I was cleaning up after a workshop that I had hosted. The sangria punch had been a hit, and I was putting the glasses in the sink when the phone rang.
I walked over to the phone, but I didn’t recognize the area code and let it ring. A minute later, the phone beeped with a voice message. It was my brother asking me to call him back. Since he seldom called me, much less at 10:15 p.m., I knew it would be bad news.
I dialed the number on the caller I.D. A woman answered. I asked to speak to my brother. A moment later he answered in a wavering voice that caused my heart to sink. “Mom’s been in an accident.” He paused as he gathered himself. “It was really bad…she didn’t make it.”
How do you comprehend news that doesn’t make sense? I had talked with my mother the day before, and she spoke of her plans when she retired in a few months. She recently had begun taking violin lessons and was looking forward to playing a duet with my son when we came home for Thanksgiving. She was taking acting classes and had performed in a play over the summer. When I mentioned I would be sending her the first draft of this book later that day, she squealed with delight and said she was looking forward to reading it. But now she was gone. I began to cry and after waiting a moment, my brother continued, “She was riding a bicycle when a car hit her. The officer at the scene said she was killed instantly.”
This was a bad dream! My mother was so healthy that everyone believed she would outlive us all. The summer before she had built a block retaining wall in her garden by hauling blocks in a wheelbarrow and stacking them herself. Her efforts were rewarded when her garden was selected to be in the town’s home garden tour.
Now all of our lives had been altered. With tears in my eyes, I told my brother I would be there the next day and hung up the phone.
I stood in the kitchen staring through the window into the night. Never had I felt so alone. I delayed walking up the stairs to tell my husband. Somehow by not repeating it, she was still alive. Finally I proceeded to our bedroom. I stood over him as he slept, tempted to let him sleep through the night, but I couldn’t keep it inside any longer. I tugged on his arm until he woke up.
He turned his head and looked at me, asking, “What’s wrong?”
“My mom died.”
“She was riding a bike and was hit by a car.”
I turned and walked toward the phone in my office to call my sister. She answered after a few rings.
“Sharon? Are you home?”
“Yeah, why? Is something wrong?”
I told her of mom’s passing. She began to wail and scream. I waited until she finally calmed down, telling her I would see her tomorrow.
My husband and I decided to drive through the night. We picked up our kids, who were each spending the night with a friend, packed our clothes, loaded the dogs and cat in the van, and started toward Michigan after midnight.
I sobbed continuously as we drove through the night. We stopped for two hours and slept in a parking lot—checking into a hotel would have wasted too much precious time. I needed to be with my family as soon as possible.
As we drove there was a tightness in my chest that was so intense I could barely breathe. I truly did not know that grief could cause such severe physical pain.
We arrived in the afternoon, in time to eat dinner with the immediate family at my brother’s home. Afterward, we felt compelled to visit our mother’s house and choose what she would wear for the funeral. On the way to her house, we passed the accident scene. My brother slowed down, asking if I wanted to see it. I felt my chest tighten even more, but said, “Yes.”
Fluorescent orange, spray-painted marks covered the road and adjacent grassy slope. Each one marked relevant evidence of the collision…a piece of a headlight here and a side-view mirror there. A circle painted around a gouge in the asphalt pavement indicated the point of impact. My brother explained the markings and finally pointed to the spot on the grassy slope where our mother had landed after being thrown from the impact. Orange letters indicated the position of her head, body and legs. How do you deal with something like this?
I crouched down and touched the grass. Anger burst forth and I thought, Why did you leave me, mom!?
Monday morning was a surreal dream of going to a funeral home to choose our mother’s casket and plan her funeral. I kept thinking I would wake up soon and that somehow, if we all held hands and clicked our heels, things would return to normal. But the nightmare continued.
Tuesday morning, I sat on the guest bed in my in-laws’ attic watching the sun filter through a window, wondering why I could feel my mother’s love surrounding me like an energetic blanket radiating to the center of my soul. Her presence offered a complete immersion of love and comfort. Yet this abundance of love was strange, because when my mother was alive, I would occasionally question if she loved me at all.
I thought to myself, Why do I know that my mother loves me now without a doubt when I wasn’t sure when she was alive?
A small voice came to me and whispered, “It’s a gift.”
I cried. It was a gift to feel my mother’s love so perfectly. It was an indescribable comfort.
After I showered and ate lunch with my husband, we went to my mother’s workplace to meet with the HR director at the state department where my mother had worked for 32 years. My sister met us there.
The HR director offered her sympathies and said that our mother’s passing had a huge impact on the entire department. The State of Michigan had just offered a retirement buyout the previous week, which our mother and many others had accepted. Most set their retirement date for the end of the year. However, the HR director said two people had come into her office that morning to change their dates and retire immediately—life was too short!
She then got to the business at hand. We were told that our mother’s accounts would be divided equally among her children, then the HR director mentioned that the pension would be given solely to my sister. Immediately I resented that my sister was given the entire pension, but I didn’t want to feel this way!
After the meeting, we were taken to our mother’s cubicle to clean it out. I was emotionally distant from my sister as we emptied the drawers. I kept battling the resentment that stabbed at me by repeatedly asking the Spirit to take this thought from me.
Suddenly my mother’s spirit descended over me. Her presence completely surrounded me and her vision became mine. Through her eyes, the whole world glowed with love while beams of light radiated from my sister. My mother’s memories filled my consciousness, and I could see my sister as the little girl, the teenager, and the young woman she had raised. My mother saw her as an innocent daughter, who would be taken care of with the pension she had inherited. I felt the comfort that it gave my mother and the love she had for my sister. Immediately all resentment left me. I knew my mother had given the pension out of love, and as I experienced that love, it became impossible for me to feel anything else.
Then my mother was gone.
I realized that my mother had sent me two beautiful gifts after her passing. First, she comforted me with the knowledge of her undying love, then she immersed her spirit with mine, and, for a brief moment, I saw my sister through her vision of all-encompassing love, which healed my heart.
Love is perfect and never dies. My mother reminded me of this basic truth.
Message from the Spirit
Your mother’s love came when you needed it most. She thought only of her love for her children, family and friends. She highly regarded her life, accomplishments, and even things left undone.
Things left undone seem to be the hardest part of letting go…yet those were the lessons that did not need to be learned. Look at those as accomplishments.