34: Listen to Your Mother

34: Listen to Your Mother

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Listen to Your Mother

What greater thing is there for human souls than to feel that they are joined for life — to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories.

~George Eliot

I never met my second husband’s younger sister, Mae. She had broken with her older siblings more than a quarter of a century before, leaving only bitterness behind. Leonard kept in touch with his other sister Paula and his brother Alex, but none of them spoke to Mae. I learned to accept the situation.

Six years into our marriage, Leonard became terminally ill with cancer. One night he woke from a dream that troubled him. “I was heading down a long hallway,” he told me. “And then I saw my mother at the other end. I was so happy to see her alive again, I started to rush toward her, but she gave me an angry look and yelled at me to go back, go back. She was making ‘keep away from me’ motions with her arms. She didn’t want me.” He began sobbing at her rejection.

I wrapped my arms around him and tried to put a more hopeful spin on his disturbing dream. “She was telling you to go back because it was not your time to leave us,” I said. This seemed to comfort him. He was able to relax and fall back to sleep. We both knew he was near death, yet we wondered about this strange dream. What did it really mean?

A few weeks later, I got a call from his sister Paula.

“I had a phone call from my sister Mae this morning. Not a word from her for twenty-five years and today she woke me up to tell me about a dream,” Paula said. “Mae said Mama had come to her and told her to ‘Call your sister.’ She said Mama was so real she could have reached out and touched her, even though she knew Mama was dead. It shook Mae up, so she felt she had to obey and call me.”

A chill ran down my spine. “How did you respond?” I asked.

“I told her about Leonard,” Paula said. “Mae was shocked to hear he was dying. She didn’t know he had been widowed and remarried and moved to another state. She asked for your address because she wanted to write him a letter and make amends.”

It was too late. Leonard was in a near-comatose state, beyond the ability to absorb what Paula had told me and feel reconciled with his sister Mae. Her letter arrived a few hours after he died.

Contemplating Mae’s dream, I began to understand the meaning of Leonard’s earlier one. They were connected. Both were their mother’s attempt from beyond to keep Leonard alive long enough for his alienated sister to correct her mistake, understand the importance of family and reunite with her siblings.

Mae’s letter to Leonard did not arrive in time, but Mama’s mission was not a total failure. Losing the chance to mend relations with one brother taught Mae that time is precious when it comes to family. As a result, Mae reconciled with her remaining siblings and they remained close for the rest of her life.

~Marcia Rudoff

More stories from our partners