On the eve of my 27th birthday, I laid in bed and asked my mom if she would give me a sign. I was seven months without her. Easter, Memorial Day, Mother’s Day Weekend – all of these special, typically commemorated holidays – were braved. I got through them with tear soaked eyes and dripping mascara. I got through them with pursed lips and fake smiles. I got through them with the little bit of will I had left.
Belief in an afterlife is subjective to the individual. As a Catholic, I grew up believing that our souls live on once we leave this place. I believe our lost loved ones have the ability to communicate with us from the other side. Up until now, my dad had reports of strange things around my family home. My fiance claimed to have seen a figure in our bedroom and the word ‘LOVE’ written on the bathroom mirror after he broke down crying about how she won’t be at our wedding, just like my cousin said she saw my mom at her dining room table, dressed in white, checking in on her brother Pat to see if he was okay for his birthday. Everyone had these signs that my mom was around and watching over them, except for me. I thought I was the most important person in her life and felt confused and overwhelmed that I seemed to be the last she was concerned with seeing.
I woke up the morning of my 27th birthday – my first birthday without her – and felt this overwhelming ease and wonder about the day. I had this dream – a vivid dream – that my mom and I were walking up the block of where my childhood home was. She looked normal – not bloated and weak from the five, cancerous brain tumors she had when she died. I don’t remember much except asking her, “Are you still with me?” and in her sweet, loving voice, I heard, “Of course I’m still with you. I’m always with you.”
I will never forget the happiness I exuded that first nanosecond of my 27th birthday.
But, I became selfish, expecting the same thing to happen today: my 28th birthday.
For a while, I’ve been wondering if my mom is testing me. With my wedding in less than a week, I’ve been both excited and devastated as the epitome of a bittersweet event is looming. I’ve had more sad days than I’ve had good, and in the interim is the plain and simple process of learning to grieve; of trying to navigate a new normal.
I’ve been wondering if, perhaps, my mom has not given me any signs she’s around because she wants me to learn how to get through tough situations without her. Things like my wedding and my bridal fitting; things like learning to have a backbone when people try and convince me that I’m overreacting; times when I have to practice patience with those around me who just can’t understand and be thankful that they’re trying.
I went to bed last night and asked, “Mom, can you visit me tonight?”
I thought, for sure, the answer would be yes.
Instead, I woke up with the empty feeling of dread and the absence of her usual, blinking text message, the overall sinking feeling that my mom forgot about me.
I started this morning off by crying; by pondering and feeling angry that she didn’t visit me. All I keep thinking is “you have all this free time, and you can’t do something small for me?” She may have gained immeasurable wisdom up in Heaven, but that wisdom down on Earth is pissing me off.
When we lose someone close to us, we need signs to get us through. I’d like to think that the absence of a sign means they’re there, guiding you through an otherwise murky situation and will visit when all is said and done – when they can be proud and enthused that you managed to tackle whatever it is you had to tackle. Or maybe they’re just trying to prepare you for the rest of your life: a life that’s going to be spent without them.
Regardless of what it may be, it doesn’t change how I expected a sign from her for my 28th birthday. And regardless of what that sign may be – or may have been – it doesn’t change how I’m kind of angry and wholly devastated that I didn’t get one.
I’m nowhere near ready for that.