I am going to start right out by admitting that I am kind of embarrassed to write about this topic. In fact, I’ve started and stopped discussing it publicly multiple times in recent months because I just don’t want to sound nuts. But I keep thinking about it, and there have just been so many people who have told me their own stories of connectedness with loved ones after death that I just keep coming back to this …
See, here’s the thing; I keep wondering whether maybe I am missing things – connections with my beautiful, beloved child who died 18 months ago – because I am simply not open enough to the idea of occurrences and events that can’t be explained by the science we know. Maybe I am just too literal in my thinking and busy and shut down and …and…something to see the things that so many others seem to see after people die.
As I’ve mentioned many times in the writing I’ve done since Henry died on May 31, 2010, I am just not someone who feels any real connection to spiritualism or the paranormal or the supernatural or whatever the heck you want to call it. Shortly after my son died, I did agree to go with my sister to see a reknowned “intuitive couselor” (people SWEAR by this guy), and although he had some pretty interesting things to say, I walked away feeling kind of manipulated and irritated.
When I expressed how I felt after I met with this man, lots of folks told me that the reason I felt so disconnected from what he had to say was because I just wasn’t ready to hear it yet. And who knows? Maybe that’s right.
I do know that at this point, a year and a half in, I am getting kind of desperate to have some kind of mindbending experience of the type other people tell me about on a fairly regular basis, or that I read about. I’ve had numerous people from all walks of life tell me since Henry died that after losing someone they loved, they saw and felt very clear signs of their loved one around them, signs like birds and butterflies and rainbows and even actual ghosts, and these people say they feel very clear and certain that the encounters they’ve had represented real, physics-busting connections with the individuals they loved and lost.
And I want that. I want to have an experience like that. But so far, nada.
I miss him like mad, and I can hear his voice so clearly in my head…A couple of times – maybe 2 or 3 times – I’ve had incredibly brief moments where I felt a flicker of a connection, but it passed in the blink of an eye, and I mostly couldn’t even describe the feeling to you.
I think I felt something sort of supernatural a few weeks after he died, when his baby sister was being born. But on the other hand, let’s be realistic: I was in the hospital, having surgery, operating on zero sleep, and pumped full of anesthesia and other meds that day.
But I won’t lie to you, at this point, I am downright jealous of people who say that they have gotten messages or visits or some other kind of inexplicable spiritual moments of connection with the dead person they loved. I know that Henry and I were extremely close – as close as a mother and child could be. We shared a very special bond, but still…nothing is happening for me. Were we not as close as I I imagined? Is this my cosmic consequence for the fact that I failed to protect him adequately? That I didn’t come to him or save him when he needed me that night? Does my inability since my child died to have any sort of special experience like the ones other people seem to have mean that I wasn’t a good enough mother when he was alive?
These are the thoughts that come to me, usually late at night, when everyone else is asleep. And that’s when I find myself reading online about things that kind of embarrass me to admit – things like near death experiences and yes… ghosts.
And lately, as I become more frustrated by the fact that I can’t seem to have one of those special and impossible to explain experiences that others who have lost children or spouses or people very close to them seem to be able to have, I find myself thinking more than I would like to about this photograph.
This photo was taken on July 14, 2010. Henry died on May 31 – so just about 6 weeks earlier. His funeral was held on June 4, 2010, and then his 12 year old little brother E left for a month of camp just a couple of days later, which was exactly what he needed at the time. Baby G was born 6 weeks early on June 27, and then E came home from camp on July 14. So this photo, taken the evening of the day E returned from camp, marked the first time all four of Henry’s younger, surviving siblings – J E, C and G – were together, and also the very first time E met his new baby sister.
It was obviously an incredibly meaningful moment for me. I recall being pretty much overwhelmed with this mix of grief and joy as I saw four of my five children together for the first time, while at the same time realizing that my oldest baby, my Henry, would never meet his baby sister, and would never, ever be together with his siblings again.
At that moment, someone – Jon, probably – snapped several photos in a row. And a day or two later, I published the one above on my blog, sharing how happy and terribly sad it made me to have us together, but NOT all together.
Within minutes of me publishing the blog post with the photo, commenters began noting something I had missed:
“I am sure you must have heard about “orbs” in photos that many people believe are spirits of the departed. If you notice in the photo posted, there is an orb floating right over your head. Perhaps Henry was there for the photo after all?”
“I was going to point out the orb, too! I had the same thought, that that’s Henry. That all of your children are together in that picture and were all together to meet Baby G. xoxo”
“Kate. Look at other pics from that same camera and see if the orb shows up in them, too. If not, what folks are talking about is the camera may have captured Henry’s “spirit” as an orb of light floating in the family picture. Like he knows he should be there with you and that’s the only way he can be there: As an orb of light and the leftover energy of his spirit. I noticed it too in that pic.”
I had actually never heard of “orbs” – ever, so that day, I Googled the topic and learned that some people believe that a round, floaty thing like you see in the photo I’d posted could be some kind of energy from a dead person, while others believe that’s complete baloney.
My initial inclination leaned toward the “total baloney” end of the spectrum, because that’s pretty much the way my head works. I loved the IDEA of Henry making an appearance a few weeks after he died, as his four younger siblings were all together with his mama for the very first time, in his house. And I appreciated the people who had pointed the glowing ball in the photo out to me, because honestly, I probably wouldn’t have ever noticed it myself. But I just couldn’t see any scientific support for the idea that the ball floating above my head was anything other than a trick of the light or a speck of dust.
But a year and a half later, with no other “sign” of my son having shown up, I find myself returning to the photos taken in quick succession during that brief, special moment that evening. Two seem to have the orb thing in them, while one or two do not. And as embarrassing as it is to admit, I am going to admit it – because I feel like that in sharing where I am with this grief journey, maybe other bereaved parents will relate – but I cannot TELL YOU how much I want that round thing in those photos to be real – to be some kind of supernatural sign that my sweet child was there at that powerful, amazing moment. I want to have some kind of sign like other people have – in that photo or somewhere else in my life - that my son did not just disappear from the universe in the instant he stopped breathing – that terrible, unthinkable moment that I still can’t fully believe actually happened.
If it has to be true that Henry is really dead, well then, I want there to be an orb in that photo, dammit.
I just want it to be true, even though my rational mind keeps telling me there’s no way it could be…
(And I really hope that none of y’all will make fun of me for admitting that I want to see a ghost in a photo. Grief does weird things to you. It really, really does.)
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