They say there are no atheists in foxholes but I know that isn’t true. The very real possibility two years ago that my breast cancer had metastasized had a noteworthy affect on my perspectives, but it didn’t make me religious. I was as comfortable with my non-belief at that time as I have been all my life.
But last month my father died. I loved him very much. There are so few people in life with whom we share not only our history, but also our way of understanding the world. I miss him terribly, but it is more than that: I don’t know how to accept that he is gone–not moved to another plane of existence, not sitting up in heaven smiling benevolently down–gone. That smile, his patience, his sense of humor, his memories—those that I shared with him and those that I did not—gone.
I find myself gazing at the sky as if I might happen upon him up there. I have to admit here to being a person who talks to herself sometimes; the other day I actually admonished myself to remember now that he might hear me! In my sadder moments I have even asked him for some sort of sign.
The thing is–there have been a couple, and one of them was commanding enough to reinforce anyone’s belief in a hereafter. It happened the day after he died; I and several others of my family had gone to a local restaurant for breakfast. It was very busy and we waited jammed up near the front door, jostled by folks arriving or trying to leave; I was not even thinking of Dad at that moment. Then suddenly–there he was, looking over my right shoulder at the same Sunday crowd as I. I could tell he was smiling. The feeling was so strong that I turned to find him, but he was not there and the moment passed. For days after I waited for that feeling to return; it was wonderful–but it never did.
The second of these incidents happened a few weeks later; my husband and I were spending the night at my mother’s place. I was having trouble sleeping and my sadness deteriorated again into pleadings for some kind of sign. There were none of course, but the next morning as my husband and I left for home, just as we rounded the corner at the end of the block and headed north, the most beautiful rainbow arched over our road. It stayed with us faithfully all the way to the turnoff which leads to the home where my father lived; then—wouldn’t you know–it evaporated.
My father was not a believer either, making all this hopeful thinking the more unlikely. Nevertheless, I would very much like to take this opportunity to thank you, Dad–for the rainbow. It was lovely.
And yes, Dad, I do know how silly all this is.
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