When I was 21 I started working with my Mom. She had a mortgage company and I ran her escrow department. After many years of a very strained relationship, we had finally come to a place where we respected each other and depended on each other and spoke to each other every day. On the weekends I would live my normal 21 year old life- skating ramps wearing my "die yuppie scum" T-shirt. Palm Springs weekends with my friends. During the week my mom was very happy with me while I was posing as a grown up.
I would often call my Mom when I had a problem with a friend or my roommate or a boyfriend. She would listen and occasionally give advice. Around the time I was 22 or 23 years old my Mom started doing this annoying thing on the phone when I would call upset or crying about a problem. She would tell me "Put your right hand on your left shoulder" and I would say okay and not do it. "Are you doing it?" "I want you to really do it and not just say your are. " "Yeah yeah"…I would think in my head. She would say "Now put your left hand on your right shoulder and give yourself a big hug and know it’s from me." I wondered where she picked up this annoying habit. I would occasionally comply and feel totally ridiculous, other times I would lie and say I was doing it and just go along and wonder to myself when my Mom had become such a sentimental emotional person. She sounded like a hallmark card.
When I was 24 my Mom closed up her offices suddenly. I had no idea why she did but I was left to find a job and try to keep all the things I had grown to enjoy. I was once again faced with the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I went back to waiting on tables and I started to study photography. I got a darkroom set up in my bedroom and began to make a bit of money shooting pictures. I was just starting to take risks with my life and I felt like I was possibly on the right track to a happy, productive, independent life. I felt like a real grown up instead of just posing as one.
My Mom died when I was 25. She had cancer and never told anyone about it. Not anyone. She was sick for several years and kept that sickness entirely to herself. Her death was sudden and unexpected and so traumatic and painful. It became clear why she so suddenly closed up her office. It became clear why she became this talking hallmark card. I was so thankful for the time I had with her and the deep bond that we managed to build in spite of the baggage from my teen years.
Every problem in my life was compounded because I didn’t have a Mommy anymore. When I fell while skating and got 2nd degree burns on my leg, I didn’t have a Mommy to bandage me or loan me money for the doctor or help with the rent because I missed several days of work. So then in addition to having burning pain in my infected leg, I had the problem of possible eviction from my home. I felt like a child again, an orphan lost in a dark world where I didn’t have a hand to hold. To have my safety net pulled out from under me at that age was very crippling. I didn’t have another adult to rely on.
My life continued to crumble after my Mother’s death. I remained in a relationship that was abusive, I had a steady stream of roommates that moved without warning, leaving me strapped financially. I always felt my mother’s presence around me, I would talk to her and felt like she was watching over me. It hurt to know that I would never hear her talk back.
Talking to a ghost is not as helpful as a hug from your Mom.
I remember lying on the floor during one particularly trying time and crying. I spoke out loud to my Mom; "Please give me the strength that you had, give me the wisdom, give me the answers that you would give to me if you were here. Mom I need you so badly to help me through this, I need to feel your strength instead of feeling like a lost little child".
I swear I could hear her voice so clearly, in my mind, not out loud, but still as clear as ever. She told me to put my right hand on my left shoulder and my left hand on my right shoulder. I felt stupid laying on my floor with tears streaming down my face, but this time I couldn't pretend I was doing it, like I did when she and I were on the phone. I had to actually do it because I was sure that she was watching over me. As I hugged myself I could feel her spirit move through me. I could smell her. I could feel her strength, her wisdom, her soul.
At that moment when I was hugging myself and feeling my Mom hug me I realized that all the years that she was annoying me with her "give yourself a hug routine" over the phone, she knew she was dying. She knew there would be a day when I would miss her so terribly and she wouldn’t be there for me. She was trying to find one last way to connect, and did so without ever letting on that she was suffering and dying. When I think of the sadness she must have felt. How alone she must have felt knowing she would die and leave everyone she loved and she chose to do that alone instead of burden anyone. She made sacrifices that I have never known any person be capable of making. My Mom had more strength than any person I have ever met. Ever.
It was so bittersweet to feel my Mom’s hug. I don’t know how to describe it, but I know that other people have felt this sensation. That is why there are those scenes in movies like "Ghost", or "City of Angels" because others have tried to convey this feeling, this experience and they are much better at it than I am. It is to this day, the closest I’ve ever come to a religious experience. The closest I’ve ever been to God.
I know, I know, it’s in my head, that wasn’t real. I can imagine all the things I would think to myself if I were reading this instead of writing it. But I know what I felt. It was her- my Mom’s spirit. One last hug that she managed to touch me with.
I read somewhere that Houdini and his wife had agreed on a secret word so that if or when he died if she was to seek a psychic she was not to believe that psychic was in contact with Houdini unless they could come up with this word. Of course, no psychic could ever tell Houdini’s wife this word, so she never felt like she could contact him in the afterlife. This telephone hug, this one-person hug that my Mom had given me for years was her secret Houdini word. She knew that someday I would need her and she would be able to hug me one last time.
That was last time I was able to feel my Mom’s presence around me. I think her spirit just left after that, and knew I would be okay. I no longer felt her around me in the same strong way as I once did. I miss the feeling of that spiritual safety net.
We have moved into a new home, with new sounds and new creeks and my son sometimes thinks that there are ghosts around making that noise. I tell him it’s just the noises the house makes. In my heart I wish so badly that it is a ghost and not just some structural problem that remains hidden in the ceiling- some future expense that I hope we can prepare for. I want so badly for it to be my Mom watching over him, someday giving him a hug that he will otherwise never get to feel. I want my mother’s strength and wisdom to pass through me to him. I want my ghost. I miss my ghost. Please let it be a ghost