Yesterday was damn near debilitating. I was so overcome with sadness that I didn’t even want to get out of the bed. I left church early because I was nauseated and thought I was going to hurl on the poor unsuspecting family sitting in front of me. I thought maybe I was coming down with something, but later realized it was just stress and sorrow. I just wanted to puke at the stress and sorrow.
After church I took a long nap. I had the second dream about my mother since she passed. She was making tuna fish. Dear Lord, I miss her tuna fish. I use her recipe but mine is lacking something. I don’t add enough celery seed maybe. Or pickle. I don’t know. I have never been able to figure it out, but I can never get it right. Anyway, as she was making tuna fish, we conversed about life and death. I asked her how I was supposed to live without her here and she kept saying something about getting her reward. I can only assume she meant her reward in Heaven. I didn’t want that dream to end, and when it did, I tried to force myself to go back to sleep and pick up where we left off.
When I woke up this morning, I still wasn’t feeling so swell. I was emotional and snotty and had nothing funny to think or say. I hate being that way. I hate being sensitive and vulnerable and blubbering and sniffling. It’s not in my nature to be such a Debbie Downer.
While I was waiting on some laundry to dry, I was bored and started scrolling through the saved folder on my email. I scrolled back through years worth of messages my mother had sent me. I’d forgotten all about them. I didn’t even remember most of them. I laughed and cried. I read one particular message that seemed to be meant for me at this very moment. She mentioned, “after I’m dead and gone, I want you to know…” followed by nuggets of wisdom that I will forever cherish. She always ended each email with her love and pride for me. There’s no denying how much my mother loved me, and I’m incredibly thankful for that and incredibly thankful that I was reminded of it today.
I’m going to print out those emails. I may frame one or two special ones where my mother gives me general advice about everyday life. I want to read her words and be reminded of her wisdom and her faith every single day. Printing and framing those emails is definitely on my short list of things to do.
After I read her messages, my spirits were lifted. Then I found a saved sound clip of my father and her playing guitar and singing together. They harmonized so well to the Beatles. They talked in between lyrics and laughed and cut up with one another. Finding their voices in my email brought much peace to my heart- peace that they are together. She mourned that man for too long. I’m glad she doesn’t bear that hurt and longing anymore.
When I was done strolling down memory lane, via Yahoo! Mail, my face puffy from tears and laughter alike, it was time to pick up my children from school. I was sitting silently in the line waiting on dismissal when I had the random thought, “I wish I had a sign. Wouldn’t it be weird if a hummingbird or something flew up to my car right now? I’d take it. I’d take a sign of any kind right now.”
No, a hummingbird didn’t fly into my car. I’m thankful for that because although they are beautiful little creatures, birds have always freaked me out. I don’t like the idea of wings fluttering. They freaked out my mother, too. It stemmed from watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”. And it also stemmed from the time she was attacked by a flamingo at the zoo. To hear her tell that story would leave you exhausted from laughter.
But within a few seconds, maybe 20 or 30, of thinking that very thing about signs, a ladybug flew into my car. Out of nowhere, here the little thing came. I didn’t know what to think about it- because I guess it’s not that uncommon to have a ladybug fly into your car and pee on your hand- and ladybugs are everywhere right now. And it’s not like a bald eagle flew into my car with a photo of my mother in its talons or something. But I had to think it meant something because I had *just* wished for a sign of any kind.
*That’s not a mole on my hand. It’s the lady bug. I swear.
And then there’s this…
My mother had requested throughout the years that “Over the Rainbow” be played at her funeral. She had a lovely singing voice as a child, and her first grade teacher asked her to come to the front of the room and sing the Judy Garland hit every morning before class. I can still hear my mama telling that story, proud of her voice and that she was special to her teacher in that way. I can still hear her singing it to this day. So, as she had requested, “Over the Rainbow” was the last song played at her funeral.
The day after she was buried, my siblings and I were at her house. By sheer chance, as I was walking through her living room, I happened to glance out her back door. When I saw the rainbow there, I broke down into tears. So did my sister. And my brother started snapping photos of it. It really felt like a sign. A God wink. Where troubles melt like lemon drops. Away above the chimney tops. That’s where you’ll find me. That was a sign, wasn’t it? It had to have been.
And then there’s this…
A few weeks ago, I was at my mama’s house alone. As I read her old journal, I was overcome with emotion. I just sprawled out on her couch and began sobbing one of those ugly, snotty cries. The kind of cry that you are allowed to release when no one is there to see you looking like some kind of mangy dog with streams of snot coming out of your face. Ugly, ugly stuff.
