“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” 
―Albert Einstein

Back in college I met a guy who I ended up talking to for hours on the subject of what happens after you die.  I have no idea how we got on the subject.  Sure I always enjoyed a good DMC (deep meaningful conversation), but I’m sure death and the afterlife were not typically on my rotating list of topics.

But he may have been cute, so there was that.

Anyway, his arguments got me curious.  He insisted that the end of life was akin to a flame blowing out, that once we die we no longer exist in any form.

And he believed that there was no use assigning any true meaning to signs (miracles) because in the end we were all “road kill.”

Whack. Game over.

I’m thinking he probably did not go on to make a career writing greeting cards.

Me?  I was adamant that there’s more to the afterlife then nothing.  Where was the hope?  It was just too depressing for me to think otherwise.

And roadkill?  On some level, I think animals must possess a spark of soul. Have you ever looked into the eyes of a cat? It’s like thousands of years of wisdom wrapped into a fur covered hipster attitude.

Cattitude Charlie the cat _opt

Meet my feline nephew Charlie.  He’s seen it all I’m sure.

 

But everything I knew at the point of that argument was from what I learned when I was a kid.  Heaven was firmly centered in a cloud filled land of angels and quite possibly a Willy Wonka factory (um, it was called everlasting Gobstopper, right?).

Part of those images in my head were drawn from Sunday school, but some I think I got from the movie The Blue Bird, with Shirley Temple.

heaven and signs of life

 In this movie, there was a “Before Life” scene where children danced bare footed while waiting to be born.

 

For a kid, eating candy and not having to wear shoes were an easy sell, but even as a teenager I wanted to believe in something positive, something to look forward to. Road kill theory did not work for me.

Instead when I was lost in school, my relationships and life in general, I relied on hope, faith and occasionally the Magic 8 ball. And I believed in the power of signs.

power of signs ireland _opt

 Signs guide us, point us in the right direction.

 

And signs took on a whole new meaning a few years ago when my brother died.  Mostly because I struggled with how he once fit in my life and how he still could.

And this is where faith and hope and signs came into play.  I’ve heard many stories of how people see signs that remind them that their loved ones still play a role in their life–dimes, feathers, music, animals.  But no matter what it is that gets us to remember, it’s the power behind it that puts hope back in our grasp.

Because sometimes in this shoe wearing place called Earth, we need a little something tangible.

For me that was the day of my brother’s funeral.  A few hours before the service, I was in a hotel room, on the third floor, with no windows that could open–and there was a ladybug in the room with me.

 

 ladybug sign_opt

One of my nephews with the ladybugs that like to follow us around.

 

I can’t remember if I thought too much about it at the time. Other than it was a little strange to see the ladybug there.

But since then, I’ve noticed more ladybugs. Sometimes I see them where they should be, and sometimes it feels far from coincidental. Like the time I went to visit one of my sisters and we were drinking coffee outside of a busy shopping center and a ladybug landed right between us, next to the brownie we were sharing.

Sure there may be other explanations for this. Maybe ladybugs love chocolate.  Maybe I see them because in some way I am looking for them.

Or maybe it’s more.  Like when the Elton John song Daniel comes on the radio, I feel like he is with me. Mostly it’s because that’s his name, but also because my sisters and I once joked with him that we were going to sing that song for him. It was a humorous threat—something he got very used to growing up with 3 sisters.

 

annoying sisters dan little brother_opt

 Annoying older sisters dressing their little brother like a doll.

So I like to hold onto the ladybug–and anything that reminds me of my brother–as a sign.  Even though I carry my memories of him with me, it feels like a reminder that on some level he is still here, that there is more to our existence.

More than just Wile E. Coyote flattened on the ground after an incident with an Acme Anvil, right?

Because there will be days when we question our work, our relationships–the overall meaning of our lives.  It might help to have a little sign.

 

 

“There are days when I think I don’t believe anymore. When I think I’ve grown too old for miracles. And that’s right when another seems to happen.”

