I used to have a strange, very naive idea that I would be closely united with my father after his death. I know that we are united with the communion of saints, and that death no longer separates us (Romans 8:38-39). I believe we can pray to the saints, and even pray to and pray for our relatives who have gone before us. But I guess my interpretation of what that union would look like differed from reality.
I thought that all I had to do was pray and that my dad would visit me in my dreams, or that God would send me endless consolations to constantly comfort me. I believed that my father would send me signs of his present happiness from “the other side” in big ways.
I probably picked up this idea from other people’s anecdotes. I’ve heard of people smelling their loved one’s cologne, or of finding an old voice message at just the right time, or of visits in dreams.
I was so sure of how things worked that, when my sweet atheist brother insisted that we stop trying to comfort him with talk of heaven, my sister boldly assured him that he would be surprised and change his mind when my dad visited him in his dreams from the afterlife. He looked pointedly at both of us, and told us we would be surprised when he didn’t.
I had a friend who told me that her mother appeared by her bedside one night. This friend had cancer, and she was in deep anguish over leaving her children behind. Her mother appeared beside her in bed, and came to comfort her with a smile. I asked her if she was terrified; and she told me she wasn’t at all. I believed every word of it. My friend has since died.
People talk about lesser signs. They find pennies on the ground or see monarch butterflies or cardinals as signs from heaven sent by the deceased.
I saw all these things but the cynic in me brushed them away, hoping for something bigger. I didn’t need an actual appearance, like my friend had; but I wanted something big enough to satisfy every doubt in me. I’m not sure what, if anything, would have ever satisfied me.
On the two-month anniversary of my father’s death, I did dream about him. I barely remember the dream, but I did capture his last words, which were in Spanish: “No lo dudes” (“Do not doubt it”). I think it was a message about my dreams to finish school, but it took a bigger meaning in general.
The truth is, I won’t be satisfied until I see him again. We were not created to be satisfied until we reach perfect communion with God. Earth is an exile; we cannot expect it to be heaven. We must wait patiently, and exercise faith that we will be reunited again. Jesus came so that those who trust in Him would pass from death to life. In the meantime, those of us who have been left behind still have to live on earth.
It occurred to me that this is where I need to trust God and put my faith into practice. I can’t expect daily consolations or signs from God in order to trust. Believing in what we cannot see, and having the patient assurance that what God promised will indeed come to pass, is what separates us from non-believers.
We must persevere in faith, in the the hope of his promise. The details will be revealed later.
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love Him. (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV)