My mother died one week before Christmas in 2006 but has kept in touch with me.
|I remember my mother's hands. They were warm and golden and comforting. They never seemed to age, despite years of strenuous, laborious work. My mother worked for over 20 years as a sorter and packer in a fruit warehouse, though you'd never guess that by looking at her hands. For years, the only jewlery to adorn her hands was a simple 14 karat gold wedding band, which suited my mother. She never was a flashy woman. She kept it simple, and that worked for her.
My mother passed away the week before Christmas. I got the news that she was sick a few nights earlier. My sister and I had gone to visit my niece and her new baby. We hadn’t been there an hour when my cell phone rang. It was my father. My parents rarely called, so I almost knew it was bad news. I was certain when I heard my father’s voice, because he never called. My father and I spoke very little during that call.
“What’s the matter?”
No response. I heard my father breathing and then he began to cry. Next I heard the voice of my adopted sister, Nancy.
“Trisha, Mom’s real sick. The doctors said her kidneys are shuttin’ down. Me and Dad are following the ambulance to Corvallis.”
I hung up and began to cry uncontrollably. It was bad news. I knew it was bad.
The next day, I got to speak to my mother. She sounded weak. We only spoke briefly.
“Hi, Mom. How are you?" I knew she wasn't well, but I was holding on with faith and optimism.
“I’m tired, but I’m doing better today than I was yesterday. Don’t worry about me. I’m a tough old bird.”
I giggled quietly, holding back the tears that were trying to force their way out. “I know you are, Mom.”
“It wasn’t lookin’ good yesterday, but the doctors said I’m doin’ a little better today, and I’m feelin’ better today, too. It’s all uphill from here.”
She sounded so weak and fragile. I was not convinced that she was doing as well as she wanted me to believe.
“I’m real tired. They got me on this oxygen and I can’t talk for too long. I’m gonna have to put my mask back on and let you talk to your dad, okay?”
“Okay, Mom. Just rest and feel better, okay? I love you.”
“I love you too. I love all you kids.”
That was the last time I would speak to my mother. The next night, she died.
Eight years before my mother died, she and my father had moved to Sweet Home, Oregon, 500 miles away from most of their family and friends. During those years away from us, my mother still attended church services every Sunday, and she developed many close relationships with the members of her church. Because of that strong faith-based connection, a memorial service was held for my mother at that church and was attended by several of the members that had become her close friends. They wept with my family and me, feeling the loss of a beloved soul -- a part of their family. It was touching. Beautiful.
Due to the distance and the treacherous winter roads, most of my mother’s family and friends were unable to attend the memorial service in Sweet Home. It was therefore decided that we would hold a second memorial service in our home town one week later. I had already been through the excruciating pain of saying goodbye to my mother, and now I had to say goodbye again.
It was a chilly afternoon in late December. The memorial service was held in a small country church. It was quaint. It had been there for many years and captured the feel of a church that may have existed before the streets were paved.
It was a winter funeral, though there was no snow on the ground, and everyone was dressed for the frigid air, wearing warm winter coats and scarves. Inside, my father sat in the front row to the right alongside my adopted sister and her children, my adopted brother, and the younger of my two biological brothers. In the front row to the left, I sat with my husband, my son, my sister and our dear friend, Julie, who has always been more like a sister than a friend.
The church was silent as family and friends from over the years filed into the small parlor. There was no casket, just an 8 x 10 photo of my mother in a simple frame on a table and a flower basket filled with silk lilies and baby’s breath on either side.
At the front of the church was a small stage with three steps leading up to the podium and a few chairs on either side. Seated on the stage was the minister’s wife; the musician and an old family friend. Up front, head bowed, hands folded, stood the minister behind the podium. He had presided over the marriages of many couples in the crowd. He had also helped many say goodbye to loved ones, family and friends, throughout the years.
Silence lingered for a while. The love in the church warmed the cool air of winter. The minister began with a prayer. All bowed their heads. He spoke from his heart. He knew my mother, as he knew so many others in the church that day. I felt the warmth and love of an extended family I had never known.
The minister’s wife strummed her guitar and from deep within her heart, though with a somewhat croaky voice, sang her praises to Jesus and to his father, God.
Tears flowed freely in the crowd. Tissues were passed. My father stifled his sobs, comforted by my oldest brother’s hand laid gently on his shoulder from the second row.
After prayer in song, the minister extended an invitation to anyone who would like to say a few words about my mother. At first there was a deafening silence. This woman was loved, but there was so much pain following her death. Some were perhaps too sad to speak. Soon a voice arose from somewhere within the crowd. A story was told; a memory was shared. It was a humorous story, one that made all who were present both cry and laugh out loud. “Sounds just like her.” someone said. My mother’s sister was next to share. Another story, warm yet funny.
The tone was set. My mother was a funny lady, though she did not always know. She touched so many, though she had no idea. She was gullible, no doubt. But she was honest, to a fault some would say. She was loved.
