been sick for a very long time and the death was not unexpected. However, it affected my brother so much that he felt it was time to take his family to visit our dad’s grave. My not-yet-2-years-old niece had never been anywhere near Good Shepherd Cemetery. When they got to the cemetery, Serena got all excited and curious. She just couldn’t wait to get out of the car. My brother parked his car on the road closest to our father’s grave. His stepdaughter let Serena out and Serena let go of her hand and started running. She happily ran and came to a sudden stop and then turned around (giving his family a “What are you waiting for?” look). When my brother approached Serena, he noticed that his only daughter and love of his life came to a stop right at our dad’s grave. Of all the many grave markers in the cemetery, Serena (who had never been there) found my dad’s.

My brother started to cry.

My mom said that the most remarkable thing about what Serena did was that I had done it too. When I was three my mom decided it was ok for me to visit my dad’s grave. Just like Serena, I had become excited on the car ride over, saying, “Papá” over and over. When I was finally let out of the car, I ran to his grave and stopped.

This could all just be the strangest coincidence. But I know in my heart that it isn’t.


DC Super Powers said...

I just want to thank you for sharing this beautiful, affirming piece. My husband lost his father when he was 10 years old and I struggle every day to understand such loss.
Thank you...

E :) said...

I don't think it is a coincidence at all. What a beautiful story.

lizzie said...

thank you, dc sp and e:). i appreciate your comments.

DCWeddingPhotog said...

those feelings are very real and hard to explain... my mom has similar experiences with her sister who died at the age of 2 (my mom was 7).