Monthly Archives: January 2013
In January 2005, my husband and I were eating dinner at Norm’s Restaurant on Lincoln Boulevard, Santa Monica, California. For the second night in a row, I called my mother, who lived in Sonoma at the time. There was no answer. My mother did not believe in answering machines. Still, I knew she would not normally be out two nights in a row. My stomach tensed. I told my husband I was worried. He said she probably was alright; but, I could call the local police in Sonoma and they would look in on her. So, I did.
While the police went to look in on her, we finished our meal and headed home. They did not call back right away. I grew more and more anxious, and decided to do a quick, tarot reading on her. Much to my dismay, the cards looked unfavorable. I told Michael I thought she was dead. He assured me that she was most likely fine. When the police finally called, I was glad. I wanted the uncertainty to end.
I do not know who I spoke to that night. I simply remember his kindness. He gently told me that my mother was dead. The cause was still uncertain. He told me there was evidence of a fire. They were unsure if it was accidental or not, as her apartment was a mess. He made a point to say that she had died quickly and peacefully from the carbon monoxide, not from the flames of the fire. In fact, the fire hand not even touched her body. She was lying in bed asleep at the time.
Although I did not faint, I remember falling on my knees. My husband immediately came to support me. The officer made sure I was not alone. I got off the phone crying. Michael took the initiative to call my close friends and relatives to let them know.
That night, as I was falling asleep, I had the oddest sensation. I felt my mother’s life pouring through my mind — felt her memories of me and my two brothers, particularly when we were small. What I felt the most, however, was the most exquisite love, so pure that I can say I have never felt such love before or since. I knew it was my mother’s love for us — how, I do not know. I felt comforted by this love and fell to sleep, dreaming that night of a lovely, snowy landscape.
We planned a memorial quickly, so that my brother, Eric, who was coming from Honduras, could be included. We planned it simply, too, as I knew my mother would not want anything elaborate. Though she had never told me outright, I knew she would want a cremation and her ashes scattered in the ocean off Baja, California. This was the location where my brother, David, had been lost at sea right before his 18th birthday.
The trip to Sonoma turned out to be physically arduous. First, my body started bleeding heavily from fibroids that had already been troubling me. It got much worse when our old sidekick broke down in a godforsaken place. Luckily, we had our AAA card. Oddly, everyone we met that day had lost their mother. First, the fellow in the tow truck. His mother had died of cancer. He told me it had been much harder losing his mother than losing his father. Next was the wife of the mechanic who ended up fixing our car. She had lost her mother when she was a young woman.
Although I felt buoyed up by the kindness of strangers, when I went to the washroom at the mechanic’s shop, my body started bleeding and would not stop. I was terrified, standing alone in that stainless steel bathroom. I managed to call a friend of mine, a nurse, who quickly researched my symptoms. She called back and said that if the bleeding did not stop in 24 hours, I should go to the emergency room. She also told me that women who recently survived the huge tsunami were having a similar experience: bleeding profusely. I thanked her and left the bathroom feeling a bit better.
We ended up staying at a bleak motel there because of our broken down car. This is when I began to notice birds. My husband and I have rescued more than one crow; so, for us, crows are special and magical creatures. As I walked into the motel room, I noticed hundreds of crows resting on a neighboring telephone line. I felt reassured, felt somehow these crows were part of my ancestral lineage coming to give me strength and courage for the rest of the journey ahead.
We reached Sonoma without any other mishaps. The memorial service was not until another day, so we had time to stop at my mother’s apartment first. When we arrived, there was a small memorial on her steps left by her neighbors. The yellow police tape still sealed her door. We broke the tape and entered. The front room, a tiny living room, was covered in soot, as was the next room, her bedroom. The fire had started in the very back, the kitchen, where there was the most damage. The place was a mess, like it always was when I visited her. My mother hated housework.
The first trip was for my mother’s memorial. We removed some of the more valuable paintings and stored them next store with Dennis, a neighbor my mom had known for many years. We had decided to come back another time to take care of her apartment. I was too upset to do more. On top of that, we knew it would take many hours to determine what was worth saving and what was not.
We held her memorial at the local Moose Lodge where she had been a member. It was well-attended by friends and family. As we were leaving Sonoma, there were more bird portents: hawks were lined up, one by one, on the telephone wires as we drove away. There must have been at least eight different birds. I felt they were there to send my mother off, like a military dignitary. My mother had been fascinated by Napoleon.
We made a second trip to Sonoma to sort through my mother’s piles of clothes, 800 plus pulp mystery books, and collection of antiques. Many things were permanently damaged by not only the recent fire, but a flood my mother had mentioned some years ago. I was on a mission, though, to find an item I had never seen, but my mother really wanted me to have. It was a plaque. The plaque commemorated a time when Maya Angelou had stayed there. When Mom left the hotel because it was changing shape and owners, the previous owner liked my mother so much that she let her have the plaque that proved Maya Angelou had been there. I had never seen the plaque. My mother kept telling me about it, knowing how I loved Maya Angelo’s poetry when I was young. My husband, Dennis, and I looked and looked. The plaque was nowhere to be found. I was deeply disappointed.
A year passed. I started to write poetry again. I felt, however, ambivalent about whether or not to attempt publishing my poems. I knew I would always write. In the past, I had not enjoyed submitting my writing for publishing. It was often disappointing, impersonal, and took valuable time. I decided I wanted to know from the Universe, from the Creator, if publishing was truly a beneficial path for myself. So, I asked for a sign. A clear sign. I rarely asked for signs for myself, rarely even prayed for myself. I felt this was important to know. I wanted to follow a true path, not a path based on ego and accomplishment. I waited for the Universe’s response.
The response I received astounded me. Three days later, I received a letter from Dennis, my mother’s neighbor. He was writing to tell me that he had found the Maya Angelou plaque. At some point, he decided to go through Mom’s place one last time. The plaque was nailed to a simple piece of wood, a little over three feet long. What surprised me was the timing of his letter. Dennis had no idea about my request for a sign — why did he take that moment to contact me?
That day, I received not only a literal “sign”, but a sign sent through my mother’s spirit. I felt a double blessing. I had received far more than I requested. Even now, remembering that moment, I feel blessed by a greater world, a greater spirit than I alone could ever conjure up. I am thankful for the Universe at large, and the angels that come in many guises to guide me on the path of heart.