My mother died of liver cancer in October of 2020; needless to say, it was a deeply painful and difficult period of my life.
A few months after, I watched a documentary about “the other side,” called “Surviving Death,” and read the book, Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe, by Laura Lynn Jackson.
It was comforting to listen to stories about the spiritual world and consider that maybe my mom hadn’t died at all, that I just couldn’t see her anymore.
In her book, Signs, Jackson, a well-known clairvoyant, claims that you can communicate with your deceased loved ones. She jokes that she and her father have a better relationship now that he is dead; they communicate often and he sends her meaningful and funny messages. Jackson also relays stories of people she has worked with who have received poignant messages from their loved ones on the other side.
Besides my persistent iPhone autocorrect typos, which I began to think might be a sign from my mother (Mom, is that you telling me to work on my abs?), I hadn’t felt her presence strongly. Well, other than a few days after she died, when my cat stood up in his bed for a long time and stared with wide eyes at something in the room that I could not see.
I was watching the Netflix series, “Anne with an E,” which my mother and I watched together once she became too sick to leave her bed. I had the last episode on that evening, which we didn’t get to see together.
I have an open mind and also a cynical side. I waffle between believing that her essence has not died and thinking that I am only seeing “signs” because they are in my mind or awareness. According to The Frequency Illusion or Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, when you become aware of something, you start seeing or hearing it, like the new vocabulary word you have learned.
Although the incident with my cat was unusual (I have never seen him stand in his bed like that, he is more of a lounging sort of guy), and I want to believe her spirit was with us that night, my practical side tells me otherwise.
In the days after my mom’s passing, my brother and sister-in-law had a frequent visitor: a ladybug. A ladybug landed on my newborn nephew, and on the first day in their new home, a ladybug was waiting for my niece in her bedroom. My mom, her sister, first cousins, and a close friend called themselves the ladybugs.
It was their dear friend, Jeannie who coined the friendship name, and when she died of breast cancer, they all got ladybug tattoos. My mom’s little red and black friendship badge was on her ankle. I saw a few ladybugs around me, too, after my mom died, but nothing as synchronistic as my brother and sister-in-law’s sighting…until last November.
It came on my birthday, three months after my mom had died. My first birthday without her, the person who brought me into this world. It was also during the height of COVID-19. To say I was feeling untethered and alone is an understatement.
I drove upstate and went on a hike by myself that day and stared at the water, but it didn’t bring me much comfort. The following day, I went to dinner with my aunt and cousins. I opened a card from my cousin, Fabiana, and smiled. I couldn’t take my eyes off the glittery pink bicycle with the banana seat and basket.
It read: “Happy Birthday” in pink letters. I kept talking about the bike.
“I just love this card…isn’t it so cute?”
“Yes, it really is,” everyone agreed, humoring me after the third time I said it.
When I got home that evening, I looked at the card again.
In my mother’s eulogy, I opened with a childhood memory: learning to ride my first two-wheel bicycle with her by my side for many tedious hours. I wobbled to-and-fro but did not catch my balance…until finally, miraculously, I did. I remember the feeling of freedom when I was able to ride my pink bike on my own without my mother holding the back of the banana seat, and mostly how happy she was for me.
The birthday card was from my mother. It had to be. I felt it so strongly. It was my pink bicycle on the card with the banana seat and basket as I had described in the eulogy. Fabiana was not at the lunch after the funeral service when I read the eulogy, so she knew nothing of my pink bicycle. No amount of cynicism could convince me otherwise; my mother, who never missed a birthday and loved giving cards and gifts, was saying happy birthday.
I felt her presence when I looked at the card: a knowing beyond words.
I displayed the card in my bedroom (and now on my refrigerator) and every time I see it, it truly feels like my mom is saying hello. It looks like the type of card she would pick—sparkly and festive.
My cynical side hasn’t completely disappeared, and some days I think the “signs” are just the mind attaching to what it wants to see and believe like the fatalistic, existentialist, French lady in “I Heart Huckabees” (do you know which character I’m talking about?). Like her, I think there is no spiritual world and the signs are merely coincidences.
I can hear her voice as I write this…and then I see my pink bicycle on the refrigerator.