Dec. 11, 2015
Caity Sightings: this is what my family calls all the many, many moments when Caitlin appears to us. Frequently, she visits us—in dreams; in a song that out of the blue comes up on the radio; in a random Facebook memory from Caitlin a friend sends us; in a long-dormant bulb that decides to sprout and bloom a radiant red the week of Caity’s passing; in rainbows everywhere; in eagles appearing in my parents’ backyard; the list goes on and on and on.
I am reminded of a passage from the gospel of John:
“Whoever believes in me, even if she dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” -Jesus to Mary when her brother Lazarus dies, John 11: 25-26
Because of Caitlin, yes—I believe.
Caity sightings happen to me, and to my whole family, too frequently NOT to believe in her ongoing life, in her presence to us and with us, in her abundant, radiant self, continuing forth, in some form.
It was not immediate. After Caity died, after my family midwifed her into death, I was exhausted, confused, in the depths of grief and very, very angry. How the f—- could you let this happen, God? What the hell? How could you take someone like her from us? I was pissed, to say the least. Mostly, though, I was empty. All I wanted to do was go into the woods for months—to be alone, to scream at God, to weep, to mourn.
At the time I was trying to finish up my final semester of grad school, so I settled on 3 days in the Mt. Tamalpais forest just north of the San Francisco Bay. I would camp and hike. I would be alone.
Here’s some of what I wrote in my journal at the time:
“Of course, the woods are a balm to my soul. God has led me precisely to the place I need to be—redwoods, ocean, creek and countless pools, eddies and waterfalls. Life breaking through in abundance. My own life’s breath beating heart up, the comforting pull of gravity down. Soft trails, soft mosses on trees and earth, hard rock, hard/soft bark, changes of light, smell and air. All my senses captivated, stilled, present. Filled with truth immediately, letting the sorrow come, hot strong tears and mourning’s heaves filling by body as I walked. Caity so present—prayers answered immediately, rising up from the core of my knowing that is not really mine, but somehow shared by Eternity. “I am no longer suffering Er” I heard her say, felt her laughing, dancing spirit. When I began to feel sad that I was seeing such beauty and she is dead, deep inside me I felt with certainty—if this is beautiful, the beauty she now beholds is 100 times greater. Feeling she is part of everything—everything I see, everything I touch, the feelings I feel. She is there, in it, in a fuller and deeper way than she ever could have been in life. There was a moment as I was walking through a grove of lean, tall redwoods that I caught the sun glinting through the high branches and I opened my face to its light, moving to catch it through the green and leaves. I crouched low, noticing how the light was illuminating the ground, blanketed in brown fallen needles and crisscrossed by wisps of spider webs. “See,” I felt. “See how much more is here, if we take the time to LOOK.” The ground was sparkling and I noticed spider after sister spider on her intricate web. I hadn’t seen them before. Somehow Caitlin was there, showing me that sight, the glittering, the sparkle, the earth alive, teaching me to see, to believe in what I have not yet fully believed. Then, a bit down the trail I found a perfect little bouquet of flowers that someone had dropped—perfectly arranged and lovely and precious so I scooped it up, imagining Caity left them there for me.”
So this is how it went those three days. I would hike, my mind would wander, and something would bring me back to Caitlin.
I let what wanted to come up, come up, and of course my mind kept circling back to so many of my fears, so much of my guilt. Why couldn’t I keep her alive? Why wasn’t I able to save her?
I found myself at the top of Mt. Tamalpais, a majestic mountain peak that can be seen from all over the Bay. From Berkeley, I often beheld this mountain, longing to hike her and here I was, at last. Feeling adventurous, I trekked out to an outcropping of the mountain that was much less trafficked than the rest of the park. Making my way out to a narrow ledge, the toes of my boots brushed against a foreign object. I immediately recognized it as a good-sized geo-cache, one of those hidden treasure chests searched for by adventurers. I had not even been looking for this one, but opened it immediately, knowing that the idea is to take something if you want, as long as you leave something behind. The first item I saw was a sticker, with this image on it:
I couldn’t believe my eyes. To me it was the image of two sisters, standing at the gates of heaven. I felt deep in my heart, like Caity was saying to me, “Thank you Eri. Thank you! You have been the best big sister. You have led me so far. Now, you can let me go, into heaven! I am happy. I am free. I love you.” Of course, I took the sticker, replacing it with a few items from my pack.
Tremulous, I continued to make my way on the trail, this time down the mountain. I felt shaken up and still somewhat doubtful. Um…. How real can this be? I mean, coincidences like that happen… right? Sure, I’d been pretty much carrying on a conversation with God and Caity in my head, but this was… not in my head. I found myself asking, “Cait, are you there? Cait, can you really hear me? Can I trust this?”
Lost in my thoughts and doubts, I continued along the trail, the voices of other hikers diminishing as I made my way further and further from the crowds at the peak of the mountain. I began to hike alongside a beautiful stream. The path curved ahead of me and I stopped abruptly—a tree near the path was spreading its branches directly in my way. I would have to duck to avoid the one that was directly in my path—it literally almost hit me in the head. But before I could avoid its reach, I stopped, staring. This is what met my gaze:
I couldn’t help it—I began to laugh. I could hear her laughing—at me, with me, in her typical gleeful joy. What?! Ok, Cait. I get it. I surrender. Thanks for making it so obvious! You are here. I can trust this.
Now, I guess one could say all of those things—the bouquet of flowers, the sticker, Caitlin’s name carved in perfect spelling into the tree in my path—are coincidences. They could be. But I choose to believe in her presence, her guiding light with me still. I have found that the more I say yes to that belief, to her, the more the truth of it rushes in. The more I open, the more life and love there is. The veil between heaven and earth, life and death, thins. The more Caity Ssightings happen.
So I choose Life and Love.
Yes, Cait, I believe! Yes, Lord, I believe!