The definition of skeptical is, “1) not easily convinced; having doubts or reservations. 2) relating to the theory that certain knowledge is impossible.” Skeptical pretty much sums up how I feel about the idea of an afterlife. But I can’t claim atheism, because just as I can’t say God exists, I can’t say He doesn’t either. And I’m certain enough of my uncertainty, that I still capitalize the “H” in He. Respect, yo. I may be a cynic, but I’m an optimistic cynic.
My beliefs, or lack thereof, are a challenge when it comes to having a dead daughter. So many of my friends who are in the bereaved parent boat with me have the comfort of faith that acts as an oar or a life preserver, whatever is needed at the moment. Faith can help you get to where you want or need to be, like an oar, and it can help keep you afloat when you are sinking, like a life preserver.
I have had enough conversations over the years to understand that those bereaved parents I know with faith find tremendous comfort in the idea of being reunited with their child after their own death. Being certain in the idea of an afterlife can act as both the oar and life preserver in the choppy waters of grief.
The way I think about Donna in her death fluctuates. In some moments, I feel certain that our time together, precious and sacred as it was, was finite. When we are done, we are done. In other moments, I feel her presence and feel with the same certainty that we are connected outside of time and place. Perhaps, maybe, possibly, we will be with one another again, in some way or another.
Acorns are our bond, the physical manifestation of our connection, despite not being together. I wrote about them HERE. Starting on her fifth birthday, the first birthday after her death, acorns started popping up in connection to our girl. I feel the presence of acorns in my life as a sign from Donna.
They come to me, most especially, in moments when I feel anxious or fearful or vulnerable. Seeing an acorn in those moments, as I often do, feels like a very real confirmation that my girl is reaching out. But how is that possible for someone like myself who doesn’t believe in an afterlife with any certainty or conviction?
I don’t know.
There was that day we adopted our son. Out of nowhere, friends and family started sending me photos of acorns. They were coming via text and Facebook and email. Random photos of acorns from about 8-10 people, all within a day. That day just happened to be one of extreme anxiety and vulnerability for us. Our son’s Birth Mother had given birth two days before and that day was the day where she would or would not choose to entrust him to us.
The thing is, no one knew this. We did not tell folks that this beautiful baby had been born, for a host of reasons. Adoption is tricky and a full third of them fall through in the last moments. We hoped, but we were realistic. Those hours in between when his Birth Mother left the hospital holding her son and when she signed the paperwork to make her son ours were pretty damn heavy.
I remember sitting at the Walgreen’s, dispatched to wait for a prescription, fairly crawling out of my skin wondering if we would leave Texas as the parents of this beautiful boy, or leave Texas without him. Either scenario seemed possible. Just in that time at the Walgreen’s, three images of acorns were sent to me from friends who had no connection to one another and who had no idea where I was.
Donna was with me in those moments, I have no doubt, providing hope and reassurance by sending me acorns. Everything would be okay.
The acorns found me again today. After a few weeks of fear and uncertainty, I found myself at a medical appointment for one of my boys. The details are immaterial because, well, privacy, but what is pertinent is that I have been anxious and on edge about one of the boys for a few weeks now. Was he okay? Was there merit to the concerns that have been floating about? What news would we learn?
Then in the middle of the appointment, I looked down and saw this:
An acorn. Of course. In the middle of a treatment room at a hospital. An acorn that had absolutely no context. I mean, think about it, how often have you looked down at a medical appointment and found a random small plastic acorn in the room? It defies logic. But I looked down and I saw that acorn and I knew — everything was going to be okay. Donna was there to tell me even before the medical professionals did. And she was right.
So here I am, hours later, still comforted by Donna’s presence today. And I don’t even really believe in an afterlife. Except I do believe, fully and completely, that Donna was there with me in those moments, providing hope and reassurance in the form of an acorn. It is a conundrum.
The cynic in me shakes her head and says, “Yeah, well, you say you find those acorns when you are anxious and afraid and vulnerable. Maybe you’re just looking for them in those moments.” The optimistic cynic in me counters with, “Yeah, well, who the hell thinks of or looks for small plastic acorns in the middle of a hospital appointment?!”
If anything, the gift is that I see the acorns when they present themselves. I am open to the acorns when they find me. If those acorns do happen to be a sign from our girl, wherever she may be, she can be confident that I receive every single one of them with wonder and gratitude and deep, profound joy. We’ll meet you there, girl, and I bet there will be acorns everywhere.