Signs of the Times

Signs of the Times

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Signs of the Times

For years, whenever I drove to my mother’s house, I always went past a small country church. Each time I went by, I would read the church’s marquee and think that at least one Southern Baptist had a sense of humor because there were always pithy little sayings rather than quotes from scripture.

One day, two months after my mother died, I was driving to her house and passed this church. That day, however, I was in a funk and not in a mood for rural quips. I just wanted to know where my mother was and why she hadn’t contacted me. Her house was there, her hand-stitched quilt was still spread carefully over the bed, the sheets unchanged, but she was gone.

I was feeling more alone than I’d ever felt in all my years of being single. My mother had been widowed twice, so she knew all the ins and outs of being alone, but she wasn’t here anymore, and I was having a real problem with that fact. What I really wanted was to have her back, maybe for five minutes, and conscious. (She had been in a coma before she died.) I’d just say, “You okay?” And she would answer yes, that she was fine, that she was happy and she loved me.

If I couldn’t have her back, I wanted a sign. Maybe I was greedy. I had already had a sign when I returned home from the hospital after her death on that tenth day of the tenth month (and in the tenth hour). On my wall hung a calendar opened to October. Each month displayed a different personal photograph. A friend (who knew nothing about my family) had compiled it for me as a gift and had “coincidentally” placed a picture of my mother, two sisters and me taken on October 10, 1992, the last time we were all together before my sister died. Now it was October 10, three years later, and my mother had just died. Well, I wasn’t born yesterday. I know a sign from God when I see one.

But I always want more, and I asked for more signs. How about a rose blooming in the snow? How about my mom’s face in the clouds? Or okay, couldn’t she call me on the interdimensional phone? I knew these things happened. I wanted a lot of them to happen to me. Now.

Grief is a taskmaster who will not be denied. You can repress grief for a while, and you can try to ignore it. But it will have its day. I could not predict when it would come over me like some uncontrollable seizure. I did come to the place where I could feel the signs of it and withdraw into a private place. Over and over again I was surprised by its strength and tenacity.

On that bright, cold day in December, I could feel grief creeping up on me and I needed something to hold on to, a scrap of comfort, however small. Then I rounded the curve, and the sturdy little church came into view on my right. The marquee said: “You asked for a sign from God. This is it.”

In a moment of sudden clarity, I realized I didn’t need any more signs. I was doing everything that needed to be done. I was grieving my loss; I was taking care of my mother’s house and her affairs; I was consoling relatives; and I was going on with my life, just as my mother would have wanted me to, just as she would have done.

I laughed through my tears all the way to Mother’s house.

Bonnie Michael

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