I’m Feeling My Mom by My Side

In the midst of launching a new venture, my mom is making her presence known.

Posted Dec 03, 2019

When someone you love has passed, you may be aware of the feeling that they are still watching you, that they remain in your corner, cheering you on. They might make their presence known to you every so often in a subtle way that still leaves it up to you to put the pieces together.

On May 10, 2015, I posted “I Still Miss My Mother.” In the post, I write that I was enjoying a picnic with some friends, and as we got up to leave,  

A brightly colored butterfly landed on my shoulder and sat there for what seemed like a long time for a butterfly. I stood absolutely still, not daring to move. When it finally flew off, its glorious colors contrasting against the cerulean sky, I said with certainty to the group of my friends, “That was my mother.” 

That was the last time I felt a tangible sense of my mother’s presence. Even through my stroke and recovery, I knew she was there, but my path to recovery lacked this almost perceptible sense of her presence, as though I could reach out and touch her.

Until now. I’m preparing for a career pivot, not quite a total shift (more about that in upcoming posts), and my mother made it known to me through a series of signs that she approves. This new venture is more entrepreneurial, and my mother was a pioneering female entrepreneur in the computer programming industry, so I was not totally surprised when she made her presence known.

©Walter Rosenhaft, 1958
My Mother, circa 1958
Source: ©Walter Rosenhaft, 1958

I was trying to develop this concept on a limited budget. However, I needed a relatively large chunk of cash for a substantial expense, and I didn’t know how I was going to get it.  

After the recession in 2008, my brother took some artwork he and I inherited from our grandparents and tried to sell it in a gallery. We initially sold a couple of pieces, but nothing since 2009. Suddenly, a couple of weeks ago, my brother called me as I was leaving my physical therapy appointment.

“The gallery sold a painting." He mentioned an artist I didn’t even know was in my grandparents' collection.

“I didn’t know we had one of those,” I joked, still in shock.

“Neither did I.”

“You’ll be getting a check.” He mentioned an amount. It was just the number I needed, maybe a little bit more.

On November 9th of this year, I posted a piece about the loss of a pioneer from the BPD community, Dr. Perry Hoffman. She was one of my mentors, encouraging me to return to graduate school and get my master's degree in social work. She passed away several weeks ago, and I attended her funeral and then drove with the procession to the cemetery.  

Perry was buried in the same cemetery in which my mom was buried. The cemetery, Sharon Gardens, in Westchester County, NY, is expansive. I hadn’t been to my mother’s gravesite in years, preferring to talk to her whenever I chose, from wherever I happened to be at the time. Sitting in my car, waiting for the rest of the funeral process to arrive, I considered seeking her out. 

Once the service at Perry’s gravesite concluded, I looked around, trying to get a sense of where I was. I thought I remembered the name of the section where my mother was buried—The Garden of Rebecca—and I could picture the area near a tree with a white, cast iron bench nearby. I had no idea where I was. As the procession headed out, I tried to catch a glimpse of the little signs identifying each area, but I didn't see a Garden of Rebecca. I finally had to get back to work and get home to walk Shelby, so I didn’t pursue it.

A couple of weeks after the funeral, I was assigned a client who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the same cancer that killed my mom. Only this person had reason to be hopeful, as she was scheduled to have a surgery called the Whipple procedure. This is a complex surgery that removes the head of the pancreas, a part of the small intestine, a portion of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and associated lymph nodes. The Whipple procedure is the only known cure for pancreatic cancer and is usually performed on patients with cancer that has not spread beyond the pancreas, so that means there is hope for her, unlike my mom, whose cancer had spread.

The last piece, the only one that brought me to tears, was when my cousin texted me. My uncle, my mom’s sister’s husband, passed away in February; he and my aunt had been married for 63 years. When a couple has been married for that long, it’s not unusual for the remaining spouse to deteriorate rapidly. My aunt is in a wheelchair now and has dementia.

My cousin, who is about my age, texted me the other day: “I just needed to tell you, because you’re the only one I know will understand—I feel like calling my mother and talking to her. If only she could communicate.”

I texted back, “I know. Believe me, I know.”

And then I sobbed. Everything just got to me.

If all of these events happened individually, I might not have thought anything of them. But they all happened within three weeks of each other, so when I finally put the last piece of the puzzle in place, I felt a sense of joy and peace wash over me, even as I cried at my cousin's text.

Mom’s watching, and she’s right here with me. Having her by my side as I launch head-on into this new venture makes me feel as though I’m moving in the right direction. I feel grounded.

Hi, Mom. Thanks.