I visited Mom's nursing home on Wednesday to donate some CD's and a DVD from Moms stash for their music and entertainment programs; just one of the many tasks I've elected to do on Mom's behalf and bring closure for myself.
Running into old acquaintances who live, work and volunteer at the nursing home caused us to reminisce about Mom, her passing, the memorial/celebration of her life that the family hosted there a few weeks ago and death in general. I found quite quickly that one can't visit such a place after such a majour event without people opening up and sharing their own stories of love and loss.
It seems that, regardless of religious or spiritual orientation, surviving relatives are looking for signs from the departed that they are OK in their new realm of existence. The living also want to be reassured that those that have "passed" are now watching over, and perhaps, guiding them.
One woman, heavily grieving the loss of her father (who died in December) said she just wants to be able to move on but can't seem to do so. Despite not being ready to "go" there was nothing that could be done for him and this added to the pain and suffering he and his family experienced during the last few months of his life. I asked what would make it possible for her to move on. She said she didn't know but felt that, "If I could only have a sign that he's OK. I think that would help." And though she said, in an off hand manner, "I did get a sign the next day" and proceeded to describe the incident, the radiance in her face indicated that this was a real, not a manufactured, experience but for some reason it just hadn't registered consciously with her yet.
She proceeded to tell me that, a few weeks later, during an especially difficult time, her father came to her in a dream and said, somewhat irritated, "Why do you keep calling on me? Don't you know that I'm dead?" This made her feel even worse until I reminded her, as she'd just told me, she'd already received the sign she was looking for. I proceeded to say that, if it were my dream, I'd try and see it from his point of view. When I took his vantage point I realized that I'd be wondering how many times and in how many ways would she need to be reassured that I'm OK? I'm dead and there are things I have to do here but trust that when you really need me I'll be there.
Some spiritual traditions believe that, not until the living have released the dead are those that have passed, free to move on in their journey; move on, they and we must. Our grief, sense of guilt, loss of direction keep them bound to us and between realms, neither here nor there (some spiritual traditions believe that there are many aspects to a human soul, that one aspect of the soul remains while other aspects are intended to move on). Our clinging to them keeps us from becoming fully present to and engaged in life, saps our energy and leads to depression.
Through past life regression and interlife experiences I have realized that when we die we reintegrate into the fullness, wisdom and love that we were before incarnating. In an instant, all suffering is over. But an aspect of our individual souls continue to reside in the hearts of the living and continue through the DNA of future generations.
Another woman said she was waiting for a sign from 2 relatives on her birthday but none was forthcoming. I wonder if, in looking for one specific sign, we might miss those magical, synchronic moments that happen almost daily reminding us of our interconnectedness.
Surprisingly, all this reminiscing found me, not sorrowful for the past, but anxious about the future. With Mom's death, (Dad having passed in 2002) the ties of my family of origin are broken. Released from the expectations that have defined us all our lives, our lives are, for the first time in our lives, truly our own. And, released from my duties towards my parents, I'm asking myself - who am I now, what do I really want and what do I do with this new chapter in my life.
Later that night a message from the pastor came through my answering machine. I had been thinking about him for days, wanting to let him know, personally, what a wonderful service he'd done for Mom and our family so I picked up the phone. He'd somehow gotten one digit wrong in my brother's phone number and was calling for the right one. He went on to say that he was sure I was missing Mom, that my family had done a good job honouring her at the memorial and that he was sure that she was pleased.
Signs are present everywhere when we embrace life.