Updated: Jul 30, 2018
When your mom calls, you answer the phone. That’s how it works. That’s what you do. Except we all know we don’t always pick up, because sometimes the relationship with our birth mom is complicated and maybe she did too many drugs, had too many problems. Maybe her love felt like a heavy weight drowning you in the sea of life. Maybe she wasn’t the life raft you needed her to be at least not while she was alive.
My mom died at 54, when I was 30, and left me to process a grief that had been budding most of my life. In some ways her death was a relief because I could no longer ask her to be any different than she was. In some ways her death left me the space in my life to have my own children, which has brought about a whole slew of other complications, namely the fact that this grief has not yet been healed and I miss my mom every day.
So when she calls me in dreams I answer with the same enthusiasm I use to answer a ringing banana that my toddler hands me. I pick up the dream phone knowing that it may very well be her spirit calling from some other worldly place. I pick up and I talk and talk and I feel a kind of nostalgic warmth and a misplaced comfort. For a moment mom and I are together and even though she struggled so much when she was alive, she was my mom and she loved me the very best she could. Her dream calls tell me she still does.
This dream call feels like home until a glitch happens in my sleeping brain and some thinking thing inside me protests and says “This isn’t real. Your mother is dead. This doesn’t make sense. She’s not actually here.” Sensing my doubt, whatever part of her spirit was with me is gone like a puff of smoke.
Upon waking the next morning, I am convinced she left something she wanted me to feel. And sure maybe my science brain will say that it’s bullshit and something I’m making up to make myself feel better about how challenging life is right now. But the feeling of warmth stays with me as a phrase repeats in my head and all of it works.
In her visit she has left me with the phrase “I do this with love.”
“I do this with love” and suddenly the morning dishes feel easy. “I do this with love” and for a moment I’m not yelling at my kids while picking up the 764,000 legos. For a minute these duties are actual acts of love and I am not grumbling. I AM NOT GRUMBLING. My complaints have subsided. Life as mother doesn’t feel so heavy. I do this with love and I get through the morning task by task with a full and intact heart.
Doubt attempts to bring me down as I load the kids in the car saying “that wasn’t really your mom.” I say to doubt “I do this with love” as I buckle car seats and turn the key in the ignition. It doesn’t matter what’s real, today feels possible, when yesterday did not and that is all I need. I drop the toddlers off at daycare.
Doubt says “you can’t prove that was really your mom.” I say to doubt “that doesn’t matter. I felt her and that’s enough. I do this with love.” then get on the freeway to drive my 7 year old to camp.
He is recently obsessed with Michael Jackson and asks me to put his music on Pandora. This delivers “I’ll be There” by the Jackson 5. I don’t think much of it. The second song is Stand by Me and suddenly I am full of tears and faith.
When I was about 7 years old riding around in my mom’s AMC Gremlin and “Stand by Me” would come on, mom would turn the radio WAY up and sing it long and loud. And when there was nothing on the radio she would turn it off and sing “Stand by Me” long and loud and we would join her.
When the night has come and the land is dark, and the moon is only light you’ll see. I won’t cry I won’t cry, no I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand by me.
And then I know, of course it WAS her in my dream last night. It was her with the mind message to “do this all with love.” Do this with love and it will be a little easier. Do this with love and she will be there watching from wherever she is now and she will visit my dreams in her spirit state and send me song messages through the grandson she never got to meet.
I do this with love and I hope you can too.