Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Mother

My mother was awesome. When I was a teenager, "the generation gap" was a favorite phrase going around, but there was no "generation gap" in our family. My mother's children loved and appreciated her, even when they were teenagers, and she respected them and assumed they had brains and were capable of living their lives.

One day when I was a senior in high school, while waiting for a seminary class to begin (I only took one year of seminary, but that's another story), the students around me began complaining about their parents. Every single thing they brought up was a non-issue for me. I desperately wanted to add my two cents to the conversation, but I had nothing to add. I wracked my brain for a complaint about my mother and found none (my father was a non-issue for me but for a different reason). After school, I went home and told her that I was deprived because I couldn't complain about her, and I told her what had happened.

When I was about twelve, my father died. Even though he had never been part of my life, I began to be afraid that my mother would also die. I made her promise that if she died, she would tell me. I'd hear it from her before I heard it from anyone else (in our family, this was a perfectly reasonable request). When I was older (in my late teens or early twenties) we had a repeat of the conversation.

When I was a mother of three children (ages 1, 3, and 5) it was discovered that my mother had cancer. She moved to Salt Lake to live with one of my sisters, where she was exposed to deadly treatment. At the time, my husband had two part-time jobs. One was with a water company and the other was driving a bus for a small charter school.

The following May (my children were 6, 4, and barely 2 by this time) said spouse wanted me to come with him to work because he was reading meters. He could cut his walking time in half if I dropped him off at the beginning of a meter route then picked him up at the end of it. We stopped doing that when it was time for him to go to the school.

He took the two-year-old with him on the bus. The six-year-old child was playing on the playground. The four-year-old was asleep in the van. I was sitting in the van devouring some books I had recently gotten in the mail.

I don't know how it got my attention because I was pretty voraciously reading, but I became aware that my mother was standing in front of me as if the van wasn't even there (when I see things like this, I see them in my mind's eye). I looked at her. She asked me (in my mind), "Will you be okay if I leave?" I knew exactly what she was talking about. Aloud, I said, "Yes. I'll miss you, but I'll be okay." (The strange thing is, my aunt asked me the same thing later – in Salt Lake before Mom died.). I started to say something else, but she was gone.

That same day, while we were driving (I cannot remember if it was before or after the experience) around reading meters, my brother-in-law called my husband's pager to tell me to call him. We stopped off at a pay phone and I called. My brother-in-law didn't know whether to tell me to come up or not. It was a long way from southeastern Arizona to Salt Lake City. She had always rallied and come out of the hospital before. She was in a coma at this time.

To make the story way shorter, my sister who lived in Arizona and her husband came and got me. We drove straight through to Salt Lake, leaving my house Saturday morning and reaching Salt Lake Sunday morning. After briefly stopping at our sister's we went to the hospital. Mom roused briefly when my Arizona sister loudly announced that we were there.

The hospital put a cot in Mom's room so I could sleep there. I told her that my brother from Texas (another brother lived in Salt Lake) was planning to come and that his plane would be there at 9:20 p.m. Monday. That's when she died. (I don't know what the "official" document says, but I was there and I saw the time. They unplugged her, then came back and plugged her back in because they had been commanded to – Mom wasn't officially dead until some authority pronounced her so.)

As soon as Mom died, she was gone. Zip. She was outta that hospital. She always hated hospitals, so I don't blame her, but I think she went to meet my brother's plane. It was about an hour late, though, so I don't know what she did in the interim.

My Arizona sister came back with my brother – too late for him to say goodbye. As we rode in the elevator down to the main floor, Mom was with us. I wonder if my siblings had a clue that she was there.

It was a day or two later, after all of us had gathered (including my spouse and children), that we had a family dinner in my sister's back yard. Mom was there, enjoying herself immensely, laughing at the jokes our family makes when we are under severe stress (unfortunately, this didn't pass down – when my 17-year-old daughter was suffering the results of a legal attack from her step-father, she didn't appreciate all of the puns etc that came to my mind). Several times I had to stop myself from saying, "Make sure Mom has a plate."

Later, I wanted to verify that I wasn't making up the fact that she was there. I talked to my Salt Lake City sister, who is sensitive to spiritual things. Her response was that she didn't think about offering Mom a plate because it had been so long since Mom had been able to eat. At a later time, I wanted to verify again, more plainly. She said, yes, Mom was there at the family dinner.

Mom came around to help me deal with the stress of her death. When my Texas brother showed up at Mom's hospital room, I asked him if I could move into Mom's trailer (he owned it) and when I got back home, I moved out (it still took two years before I was courageous enough to divorce – the same brother gave me the money to begin the divorce and an attorney helped me fill out the paperwork – God prevented the man from grinding me to powder).

Anyway, Mom came into my dreams a few times. I knew when it was really her (as opposed to a dream processing her death) because I would feel so guilty for giving away her stuff. I would apologize and she would let me know she didn't care. She rarely spoke to me. She just hung out with me while I went about the business of dreaming. She also was there sometimes when I was awake.

One night, she came to me in a dream and there was no other dream of my own going on. We sat in swings in a deserted school yard (it was night). She told me that she had come to say goodbye. "I have to go deeper into the spirit world," she said. That was the last time she visited me in my dreams. She also left my waking sphere.


  1. That's a very interesting story, Toni. What do you think it means to go 'deeper into the spirit world'?

  2. I think that sometimes spirits are here where they can see us (and interact with us if we are sensitive enough), but that most of them work and live farther away from this sphere doing whatever most of them do. I think this is what my mother meant. She had other things to do; she needed to leave the surface and go farther away from this sphere of existence. She had only stayed to help me deal with the fact that she was dead.


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