It’s been nine months since my mother lost her battle with cancer. It fucking sucks. I’m still very broken and trying to figure out how to keep living after losing a very big piece of my heart. A surprising revelation has been that my mother isn’t really gone. She visits and leaves little messages for us. I like to call them, “I’m Still With You’s”.
I know some people are going to read this and think I’m crazy. Or that I’m lying. I’m not. And I’m not. What I am is grateful, because I had no idea of how I was going to make it without my mother. It’s a real comfort to know I don’t have to.
A Few of My Mother’s I’m Still With You’s
It was two days after Mom died. I was working on writing her obituary. It was very important to me that it be done correctly, so I kept reading it aloud and checking for errors. Suddenly, I started sobbing. That’s a pretty natural reaction considering the situation, but it confused me. I wasn’t sad, I was focused. So why did I have a lap full of ugly thug tears?
Then I felt this surge of energy throughout my body. It’s hard to describe. It felt like heat – if heat wasn’t hot. Does that make sense? Yeah, I don’t get it either. The next thing I knew my head was flying back from a hug that was so strong I let out a gasp. It felt like one of those running start hugs, like in the movies. But there was no one else home. I immediately knew who it was.
“Mom?” My voice was shaking.
Silence, but I still felt the energy around me. In fact it moved past me and sat down on the other couch. I realized what was happening. My mom came to hear her obituary and thank me for doing it. I didn’t have to think about it, I just instantly knew. I started from the beginning and read the obituary to her, telling her what I would add and change. I talked to her for awhile, and then the energy went away.
The Train Ride
Austin Steam Train is a company that takes you for rides through the hill country on restored train cars from the 40’s and 50’s. It’s my kind of party. Mom and I had made plans to put on our best vintage glamour and take classic Hollywood starlet photos. An hour before we were supposed to leave, my mom ended up in the hospital. She tried to make light of it, begging the ambulance to at least use the sirens. But I could tell she was beyond disappointed. She had been saving her look to surprise me.
It became a running joke between us. She would tell me the things she was going to do that day and always include, “And I’m gonna ride that damn train.” She never did. Months after she passed, I decided that I would go alone and take a few of her things with me. The next morning my sister called me.
“You’ll never believe what I just found. It’s mom’s outfit for the train. Her pearls, her gloves, it’s all here. She is just ready to go!”
My jaw dropped. It had been months. Of all the days for her to stumble upon that outfit, why today? Why did she say she is ready rather than was? Because my mama was going to ride that damn train. It took me a long time to unzip that garment bag, but she would’ve looked marvelous dahling!
My mother would have turned 60 in June. I’m sure she’s really into me sharing that with everyone. It was a birthday we all hoped and prayed she’d get to celebrate, so it was a bit of a rough day. The night before I dreamt of my mother’s funeral. I knew it was a dream, because everything looked different. Still, I knew where I was. It was my turn to go up and say goodbye, but my mother was wide awake and sitting up. She had tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry you’re in so much pain, Nat.” I could see the guilt all over her face.
“I’ll be ok. I’m sorry you were in so much pain.”
She smiled sweetly, a tear falling onto the corner of her mouth.
“I’m ok,” she said. Then I woke up.
The Hand Hold
I was in bed sleeping when someone touched me and stirred me awake. I was prepared to rip my husband’s head off, but he was still fast asleep. That’s when I felt a hand start to hold mine. Not going to lie, I started to freak out. But then I realized something – I recognized those boney little fingers, the slight cold of the touch, the wrinkles in the finger pads. It was my mother’s hand. I knew it was impossible, but I decided to just enjoy it. We held hands for a minute, just like we used to. Then she was gone. It was pretty incredible.
I still don’t have the right words for what it feels like to lose my mother. I don’t think there are right words. Not in any of the languages I speak, anyway. Right now I’m just trying to accept it and move forward. It’s harder than it looks. I could really use my mom’s wisdom right about now.
I don’t know if you’ve ever lost someone close to you, but take comfort in knowing that love really does last forever. And keep your heart open, because they might be trying to send you an I’m Still With You.