Because I often suggest possible explanations to paranormal claims, some people think I've become a cynic who doubts ghosts and other paranormal phenomena exist. The truth, however, is this: I don't know. Have I seen any hard evidence that will convince me it does? Not yet. Have I experienced things that make me believe it is possible? Yes. But, as I've said before, belief is not fact, and it would be hypocritical of me to assert these experiences as such.
This past year has brought about a transition of how I approach the paranormal. As readers of this blog and my book know, I used to believe claims at face value. I was raised in a family that practiced a faith promising eternal life and most of my real-world friends shared those beliefs. Those who've read my book know my grandmother's experience that she told me about when I was a little girl. Later, I initially approached paranormal "investigating" (i.e., ghost hunting) based on them.
Then a few years ago I met people who were knowledgable in areas (such as psychology, electronics, accoustics, photography, physiology, etc.) that could offer likely natural explanations about paranormal experiences. After researching in this direction for myself, I came to doubt most claims had any supernatural origin. I admit, this created some cognitive dissonance for me, as it was hard for me to set aside a set of beliefs I adhered to for four decades.
I have several friends and family who despite have degrees in sciences including psychology, chemistry, engineering, they still have strong spiritual beliefs, including ghosts. Some told me they won't read my blog or book. Why? Because they admit they want their beliefs to remain intact. That is why I try to remain respectful of other's spiritual beliefs. To some of my more skeptic friends' irritation, I also give some ghost hunters a "pass" if they disclose they are metaphysical and not "scientific" - and as long as they don't charge. Psychologists have asserted that we are more comfortable believing than accepting any information which may challenge our beliefs. I now know how true that is.
A year ago this month, my elderly dad suddenly became ill and needed intensive care. Our family had to make the difficult choice that he be cared for in a facility. Even though I knew this time would be coming, I felt like the foundation that makes me who I am was crumbling away. I became much less interested in the dead and more invested in the living.
I am reminded how a few years ago, a popular ghost hunting show profiled The USS Yorktown. My dad served on this ship during WWII. After watching the first few minutes, I had to turn it off. I felt sick inside because some of the spirits the cast was trying to communicate with were my father's buddies who died so young, away from their loved ones. For the rest of his life, my father suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to some horrific experiences in that war. Suddenly, I felt an enormous guilt for all the times I went ghost hunting, asking for a sign of "someone's" presence. Ghost hunters may rationalize that they are doing this for "research" or "to help", but honestly, it is also form of entertainment for them. It upsets me to think that if spirits do exist and are able to revisit important locations from their lives, that my dad would run into some yahoo with an KII and a flashlight just trying to get some thrills. Anyway, I didn't know it at the time, but my dad also watched that episode. Luckily, he just laughed it off because he said they got facts about his ship wrong so he couldn't take it seriously.
My father passed away three weeks ago. Watching the strong, willful man I always knew deteriorate to a frail bed-ridden shell of himself was utterly heart-breaking. During this time, family, friends and nurses assured me he was going to a better place and that he knows all the words I held in my heart and meant to tell him. What struck me is how jealous I was of those people who knew - know - this. Their belief is so strong, with no room for the slightest doubt. And they are comforted in it.
So I want to believe, and I choose to believe for the sake of my emotional well-being, that my father is at peace and is still with me in some form. Don't worry, I'm not going to see Dad in dust particles in photos (as he was a professional photographer, he wouldn't approve anyway, haha). And I will continue to demand critical thinking in paranormal research - especially from those who go into people's homes to "help". But if I have an experience that supports this for me, then I will embrace it and cherish it. However, I won't share it. Not just because I understand I could never present it as evidence. But because, as I've said before, if we truly have faith in our beliefs, then we don't need any proof.