Looking for Signs of Life vs. Road Kill Theory

 

“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?  

YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN YOU

 

“I can’t remember anything!”

That was what my usually confident daughter whispered to me right before heading to the stage during a piano recital a few years ago.

She was nervous.

So I reassured her, gave her a quick pep talk and then she walked up to the grand piano on the tiny stage and began to play the opening chords.

I released the breath I was holding and then paused.  Was that the opening chords again?  She’d practiced the song for weeks, so I knew what was supposed to come next.

Uh oh.  My heart pounded as she once again played the same notes.  She was stuck.

Still, I reasoned, it would be okay, because like the eleven pieces played before hers, her song was not a familiar one. Only we (and her teacher) knew that she was stuck in the beginning loop of the song.  She could fake it, right?

Wrong.  Paralyzed by her mistake, my daughter couldn’t see past her defeat at all. So much so that she stood up from the piano, took a bow and APOLOGIZED!

Then she practically leaped from the stage, looking for a big hole to swallow her up, because she was disappointed in herself, and completely bummed by her mistake.  (Ironically, the title of her piece was “Consolation.”)

Later that night the piano teacher called to tell my daughter that she got so many responses about her.  No one mentioned failure.  In fact, everyone wanted to comfort my daughter, lift her spirits.  They didn’t want her to feel bad.

Because we all know the feeling of failure, the pain of embarrassment.  We even know the self-recrimination.   Which is why we don’t go around kicking people when they’re down, we build them back up, we encourage them.

We wouldn’t want to be around anyone who did otherwise, right?

So why do we accept the negative thoughts from ourselves? Why do we beat ourselves up about our mistakes?  Why is it so easy to lift other’s spirits but not our own?

We are taught to treat people the way we want to be treated, but sometimes we forget about ourselves.

So include yourself on your list of spirits to lift today, because in order to move forward we need to believe in ourselves too.

 

“Today I had a battle, the fight was hard and long;

 My opponent was so stubborn, and I knew him to be wrong.

 We didn’t need a referee, because, when we were through,

 The decision was unquestioned, nor did we start anew.

 I never did like fighting, and yet I fail to see,

 How I could help but cheer a bit, when I had conquered ME.” 

— Hazel V. Wolfe