After more songs, more prayer, more silence, more tears, hugs were exchanged. Warm, lasting, sorrow-filled hugs. Each brought more tears. Release. This was the time to cry. Say our farewells. Say goodbye.
It was awe inspiring, really. The number of faces from the past that were present that day. Friends of my mother from so many years ago. Ex-in-laws, family members all but forgotten about. So many were present to pay their respects. So many cared.
Years before my mother passed away, my uncle had died. After his death, I had a dream. In that dream, I was at a dance in my old high school auditorium. I was standing near the back of the room. My uncle appeared before me wearing a purple suit made of velvet. He looked well and younger than I remembered. He greeted me with a big silly grin and asked, in his usual jovial way, “Didja miss me?” I always believed that it was more than a dream. I felt like my uncle really did visit me, that he had really come to say hello and to let me know that he was okay and happy. I did not expect to have such an experience again in my lifetime, but I did.
About one week following my mother’s death, I had a dream in which she came to me. I was in a room with white walls and a closet with wooden sliding doors. It reminded me of the bedroom I had growing up. I stood near the closet, and my mother was standing before me. She was beautiful, glowing, and looked so healthy. She was much younger appearing, perhaps in her 30s. She had long dark hair pulled back in what appeared to be a loose bun. She was not thin, as she was when she died; she was actually a little fluffy. I knew it was her - really her; I just felt it. We embraced, and I cried. She spoke to me then and said, “I know everyone is sad that I am gone, but I am where I am supposed to be and I am okay. Please don’t worry about me.” When I woke up the next morning, it took a few minutes for me to remember what had happened the night before. Once I started to remember, it all came back. It was the most vivid memory. It was not like I had dreamt it at all. I felt as though my mother had been there visiting with me. I was elated by the experience. It filled me with joy, knowing my mother was, in fact, not gone from my life.
First I called my sister to tell her of my visit with our mother. I had to share before I forgot, though I never have. Next I called Julie. I told her how beautiful my mother was, how young she appeared, and how vivid my dream had been. She then told me that her own mother had heard of such experiences happening to others. My interest was already piqued, but this confirmed to me that I had to do some of my own research.
Julie mentioned Sylvia Brown, a psychic who appeared weekly on The Montel Williams Show. She had written many books about just such experiences. I ordered one of her books, which was all about spirits, spirit guides, and visits from the afterlife. I was amazed when I got to the chapter about spirits visiting loved ones.
In the book, Sylvia mentions that loved ones often will leave tokens, coins, feathers, or other such objects, to let us know they are around us and still a part of our lives. I could not put the book down. I felt validated by it, like someone besides myself believed my mom came to visit me from the other side.
A couple weeks later, I was at my son's basketball game at the YMCA. I went into the restroom, and something caught my eye. There on the floor was a tiny pink gemstone. I immediately thought of my mom when I saw it. I picked up the tiny stone and put it in my pocket. I took the stone home and placed it upon the bookshelf of my computer desk, and every time I see it I think of my mom and sort of feel like she is there with me.
After mom's death, my sister finally left her boyfriend of nine years. She was alone for a few months and then decided to give daing another shot. She started seeing a guy who had been friends with my husband for years. He treated her well. He bought her flowers. He always told her how pretty she was. She never felt like she didn't deserve his love. Not long after my sister started dating him, she had a dream that my mom sent her a text message from Heaven saying, "I'm glad you are happy."
A few months after I found that tiny pink gemstone, my son went to softball practice with my husband and came home with an old, tattered, bent-up gold post earing with a pink gemstone and gave it to me. I was having a tough time dealing with the loss of my mom. I missed her so much. I thought about her almost every hour on the hour. I placed that earring up on the bookshelf with the other pink gemstone. My mom was coming through. I knew it now.
I always talk to my mom. Sometimes I am in tears and sometimes I will just say hello and tell her that I love and miss her. That spring, I was talking to my mom and told her, "I love the pink gemstones, Mom, but could you maybe leave me a diamond next time?" The next day, I went to meet my husband at a softball game. I got out of the car and caught sight of a sparkling clear gemstone on the ground. My mom left me a diamond!
The summer following my mother's deah, my sister found out she was pregnant. Everyone was very happy for her. She had wanted to be a mother for years and had not been able to get pregnant. One morning a few weeks after her announcement, my father called me. He was calling because he had been out fishing the day before and had received a text message on his cell phone. He did not know who sent it, and the message simply read, "I'ts a boy."
Since my mom's death, I have had three vivid dreams about her, which I believe were all visits from the other side. I now have a collection of three pink gemstones and one sparkling clear "diamond." The latest pink gemstone was found the day my sister went in for her 20-week ultrasound and found out she is having a baby boy, as was stated in the text message to my father only weeks after she found out she was pregnant.