Faith, Trust and Signs from Beyond
One of my biggest fears surrounding mum’s imminent death was that I would never know if she was okay once she left this world. I worried that I would spend the rest of my life wondering where she was and if she was at peace, constantly searching for answers and never finding them.
Every fibre of my being wanted to believe that there was an afterlife and that her soul would live on after her heart stopped beating, but my tendency toward scepticism kept casting doubt in my mind.
You see - faith, trust and belief in what I can’t see/hear/touch or explain rationally are concepts that don’t come naturally to me. Although I was raised a Catholic and taught about God, Jesus, Heaven and the afterlife, my analytical mind has always struggled to comprehend the spiritual realm. I’ve never had a deep-seated, unwavering faith that life after death exists.
I’ve always felt that in order to gain faith, I need proof, which is really a contradiction in itself. True faith is about having complete trust and confidence in something or someone, most often without proof, relying on intuition to guide you towards faith. Searching for physical proof would not bring faith closer, but would instead push faith further away.
A few months before mum died, as she lay in her hospital bed, her body struggling to fight off yet another infection, I asked her something that had been on my mind for a long time. I asked her to come back and visit me after she was gone, just once, to let me know she was okay.
That’s all I could manage to say, but she understood.
Now, when I asked her to come back and visit me, I meant that literally.
I wanted the proof; I needed the proof.
Then I would have faith.
I didn’t want her to visit me in a dream, or for her to come back as a bird singing in the tree in my backyard, or as a feather landing on my shoulder, or as her favourite song playing on the radio. I meant literally, ask God for a day pass, travel back to Earth by whatever means possible and appear in front of me, hug me and tell me you’re okay.
But things don’t work like that, it’s not that simple.
In the months after she died, I waited, I searched for her. Not only did she not visit me, I could not feel her presence at all, not one little bit. The total absence of her presence was disconcerting to say the least. I felt completely alone, robbed of her warmth and my faith hit rock-bottom.
On the day of mum’s funeral there was a double rainbow in the sky. A beautiful coincidence. One of her friends told me that she too saw the rainbows and knew they were a sign of mum’s presence with us all that day. I smiled politely, wishing I had her level of faith.
As the months went by, I started to see more rainbows. I rationalised each experience as merely a lovely reminder of mum, not a sign of her presence. I mean, it was winter, of course there were going to be more rainbows when it’s raining all the time.
I also knew enough about the human mind to know that our brain is riddled with bias, one of those being the frequency illusion – a phenomenon where things you’ve just noticed, experienced or been told about suddenly appear everywhere.
Have you ever decided you want to buy something new, then all of a sudden you start seeing it everywhere? Or when you and your partner are trying to get pregnant and then suddenly it feels like every third woman you see is pregnant? Or when you have a conversation with someone about a song, then it feels like you hear that song more often than you used to? Well that’s the frequency illusion.
You feel like the world is playing a trick on you, or the universe is not-so-subtly trying to tell you to buy that red sports car you’ve always wanted. It’s really much simpler (and a little more boring) than that. The car, or the pregnant women or the song were always there, your brain just didn’t consciously notice them before. Now that these stimuli have relevance in your world, they have been brought into your conscious awareness and it’s like a light switch has been turned on in your brain. It’s not that there are suddenly more red sports cars in the world, it’s just that your brain notices more red sports cars than it did before.
So I rationalised the signs. I knew my brain was now more conscious of rainbows and that was the most probable reason that I was seeing them (or noticing them) more often. But they continued to appear - in strange ways and with impeccable timing.
I started to doubt my own doubt.
Four months after mum passed away it was my daughter’s first birthday. I had organised a rainbow themed party (a secret nod to mum) and on the day of her birthday I made a pledge to the universe. I promised that if I saw a rainbow in the sky that day, I would no longer brush it off as a coincidence and I would truly believe that rainbows were a divine message from mum.
Family came over that day and celebrated her birthday. It was beautiful, but bittersweet. After everyone had gone home, and my husband and I were getting the kid’s dinner ready, I suddenly remembered my promise to the universe. I was yet to see a rainbow, and as the sun was setting in the evening sky I rushed outside and searched for my sign. It wasn’t there and I started to lose hope.
I broke down and pleaded with mum, the universe, the heavens, I’m not really sure what. I knelt on the grass and stared at the sky, willing a rainbow to appear. And it did. Ever so faintly, my sign appeared.
I thought at first my eyes were playing a trick on me. Perhaps I was imagining it? I blinked away the tears, I looked away and back again. But it was still there.
It didn’t last long, as the sun continued its descent into the horizon, it slowly faded away. But it had been there, and I had no choice but to believe.
Since then, I’ve continued to experience moments of faith as mum has communicated with me through rainbows. This year in particular they’ve shown up in magical ways and on very special occasions, no longer can I rationalise their presence as a bias of the mind.
I now choose to believe the rainbows are a sign. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I asked her to visit me, but I feel it’s all she can provide now. I still hope one day that I will get my ‘proof’, that she’ll visit me in a physical sense. Until then, I’ll have faith in the rainbows.