68: A Little Nudge

68: A Little Nudge

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

A Little Nudge

To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.
~Thomas Campbell, “Hallowed Ground”

It didn’t seem right that the sun should be so brilliant or the sky such a deep cloudless blue. Only six months had passed. Not near enough time to blur the image of my mother’s thin form lying beneath white hospital sheets, or to forget the cloying smells of antiseptic and chronic illness. Yet no one’s tragedy stopped Mother’s Day, a grim reminder, from arriving. At the age of fifty, I had become a motherless child. Uncertain of how to handle my changed place in the world, I decided to do what I had always done for Mom. I purchased a dozen red roses. Then I took them to the cemetery.

During the drive, I reviewed bittersweet memories. Mom walking me to school my first day of kindergarten. The pride that sparkled in her eyes when I graduated from college. Her joy as she cuddled my son, her first grandchild, soon after his birth. At every important event of my life, she’d been with me. My heart ached. I couldn’t imagine a future without her. I thought I’d never again feel complete.

My thoughts stilled once I passed through the cemetery gate. I stopped the car and swallowed hard. I hadn’t been here since the day of Mom’s burial. Hundreds of tombstones were lined up in neat rows. Where was she? After more than thirty minutes of fruitless searching, my melancholy gave way to rising panic. I could no longer pick up the phone to call Mom. Or go to her house on Sunday afternoon to visit. And now it seemed I couldn’t even find the place where we had laid her to rest only half a year before. My throat constricted. Before tears could form, I shook my head and willed myself to stop thinking negative thoughts. I needed to concentrate on the search.

I stopped the car, and then, although it was undeniably futile, I couldn’t help but say, “Mom, where are you?” It was a question that haunted me on many levels.

Of course no one answered. I swallowed hard and reached toward the key to start the car and leave. I suppose it really didn’t matter if I delivered roses on Mother’s Day or not. Mom would never know the difference.

But before I could turn the key, movement caught my eye. Two gray doves swooped by. They drifted and circled gracefully until one, then the other, landed softly on a nearby headstone. The pair strutted across the stone, heads bobbing with each step. I watched them for a moment until my gaze drifted to the name carved on stone. My eyes widened and goose bumps rose on my arms.

The birds had landed on my mother’s headstone.

I got out of the car and walked toward the grave. My hand clutched the roses so hard a thorn pierced my thumb. With a whirr of wings, the doves fluttered away. I watched them fly high into the sky until they disappeared from view. Then I dropped to one knee in the soft ground at the foot of a deep pink granite stone. My fingers brushed across her name.

A feeling of wonder and hope swelled in me for the first time since Mom’s illness and death. Someone sent those birds to guide me and I knew it had to be her. I needed my mom and even death didn’t keep her from responding. And if she could respond to a moment of grief in a quiet cemetery, it meant she still remained as vital a force in my life now as she had ever been. I realized that all it took to find her again was to open my eyes and look around. I could see Mom in my memories, in the faces of my children, and in the woman she had helped me become. The words I whispered came straight from my heart.

“Thanks, Mom.”

I put down the flowers and rose to my feet. My body felt lighter than it had in months.

Mom found a way to reach out to me through the veil that separated this life from the next. I’d always be able to find her.

And all it took to convince me was a little nudge.

~Pat Wahler

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