~Dana Reinhardt, The Summer I Learned to Fly

 

And signs have the power to remind us to keep moving forward–and that we are not alone.

 

“Life loves to be taken by the lapel and told:  “I am with you kid.  Let’s go.” 

~Maya Angelou

I am with you.  Let’s go.  

Maybe instead of the flame blowing out, it lights your way.

 

What signs have offered you hope?  

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66 thoughts on “Looking for Signs of Life vs. Road Kill Theory

  1. Stacy S. Jensen

    I’m glad you find ladybugs. I agree with your statement “Maybe instead of the flame blowing out, it lights your way.” When my husband died, I had never seen anyone die before. Through my faith I have a set of beliefs about life and death, but what happens in those last minutes and hours can be well, I can’t find a word for it. A young nurse made sure to ask him to please check on her infant child (she had miscarried several months before). Others couldn’t stand to be in the room. Signs of hope for me have always been to move forward and to never idealize my late husband — I keep him real not a saint. People often thought I was a nut after he died and they would say, “He would have wanted you to … (fill in the blank).” I’d disagree and say, “Nope.” In some cases, I had the luxury to discuss my plans after he died. He agreed with some and not so much with others.
    Stacy S. Jensen recently posted..Free Monday!My Profile

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      I like this sentiment Stacy–I keep him real, not a saint.
      I agree that those last moments are indescribable. I just wrote and deleted several sentences in this reply–can’t put the right words for it!
      Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Prudence MacLeod

    To believe that existence ends with the death of the body is the saddest thing of all. Death is just the beginning. There is more, so much more and all such a wonderful mystery. 🙂

  3. Emma Burcart

    My biological dad told me that after he died (which was when I was little) he would be a fly on the wall. To this day when I see a fly, I think of him. And I definitely can’t kill one.

    1. Coleen Patrick

      Wow Emma! Saying a fly was a smart choice on your dad’s b/c they are everywhere–and so I imagine there are many moments where you know he’s watching over you!

  4. Bridgette Booth

    I keep my father with me through the Arkansas fight song AND the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy. (How’s that for sentiment?) lol. I grew up going to football games with my dad and each time I hear the fight song just for a millisecond I have him with me. I also grew up hearing his rich baritone voice singing in the church choir so when that hymn is sung, I promise I can hear him singing in my ear.

    So, enjoy your ladybugs and Elton John song. They are priceless hugs.
    Bridgette Booth recently posted..Tenacity is Ugly. . .Until it Isn’tMy Profile

  5. Jennette Marie Powell

    I have a WWII-era sewing machine that used to belong to my grandma. Before that, it was her mother’s. She gave it to me when she and my grandpa moved into an assisted-living apartment, but I never even turned it on until a year or so after her death, four or five after my grandpa’s. But one day I needed to hem something, and my other sewing machine was buried in boxes, so I thought what the heck, and flipped the switch on the old one. It fired right up! It hems jeans much better than my other machine. Every time I use it, I’m pretty sure my grandma’s right there. And when I needed to figure out how to adjust settings on it, so was my grandpa. 🙂
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..My Town Monday: A Remembrance for Memorial DayMy Profile

  6. Natalie Hartford

    Beautifully written Coleen and I am right there with you. I totally believe in signs and I am grateful each and every time that one smacks me in the side of the face to see that my dad or Mamma K is right there with me all the way…it comforts me…it connects me…and it heals me! And so come hell or high water, I believe! I will always believe!
    Hang on to your ladybugs and anything else that speaks to you…they are gifts from the heavens!

  7. Debra Kristi

    Years ago my grandmother died giving birth to my uncle. Minutes later she was revived. What she told the family is that she sat at the top of the operating room watching the doctors work on her body. She heard the most heavily music she could ever imagine and she wanted to go to it with all that she was, but a gold cord kept her tethered to her body. She couldn’t go, it wasn’t her time. If that doesn’t speak to your argument…

    The night before my eldest uncle died he had a dream about his death. He wasn’t a believer before that night but come morning he was asking for my father and wanted to know all about God. Interesting? I hope it led him to the right place.

