For many of us, the death of a parent is particularly difficult, because we have unresolved issues that have accumulated over the years, and that remain unresolved at the time of our parent’s passing. Below, Maggie tells us about her long estrangement from her mother and brother due to their mother’s schizophrenia. In later years, she and her mother were able to heal their rift, and her brother was able to be present in the hours before their mother passed away. This reunion–even as her mother lay dying–led Maggie to declare to the cleric who was present at the time that she felt like she’d “won the lottery.” And, as Maggie shows us here, the healing continues–even after her mother’s physical presence is gone.
By Maggie Martin
In my family, we were all estranged from each other. I left home in Ontario, Canada, at the age of 19, unable to cope on my own with the increasing challenges of my mother’s schizophrenia. My brother Larry had left several years earlier, and my parents had already separated during my early teens because Dad couldn’t cope either.
Mom’s illness prevented her from forming close, loving and lasting relationships, and it was only in the last ten years of her life that I learned to accept her for who she was. During that time, we spent many hours together and I came to adore her. In the intervening years, however, I had only minimal contact with Mom. Larry didn’t see her during this period, so I didn’t see him either. He had relocated across the country to Calgary, Alberta.
Despite all of this, I knew I was very much loved by my mom in the best way she knew how. I believe she adored both my brother and me. Larry’s estrangement was very painful for Mom and me.
When she was in her early sixties, Mom’s schizophrenia spiralled out of control, and she was placed in a retirement home where the medical professionals could monitor and regulate her medications. It was an eight-hour return drive from where Mom lived to where I lived with my husband in Southern Ontario. I still wanted us to be in touch, so I would invite her to come and stay with us. Mom and I became very close. I truly wished my brother could know this person and not the one he had grown up with.
Amazingly, my relationship with Mom only got better and better as I became older. Every Sunday at 4:30 p.m. I would telephone her at the retirement home. This went on for fifteen years or so. One Sunday, Mom didn’t answer the phone. The nurse went to investigate and found her on the floor of her room and immediately called an ambulance. Then the nurse called me back to let me know that Mom would be admitted to hospital. Early next morning was the soonest I could drive north. She had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scheduled first thing in the morning, so I arrived on Monday in time to go with her and hold her hand. The plan was that, after she returned to her hospital room, I would go have lunch, then return to her bedside.
I had helped her settle back into bed following her MRI and was just about to leave when my cell phone rang. Even though I have a policy of not answering my phone in the midst of another conversation, I did pick it up. It was Mom’s doctor telling me I needed to immediately let her know that she was extremely ill and dying, and that I needed to phone my brother and tell him the same thing. I was shocked and confused. I knew my face would give that away, so I stumbled out of the room without saying anything to Mom.
A nurse saw me and came immediately to my side and asked, “Are you okay?” I said, “No”.
I was still holding my phone and staring at it. The nurse asked me what had happened. I told her what the doctor had said. I think the nurse took the phone from me, perhaps to talk with him. Finally she said, “Follow me. I’ll take you to a room behind the nurses’ station where you can make your phone calls.”
After I entered the room, I stood there staring at the phone on the wall. Then I looked around and was surprised to see a man sitting there. He asked if he could be of help. I told him I needed to make some phone calls. He came to sit next to me and I moved away. He asked if he was bothering me. I said, “Yes,” so he left the room, but not before he conveyed to me—either verbally or telepathically—that I didn’t have to worry about making those calls. Just as he was leaving, the nurse entered. She asked me who he was. When I said, “I don’t know,” she immediately went looking for him.
Soon, the nurse sought me out and told me she hadn’t been able to find the mysterious man, but that I didn’t need to make the calls because the doctor had phoned my brother and had also broken the news to Mom. So, the man in the nurse’s room had been correct. I didn’t have to worry about making those calls.
Only later did I realize who he was: my inner and outer spiritual guide, Harold Klemp. He is the leader of my spiritual path called Eckankar, and I had seen him previously in a public venue, but never before up close. I had always thought of him as larger in stature than he appeared in person. What I did get from our “chance” meeting was that he was there to help when needed, and that all was in its rightful place, both for me and for Mom.
However, it now became imperative for my brother to come immediately if he wanted to see Mom prior to her death. He was able to catch the first flight out and arrived from Calgary in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, so exhausted that he lay down on a bed next to Mom’s and slept. Soon afterwards, a nondenominational chaplain came in. Mom was awake now. On one side was her much loved son Larry, and on the other side was her much loved daughter, me.
With a big smile on my face, I exclaimed to the chaplain, “I feel like I just won a million dollars! I feel like I just won the lottery!”. Mom had a broad grin on her face too! She had what she wanted most: Her two children sitting on either side of her. The estrangement was over. Mom died peacefully a few minutes later.
Since Mom’s death, my brother and I have kept in contact. We have both realized that there never was any disagreement between us; we had simply felt overwhelmed trying to cope with the difficulties of Mom’s disease. Since then, not only have Larry and I kept in touch, but Mom and I keep in touch too.
I recently asked myself anew how Mom communicates with me now. Just as I asked this question, a beautiful female cardinal appeared right in front of me. I could reach out and touch her, she was that close. Cardinals were one of our family’s favourite birds, but it had been a long time since I had spotted one—and I had never seen one where I now live.
The sighting reminded me of an experience I’d had years ago. It was not long after my father passed away. Even though Mom and Dad chose to separate when they were in their early forties, they had never legally formalized it. Technically, they were still married when Dad died at the age of eighty-nine. He was buried in a small community cemetery close to my home in Southern Ontario.
During one of Mom’s vacations to my home, she had asked to visit Dad’s grave and say goodbye. So, I drove her there one beautiful, sunny afternoon. Standing at the graveside, Mom said, “I guess I’m a widow now.” That really surprised me, and I could see that, even after all those years of separation, her marriage had been very important to her.
We buried Mom beside Dad. I was by myself when the internment was over at the small community cemetery. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky as I watched a pair of Canada geese fly directly overhead. As a child I had been taught that Canada geese pair for life. To me this signified that Mom was safe, happy and reunited with Dad. She was, once again, with the love of her life.
With the recent appearance of the female cardinal, Mom was answering my question, showing me one way that she does still communicate with me.
Just a day before I finished writing this story, I had a wonderful opportunity to be part of a monthly discussion on the book titled Stranger by the River. It is a poetic book on the secret knowledge of God, written by Paul Twitchell, the modern-day founder of Eckankar. The chapter we were studying that night was titled “Love.” A particular line caught my attention. It said: “But I say that all disagreement between friends and thee comes from impatience. If you have patience, then life will teach thee better.”
As I studied that chapter, I began to understand more about my relationship with Mom, and how and why it changed over the years. What changed was that I learned patience. I stopped arguing with her. Mom was doing the best that she could in her illness, and I was learning to accept her for who she was. During those years that we became closer, I realized I had been given the gift of a mom who was a wonderful, joyful soul. Very simply, I learned to love her as she was—and is—in my ongoing Meaning of Forever relationship with her.
The Meaning of Forever Project continues to accept stories of comforting experiences with loved ones who have passed on, and of near-death experiences that have helped to show the continuation of life beyond the physical body. You can email your story to us firstname.lastname@example.org and you can find more about our project on our Facebook page, and our Meaning of Forever Website.