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A Visit From My Late Mother

It's Mother's Day today. My mom has been gone for a little over three years and the layers of pain and grief continue to integrate into daily living. It was through watching my mom deteriorate that I first noticed my need to hold space for (what felt like) extremes simultaneously.


My mom was dying and that experience was incredibly layered in itself. I still can't understand why I felt intense moments of anger and resentment towards her and yet I know there must be reasons. At the same time, I was doting on my niece who had been born a few months prior to my mom reaching her worst state.


For two months, my mom was bed-ridden and eventually in hospice care. My sister, brother, niece, and I were with her practically every day and night. This was also the most amount of time I had spent with my niece since she was born. They live in Canada and I live in California.


My heart had to be breaking but the love and joy I felt for my niece literally made my heart swell. When asked how I was doing, I remember describing to friends that it felt like "ultimate pain and ultimate joy at the same time". Not only was I needing to hold space for my extremes but I was also needing to hold space for my siblings who were having their own unique experiences. It didn't always go smoothly. I certainly grew my capacity with that practice.


 

The following is part of a note I made to myself on the day after my mom's memorial service in February 2020:


The depth of pain hasn't been reached yet. Sitting here in mom's place surrounded by reminders of her once-large presence. Having to tell myself over and over again that she is no longer here. Impossible to believe. I'm supposed to see her soon for it already feels too long since I last saw her...
In moments of feeling calm, I wonder if I am just efficient at moving on, or whether the totality of my grief is yet to hit and knock me out. Unable to imagine moving forward for long without reuniting with mom, I am eager to rush through life so that I can be with her again.
A swirling in my head and stomach, pins and needles in my hands, a deep ache in my heart that radiates into my left neck and shoulder are all reminders that my body knows something that my mind is yet to accept.

The feelings and thoughts described here became my baseline for the months to follow. I can remember the physical jolt or shock wave I'd feel within seconds of thinking about never seeing my mom again. I interpreted this as a protective mechanism.

Without that jolt, I swear I might have fallen into a depth from where I wouldn't have resurfaced.

Not long after the passing of my mom, I experienced another devastating loss. It was at this time, I also experienced something magical and inexplicable.


 

I had a soulmate in the form of a dog. His name was Joshua. While some people could understand the extent of my love and devotion for Josh, others including my mom thought my attachment was unhealthy. My mom was primarily concerned about how I would handle the loss of Josh that would inevitably come sooner than I'd ever be ready for.


A few months after mom passed, my beloved Josh died. He took his last breath in my husband's arms at our home in California. I was in Canada visiting my siblings and niece. Unable to find the words to describe my state, I do remember the heaviness in my chest that felt like a cement block was sitting atop it, while I could barely open my eyes from crying so hard and long. I was inconsolable.


The next day, I decided to get out of bed and move. It was that morning I opened my laptop when I was startled to find my screen display was a photo of my mom. Until that moment, my screen was consistently a slideshow of landscape photography. My first thought was that my husband must have set it up remotely as a surprise to help console me. When I asked, he knew nothing about it.


Mystery Photo #1

I couldn't explain how this photo turned up on my screen and at the time, I wasn't in a state to think much about it. It felt comforting to be greeted with my mom's smiling face in such an unexpected manner.


 

Once I returned back to California, I began the investigation to determine where this photo came from. It couldn't be located anywhere on my computer.


After about a month or so, I was dumbfounded to see that my screen had changed to yet another photo of my mom. She was in the same spot but in a different pose. I went into the screen settings to see if I could go to the previous (or next) photo. The buttons didn't work and I was unable to change it or the screen settings. Once again, the photo was nowhere to be found in my computer.


For over a year, there had been a rotation of these mysterious photos of my mom. I remember taking a couple of these photos at the time but never realized how many I would have taken in that same spot of her. I can't locate any of them. There was no particular order or timing of when the screen display would change. Sometimes, the same photo would remain for weeks or even months, while other times, the display would change before my eyes (minutes at a time).


As if that wasn't strange enough, I could swear the photo on display would match what I needed from my mom. The pose or mood conveyed by her seemed to be directly communicating with me. If you look at the first photo and compare it to the others, you might agree that the mood of that particular one would have matched what I needed from my mom at the time of losing Josh. Another example is the photo of her in the middle of the collage - it would show up at times I needed to be reminded to lighten up or laugh about things.


These eight photos were taken of my laptop screen, rotating at random times and in no particular order:




The photo of mom posing like the young prince in the movie "The King and I" (pictured above the stars in the collage) was the last one to be seen on my screen. That was in July 2021. It remained to be up for months before I felt like the magical screen was done playing. That last photo always felt like she was showing me that she (finally) got the last word.


I've had to get a new laptop since, but I am unable to let go of the one that brought me this incredible gift. I see it as a wonder, magic, and a sign that my mom is not as far away as "reality" might dictate.


To this day, I don't know where these photos came from.

I hope to never find an explanation.






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