I started talking out loud to her- and to God. I begged Him to let me have a sign from her. A dream. Something. I needed to know she was with me. I needed that so badly at that very moment.
I’d taken my dog, Nutella, with me to my mom’s that day, and when I was lying on the couch acting like a blubbering fool, he became noticeably concerned. He jumped up on the couch with me, and I said, “Newt, if Mama is here, I want you to bark. Bark, Newt!”
No, he didn’t bark. Instead, he jumped off the couch and paced around the living room. He jumped into my mother’s favorite chair. And then he jumped down. I didn’t know what was wrong with him, but I was so exhausted from crying that I became incredibly drowsy.
“Just bark if she’s here, Newt,” I mumbled quietly as my wet face rested on the equally wet pillow on my mother’s couch. As soon as I drifted off to sleep, my dog let out a single, shrill bark. I immediately sat up on the couch, and he was just sitting in the middle of the living room floor staring at me.
“She’s here, Newt?” I asked him. Of course he didn’t answer. This isn’t The Neverending Story or Dog With a Blog, but I promise to you that the dog barked for no reason. That had to be a sign, right? The dog knew something. He doesn’t just bark for no reason- and he definitely isn’t smart enough to bark on command.
After he let out his yelp, he jumped onto the couch with me and we both went to sleep. That’s when I had the first dream about my mother. I dreamt that she was standing right behind the couch. Then she sat there with me and we were looking through her piano music and songs she’d written. I asked her a few things- for forgiveness for our last argument. She told me she loved me. We hugged. I didn’t want the dream to end but my phone rang and woke me up. I’ve never hated my phone more than I did in that moment.
And then there’s this…
I’ve been driving her car a lot. It smells like her. Her reading glasses are still in the console. Her Kleenex box is still in the back seat. So is her gym bag and her suntan lotion and other little ordinary things that mean the world to me and no one else. My 5-year-old son likes riding in her car. He even told me she was sitting in the passenger seat next to me but we couldn’t see her because she was an angel.
He says a lot of things like this. He mentions her every day. While playing his Batman game, he said to himself, “Mammy is behind me watching me play this right now.” He didn’t know I heard him. When I asked him why he said that, he replied, “Because she’s an angel and she’s always with me.”
He’s said many times that he misses the funny things she used to say to him. He will randomly bring up the crazy things they did together. While sitting on the couch one night, he stood and ran upstairs to his room. He dug through his closet for five minutes until he found a coloring book she gave him last Christmas. He showed me a half-colored picture and said, “I meant to finish this for her.” I don’t know what made him think of that, but he finished coloring the picture and hung it on his door.
He said when he sees a butterfly it will mean she came to visit. He said he smelled her on a quilt I brought home from her house. When he says his prayers, he thanks God for taking her to Heaven and letting her watch over us. All of these things he says and does without me prompting him.
He swears he saw an angel one night in his room before she died. Maybe that was someone else. My dad? My grandmother? My aunt? I don’t know. But he swears he saw one, and he refuses to believe it was just a dream or his nightlight flickering or some other logical explanation.
Out of the mouths of babes, maybe?
And then there’s this…
My husband and I celebrated our 10-year anniversary on September 18th. My mother passed away on September 20th. I went out to the mailbox the day after she died to find the card that she sent us. I’ve never cried so hard over a piece of mail since I was summoned for jury duty.
I’ve always been confused about signs. I am certain that the Lord can communicate with us through His Word and feelings of peace and comfort, but I don’t know if it’s true that our deceased loved ones can command a lady bug or a rainbow or a coin or a feather or what have you cross our paths to let us know that they are still with us. I’ve never been too sure about that. It’s always seemed kind of hippie voodoo-ish to me.
But all of these things- the really specific emails, the rainbow, the ladybug, the dog barking, the card, my son bringing her up so often in the middle of conversations about Batman and homework and things he did at school- maybe it’s just wishful thinking. Maybe it’s just me clinging onto something- anything- to feel my mother’s presence. Maybe I am looking for signs in places where there are only everyday coincidences.
Or maybe my mother is right here. Maybe she’s watching me type this blog post right now. Maybe she’s watching when my son plays his Batman game or my daughter hits a home run. Maybe the Lord is allowing her to be with me in some way as I learn to navigate through this life without her physical presence.
And maybe, hopefully, she’ll stick around for a long time to come.