For months, I dreamed about my mother every night. Except that’s not exactly true. The dreams were never about my mother, but she was always part of them—an extra in a film that was about something else entirely. She moved along the periphery of the storyline, watchful (perhaps), unobtrusive certainly. Night to night to night she was the many Moms of my life, her age changing regularly, and very often scene to scene—something that seemed entirely reasonable in context.
At the time of the dreams, I neither questioned nor analyzed them. I simply accepted them for the comfort they brought. Her health was failing and I wanted to be with her. I knew I was doing the best I could, living and working 300 miles away. Still, my heart was heavy.
Surrounded by her family, she died in the middle of the night on February 2nd. I was holding her hand. Her Little Bit was there, too, the precious dog that had come to live with us when Mom moved into the nursing center two years ago. She breathed her last breath with that little creature lying up against her leg, Little Bit’s sweet dog head stretched out across her stomach.
That was the night my Mom dreams ended. Until last Sunday, that is, when she came to me so vividly it’s hard to remember it wasn’t real life.
I can’t believe you are here I said to her in the dream, knowing it couldn’t be true, knowing she was gone. But there she was, the Mom I most remember, the Mom of my teenage years. Mom emphatic. Mom looking me dead in the eye with that look she got when she wanted to make a point she full well knew I would challenge.
I’m always here, she said.
There were no harps or angel choruses, there was no delicate afterlife haze. Just Mom, my Mom, right there before me.
There’s so much I want to tell you, I said. So much has happened. And I launched into every story I’ve wanted to tell her, every detail of the past six weeks as if I were sitting there with her in the little den, home for a weekend from college.
She listened intently, laughed appropriately, and then said this: I’m getting tired, it’s time for me to go, and she stretched out her legs to lie down.
No, I said. Please. I’ve got this letter that came after your funeral, it’s this funny story about you I’d never heard. I’m so glad he wrote to tell me about it, I’m so happy you’re here so we can laugh about it together.
Put it in my pocket, she said.
But I don’t want you to go, I said. Tell me you’ll come back.
It’s too exhausting, she said. It takes too much energy. But you needed to know I am here.
I don’t know what that means. Mom, tell me what that means.
I am where I have always been, she said, where I’ll always be. I am always here.
That’s when I woke up.
I lay there in the dark running over it in my mind, wondering if I should wake my husband to tell him, terrified I’d lose the dream’s details if I didn’t speak them. After a moment, I realized the radio was playing from the other side of my nightstand. The clock had turned over to 6:15 am and clicked it on.
It took me a minute to register the words to the song.
how do you talk to an angel
how do you hold her close to where you are
how do you talk to an angel
it’s like trying to catch a falling star