I was never one of those people who believed in “messages from beyond.” When I heard of someone who discovered a missive from their loved one encoded in a crossword puzzle or the face of their dearly departed in a half-eaten muffin, I chalked it up to the stretchy imaginations of people in dire need of comfort. When someone blessed me at my mother’s shiva that Mom should be a “melitzas yeshara” – that is, an advocate in the heavenly realms – for me and my family, I smiled politely while inwardly chuckling at the idea of an invisible fairy godmother bibbity-bobbity-booing on my behalf.
For a few years after my mother died, my sister reported that she had numerous dreams about my mother, and often sighted red robins, which my sister associated with her. I, meanwhile, had a no-bar connection to heaven; no dreams, messages, or special sightings came my way. So I just assumed my sister was telling herself what she needed to hear. That, or my mother just liked her better.
And then, one night, I sat in my car overwhelmed by the current state of affairs: a home we couldn’t afford, a community where we were not welcome, and no way out. With nothing to lose, I said, “Ma, I need you to help me. If you have any sway up there, please, make it happen.” I pictured my mother barging into God’s office, interrupting Her phone call and saying, “Tell them you’ll call them back. My kid’s in trouble.”
An hour later, I got an email listing for a job that was right up my alley, which included housing in a community far away from the one I was living in.
I got the job.
When we moved into the house, I poked around a bit, opening up empty drawers and cabinets just to get a sense of the place. In one of the drawers was an index card. “Debbi’s Challah,” it said.
It was my mother’s challah recipe.
I guess she got God off the phone.
From then on, little “Mom” moments would come up once in a while – though none with the drama and splendor of her big “recipe reveal”, which made it easy to chalk up to coincidence. Most likely, it was just coincidence, though as Einstein said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
Then, this past Friday, I woke up feeling tender. It was Mom’s 64th birthday (or what would have been, anyway). The first thing I saw on my phone was a text from my father, sharing something he remembered about her that was sweet and sad. It was going to be one of those days when grief rides shotgun and chatters away, instead of sitting quietly in back with earbuds in.
But no matter. I’m a mom, and moms don’t get days off. I pulled myself out of bed and went to the grocery store. I was lost in thought as I picked through bunches of fresh dill and skinny asparagus. When I got to the checkout, I chatted with the cashier as I usually do (my need for attention is tireless), looking for her tag so I could wish her goodbye by name.
Her name was Debbie B.
My mother’s name and last initial.
When I told Debbie the cashier about it, she said it gave her the chills.
Not me. I just smiled.
I’ve officially become one of those people who sees what she wishes to see, and that’s more than fine. Because now I can receive the messages from beyond.