    And then my sister, well, she has without a doubt continued on. Life does not end. Keep your faith strong.

    I think your ladybugs are beautiful. I recall my mother trying to collect every feather she saw after my sister’s passing.
    Debra Kristi recently posted..The Hell Lord, Mephisto – Immortal MondayMy Profile

  8. August McLaughlin

    Lovely post, Coleen! I’ve thought of the post about the loss of your brother a bunch of times since reading it. I’ll think of you both when I see lady bugs from now on. 🙂

    My mom calls anything sparkly and red (my Grandma’s favorite color) “hugs from Grandma.” I agree with Natalie—hang on to those signs. Anything that encourages hope is worth embracing.

  9. Julie Glover

    I definitely believe in something more. In fact, I find great comfort in my conviction that I will see my loved ones again someday, after we all leave this earth. Oddly enough, after my best friend died a few years back, I had a few dreams about her. Now, I’m not a dream person; I don’t usually have vivid dreams or remember them. But these were very clear and not all what I expected. In the three dreams, however, she was unbelievably unburdened: Relaxation, calm, and peace characterized her appearance. It was a lovely reassurance to me.

    So hang on to those ladybugs. They are beautiful creatures and obviously remind you of something more. I am sorry, of course, that your brother is gone. I can’t imagine the heartache of not having my sibling here with me.

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      Julie, I’ve had one vivid dream of my brother and it was similar to yours. My brother was so calm and relaxed in the dream that I did not remember he wasn’t alive until I woke up. Plus he was walking–he’d been using a wheelchair before he died. So it was a great comfort!
      Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  10. Susanna Leonard Hill

    That is so beautiful, Coleen! You made me all misty-eyed. I much prefer your version. “Because there will be days when we question our work, our relationships–the overall meaning of our lives. It might help to have a little sign.” – well, it just so happens I’m having one of those days today so I really appreciate your post.

      1. Coleen Patrick Post author

        Thanks Susanna– and I hope you’re week is turning around for the good! It’s nice when you see a sign that helps to turn around a funky day–sort of a push from another realm 🙂

  11. Reetta Raitanen

    Deep and beautiful post, Coleen. Ladybugs and the song are powerful signs. Anything that reminds us of our beloveds who have passed is a good thing. I want to believe that there is something after death, maybe a rebirth but also an echo of the person who we were. If nothing else, they live on in our memories. Ancient Egyptians believed that a soul can’t die as long as someone remembered the person or some record of him/her existed.
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  12. pat cooney

    Coleen, How beautiful your post was! You know, a long time ago, a friend of your moms & mine told us a story about what happened to her & her sister one NY Eve. Her mom & dad were out at a party, she & her sister were home alone as she was old enough to look after her little sister. It was thundering & lightnening and she and her little sister got up, went to the top of the staircase holding hands and looked down, with that, lightening lite up the hallway & they saw her mom & dad in the light. They ran inside the apartment and wrote their parents a letter describing the incident and marked down the time. As it turned out, the mom & dad were in a traffic accident & her dad was killed but mom pulled thru. The accident was at the exact time they saw their parents in the burst of lightening. That letter is framed & on the wall in my friends house to this day I do agree with you, there is a beautiful life after we go to the next realm. Thanks for reminding me.

  13. Sheila Seabrook

    When my dad passed on, my first thought was that he would be very happy to be reunited with his “ma”. And I picture the two of them together, watching over their loved ones.

    Such a beautiful post, Coleen. I have ladybugs all over, so now I’ll view them in an entirely different way 🙂

  14. Louise Behiel

    Beautiful post, Coleen. I will never look at ladybugs in the same way again. I learned a long time ago that our loved ones hang around and look after us. I’ve had moments of experiencing their presence (even some I didn’t like ). and the tales of after life experiences are too numerous to count. so yes I believe. I don’t know what it’s like but I know this is but one revolution of the wheel of life.

