To believe, or not to believe…

I’m the whimsical, sparkle-queen of optimism. My kids grew up believing fairies lived in our gardens, in the woods behind our house. Dragons, bridge trolls, any manner of magical creature wasn’t just a story, but a fact of life. Yet we have never been a religious family. There was a time we tried, because that is what one did when raised a reluctant Catholic. If you ask my kids now, one will claim atheism, two will say they don’t know what they feel, one will claim she’s agnostic with a strong spiritual bend.

Chris was a very spiritual guy. He believed that this thing often called “God” is all around us, all the time. It’s nature. It’s science. It’s the earth and the sky and the stars. He believed there is a connection to all things, and the evidence is there for anyone who takes a moment to notice. All he believed was, in fact, science based, including whatever comes after this life is done.

We are energy. Energy cannot be destroyed, it can only change form. That, in a nutshell, is his proof that we go on in some aspect. What that form is, he didn’t know. I don’t. No one does, not even those who claim to have the one truth of all things afterlife. There’s only one way to find out–to die, and to stay dead.

As I’ve written before, I’ve had some experiences that I can’t deny, even if I can’t explain them. Like the rings on my Cheshire Cat cell-phone case. I’d been crying all morning, not an unusual thing, but life goes on and dishes needed to be done. I took my rings off and put them down like this, on top of my cell phone, so I wouldn’t forget to put them back on:


recreated for obvious reasons

Turning back to get them a few minutes later, I found this:


Note, I was alone in the house. No cats in sight, and the cell phone and rings were directly behind me. I am 100% certain I didn’t put them down this way, because when I first put them on top of the cell phone, one of them slipped off and I put it back on top of the other. Let’s say one slid off and onto an eye. It would have had to have some momentum to send the other one to the other eye. That’s a whole lot of work and a lot of suspension of belief to accept. And yet, I know this happened. I didn’t slip through an alternate reality wherein I’d set my rings down that way to begin with. I didn’t black out, rearrange the rings so I could believe my son was, in his prankster way, telling me to stop crying. But was it him? Even though it’s way less of a stretch to believe so, I am skeptical.

Many other things have happened. Wow, so many. Things I can’t explain away as coincidence or wishful thinking. My son is working hard to let me know he’s not only ok, he wants me to be ok. And yet still, I’m skeptical. Me! The woman who still believes in fairies! So I told him, “Just have someone say [redacted]! If someone says [redacted], I’ll believe!”

And wouldn’t you know, the very next day, a friend emailed me and signed her name [redacted.] How much harder can he work at this? Why can’t I take the comfort I want so badly to take?

Chris didn’t have it so great. The last ten years of his life were full of so much mental and physical pain. He often felt lonely, even though he wasn’t alone. There were happy times too, but the last three weeks ending as they did keep the despair in the forefront. I want so much to believe that he’s free of all that shackled him in this life, having an afterlife better than what he had and not just ashes in the roots of a tree. So why do I keep making him prove it? Over and over again. My mind is so open to all things. I never say never. And yet…why not with this?

I have no answer. I don’t expect you to, either. Whether you’re devoutly faithful to a religion, spiritual, scientific, all have theories but no one knows. I am, however, interested in the experiences of others, if you wish to share.


Filed under Family

12 responses to “To believe, or not to believe…

  1. Oh, Terri, I love this post so much. ❤


  2. Mark Nelson

    Chris is working as hard at getting you to relax and be okay as you did in keeping him alive. Eventually, both of you will reach the necessary balance. Faith actually permeates much of my writing, and yet I know for a fact that certain of my in laws miss my point completely. In as much as I believe, I know I have a guardian angel in the form of my grandfather. He is that voice inside that says: don’t do that, stupid…😄

    I have a lot of faith in my deity; I just don’t have much faith in the organization that attempt to codify him/her for me.

    Chris is a powerful force. Perhaps you need to tell his story in metaphor.




    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      I know your writing well. 🙂

      Chris is a powerful force, without a doubt. He’s like Obi Wan Kenobi–strike him down and he becomes even MORE powerful! Sometimes I feel him like this huge burst of light, just radiating all he truly is out into the world, being the superhero he wanted to be. I need to go with that feeling and stop telling myself it’s not real.

      The stories I’ve been writing the last few years are all ghost stories in that they present characters as entities no longer of this world, all in different ways. I had no idea I was practicing for real life, but–there you have it.
      Love you.


  3. I still have dreams about my dad. Anymore, I don’t remember them after I’ve been awake for a while. But shortly after he did I dreamed that he came to visit me at work. He couldn’t stay long, he said; he’d been to see mom and was going to go see my sister, and THEN, he had to go find my brother, who was across the sea on some big aircraft carrier in the Navy. I maintain, will always maintain, that it was less a dream than a goodbye – the goodbye we never got to have in person.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      I remember you telling me this. And I truly believe dreams are the place we actually get to see/hear our beloved dead. I’ve done it many times, with Brian, and once now with Chris, that I remember.


  4. Oh, Terri! I’ve had too many experiences growing up not to believe there are ghosts among us. I completely believe Chris is with you and is trying to tell you he’s okay and he wants you to be okay too. ❤


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      I have too! That’s what’s so annoying. I don’t know why I keep going to great lengths to explain everything away.
      Harry Houdini did the same. He believed, truly, and thus had to disprove every charlatan around. It doesn’t make the truth any more or less truth. Another journey for me to take on this life of mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Elizabeth

    I don’t think you’re MAKING him do anything. I think you’re LETTING him do these magical things and I think you should keep letting him. At some point, you’re bound to be convinced and then he will have accomplished his goal. Yes?


  6. Terri-Lynne DeFino

    Maybe that’s what I’m doing, on a subconscious level? Getting him to stick around longer, trying to convince me?
    I just want for him the same thing I’ve wanted for all my kids since they were born–happiness.


  7. Lucy Huntzinger

    I wrote a surprising amount of short stories about ghosts for someone who really doesn’t want an afterlife interacting with this life. So I’ll tell you my story that I cannot explain unless I just choose to disbelieve.

    In 1985 one of my close friends was murdered. He was highly regarded by the local music scene, college radio scene and science fiction fandom; he made friends with all kinds of people and got so much enjoyment out of life. But he didn’t live to be 30. When I got the news I was overwhelmed with grief. I couldn’t get to his memorial in another state. I didn’t know how to handle that kind of loss at all and I felt isolated. For three weeks I made myself sicker and sicker, unable to come to any terms at all with his death.

    Then one day at work I was in the kitchen making myself a cup of tea. I got caught in a crying jag again and doubled over from the pain of it all. As clear as the plane flying overhead outside I heard my friend say sympathetically, “Lucy, you have to stop crying.” That’s all. But it was his voice in my head. And I went ice cold from shock, because it was scary and yet it was a real thing. He was saying don’t do this, you’re hurting yourself and I don’t want you to do that. He wouldn’t want that. My grief must have been a beacon.

    Anyway, I stopped crying then and the grief was never as sharp afterward. I told him I didn’t want any more signs, but I hoped he was okay. And then I told everyone I knew and no one thought it was weird. So that’s my ghost.

    He left a lot of great friends behind. We all still miss him.


    • Terri-Lynne DeFino

      Thank you for sharing that, Lucy. It means a whole lot to me. I’ve had similar experiences, not just with Chris but with Brian. I’m not sure what it’s going to take to take me over the “disbelief” hurdle, but things like this truly help me process. ❤


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