  15. Julie Hedlund

    There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is more! I loved this post so much. I find ladybugs at random times too, and it never fails to thrill me. I remember the morning of my dad’s funeral and hearing the loons on the lake. I think I felt much the same way you did finding that ladybug in your room on your brother’s funeral.

  16. Diane Capri

    Coleen, this was a very touching post. I, too, believe in life after death. It comforts me, and there’s no better reason I can think of to go on believing. I know of no better way to carry on and I can’t imagine why people would choose to believe otherwise. Thank you for sharing your ladybugs with us.

  17. Kristy K. James...Living, Loving, Laughing

    Your post and the comments are making tissues a necessity, lol. I’m so sorry about your brother, but glad for your signs.

    As to road kill? Nope. I don’t believe that for a minute. I’ve had a couple of things happen since my father died. Well, there’s something about cardinals and cardinal feathers we all associate with Dad.

    But the one thing that still gives me chills (and it’s okay if you think I’m weird because you wouldn’t be the first).

    When I’d call him, Dad would say…in this kind of drawn out way, well hellooooo, Kristy. A few weeks after he died I was sitting there thinking, Oh God I really miss hearing Dad say that. And this thought immediately popped into my head, ‘It’s the first thing you’ll hear when you get here.’ I’d never had anything like that happen and I thought, for a second, that it was just me thinking that. But then I realized if it had been MY thought, it would have been more along the lines of it will be the first thing “I” hear when “I” get there. The way the thought came, though, was like someone telling me that. So I have no doubt that he’s in heaven and I’ll see him again.

  18. Alarna Rose Gray

    Hey Coleen, beautiful post. I’ve always loved Ladybugs, but now they’re even more special – and I’m sorry to hear about your brother. For me, it’s rainbows. Not so much because of loss, but they always seem to be around in moments when I’m questioning my life…Those signs indeed keep us going 🙂

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      Rainbows-definitely! I actually did a little research on rainbows while I was writing this post, because I had a photo of one that I thought might work. To me rainbows are the calm after the storm 🙂

  19. Lydia K

    The first time I mailed a partial to an agent, the price for the postage for $7.77. I always thought that was a good sign. I didn’t sign with that agent, nor with that book, but I think my wish came true later on. 🙂

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      I so would’ve thought the same–or that I needed to go to Vegas, LOL. Either way it’s one of those signs along the way that let you know you’re on the right path 🙂

  20. San Lin Tun

    Signs can be good or bad; they can be revealed like that. I think that the interpretation of signs may be different from cultures to cultures. But different cultures have different ideas on that. Sometimes, it is like cracking up the puzzles. For our country, it is a good sign when you hear the crying sounds of crows in front of your house. They believe it is a good sign which means that you can have a good visitor in an immediate future. As for the afterlife, the reincarnation stories can be seen in Buddhist Literature which explains that depending on one’s own kamma one can take a certain form in the next existence. According to kammic force, the next existence is going on.

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      I love that even though there are differences, the underlying hope still remains the same! Thanks so much for sharing yours! Appreciate it!

  21. Emily R. King

    Moving post, Coleen.
    I had an experience not long ago when I was out of the country. On the way home, the border patrol guard asked me the purpose of my visit. I told him I was visiting my sick grandmother. He offered his condolences, and I said, “It’s okay. We all get old and feeble. It’s the roadway to death.” His face dropped and he said, “I died.” I thought he was kidding, so I laughed. He maintained his strict expression and said, “No, really. I died for a few minutes.” Now that I realized he was serious, it was my turn to offer my condolences. But then he did something really odd. He leaned over farther across the barrier and lowered his voice. “I don’t believe in that life after death stuff,” he said. “It’s not true.” Before I could reply, he added, “But I’ll tell you something. I have never felt such peace and calm in my life. I’m no longer afraid to die.” I replied adamantly, “If that’s what you felt, then there MUST be life after death.” He shrugged, still not convinced, and I went on my way.
    How odd that a man who had a near-death experience didn’t believe in heaven. Even if he didn’t learn from his experience, I did. I’m so grateful he shared it with me. Like the ladybug, it reaffirmed my belief that there is something awaiting us after this life. 🙂

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      We are probably learning something more about this world every time we interact with someone–not that I’m always in tune with what’s going on around me 🙂 In your story, I wonder if he was looking for confirmation or something? It’s almost like he was challenging his own belief!
      Fascinating–thanks for sharing Emily!

  22. Tameri Etherton

    I’d hate to think we’re all just roadkill. There has to be something more after life. I don’t know what it is, but I believe it’s there.

    Cherish every ladybug you see. Whether from your brother or not, they are precious little reminders that beauty exists in this world and maybe for that alone, they are a gift from your brother.

    What a lovely, lovely post.

  23. Karen McFarland

    Road Kill? That’s a pretty harsh way of looking at things. I’ve always thought it was a blessing that God gave us a memory. With it, we can keep our loved ones who have died with us 24/7. We can choose what we prefer to remember too. Because I’m sure that all of us like to remember all the good things about that person that meant so much to us over the bad stuff. What a loving gift as our memories can give us so much comfort. They are beautiful, just like the ladybug! Take care Coleen! 🙂
    Karen McFarland recently posted..Bridge of SighsMy Profile

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      Karen, I agree it was harsh–and probably why the conversation sticks in my head after 2 decades. I too prefer to hold my memories as comfort and hope!!

  24. Beth K. Vogt

    I kept this post open because life is super busy, but I didn’t want to not read your post. I love reading what you write.
    And I’m so thankful I didn’t just click the link shut.
    I’m not much of a “sign” person … but there was a time when I was so discouraged I asked God for a sign … and for some inexplicable reason I asked for a hummingbird.
    And God answered my silly little prayer. (Long story, that.)
    But now, whenever I see a hummingbird, or hear one, I am reminded that God loves me. That he won’t abandon me.

  25. Margo Berendsen

    fur covered hipster attitude. – love that description!

    I love that lady bugs are a kind of sign for you – many of my friends/family seem to have some sort of recurring sign, too. I haven’t seen one yet for me, even though I absolutely believe in them. Also, I haven’t lots any close family member or friend yet, either.

  26. MOV

    Ladybugs are your sign. When my grandmother died, I was devastated (we were very close). Her birthday was January 24. I see those numbers EVERYWHERE– 124. I see them on license plates when I am driving. The number follows me.

    Need I tell you my oldest son’s birthday? December 4. That’s right 12-4, or all together: 124.

    Thanks, Grandmother. 🙂

    best,
    MOV

  27. Emily

    Hi Col,
    We made brownies and put a candle in it. We sang Happy Birthday to Dan and all blew the candle out. It was the first time I did not feel sad about his death, because we were really celebrating his life. Thanks for this post. I know he appreciates it. 🙂

  28. Patricia Sands

    Thanks for this beautiful and so very meaningful post,Coleen. Treasure those ladybugs. My first husband died of pancreatic cancer when our sons were just 12 and 13. Twenty-two years later we still feel his presence in moments of absolute calm that overtake us at the most inexplicable times. I’m not religious but completely agree with you that there is something beyond this world that keeps us connected.

  29. Anne R. Allen

    This is such a moving post! Beautifully done. I think it’s the height of arrogance for humans to think our limited brains can know everything there is to know–or believe we are the most powerful beings in the Universe. Death is an ending we humans perceive. Who knows how it looks to another being–or in another dimension? We die and are reborn all the time. The child I was is “dead” now, but I live on in this body that doesn’t look or act or think a bit like her. Is she “dead”? Keep following your signs…

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      Thanks! That’s another way to think about it–by comparing it to how we change in our one lifetime (well, most everyone!). I like that concept. Thanks for sharing Anne! 🙂

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