I wrote and prepped this story for a live performance at The Moth in San Francisco. The theme was creepy. Well done, Mom.
I think it’s fair to say that most people don’t actively invite ghosts to haunt them.
For better or worse, I’m not most people.
My story starts 8 years ago at Christmas. I went home to see my mom, who was moving a little slower and forgetting a few things here and there. When I turned down the bed to go to sleep that first night, I found a hammer and a handful of nails nestled underneath my pillow.
My mom laughed a little sheepishly and said, “Oh, THAT’S where my hammer disappeared to.”
The next day, my brother arrived from Florida and when he turned down his bed, he found ANOTHER pile of nails under HIS pillow.
We all had a laugh. It’s a fun memory, and I’m glad we had that, because the next year, my mom died a few days after Christmas.
My mother was my last living parent — my dad and stepdad had both died before her, and though I grieved their losses, nothing had prepared me for losing my mom, the person who brought me into the world. That she was here one day and gone forever the next didn’t seem real. I became obsessed with anything that could keep me connected to her: when I walked into her house for the first time after she died, I scooped up everything I could. I smelled her scarf, I held the dirty coffee cup in her sink against my lips, I re-read the bookmarked pages of the book on her nightstand. I was like a detective looking for clues that my mom had actually been alive.
I couldn’t accept that she was out of my life, so I began inviting her to haunt me.
Every night before I went to sleep, I would look through pictures of her, I would talk to her, I would put things that belonged to her under my pillow, willing her to come. And every morning I’d wake up devastated that she hadn’t.
One of my friends recommended a medium. He gave me his info and I booked a session.
This medium lived in New York, so we arranged a phone call, which I thought was weird – obviously that’s not how Whoopie Goldberg did it in Ghost, but okay. Christopher, my medium, told me how it usually worked: he’d be joined by someone close to me who’d passed and they’d tell him things and he’d relay them back to me. The less I talked the better, so he wouldn’t be led by anything I said.
He told me that there was feminine energy present and after a little back and forth we determined it was my grandmother. The things he was telling me — -they were crazy. And they were all things that NO ONE could have googled or guessed. The names of dolls I’d had as a kid, people in the family who’d pissed my grandmother off, where I’d put the note that she’d given me before she died that I thought I’d lost. She asked questions about things we’d done together, too: what was Marlaina doing now that she wasn’t on Days of Our Lives? Did Bob Barker from The Price Is Right really touch Janice and Holly inappropriately?
And then he told me that my mom was there. And although she was shy at first, pretty soon the two of them were cracking jokes and offering up positive support on everything from my job to my love life to my hair. To have this kind of conversation with the two most important women in my life was absolutely mind blowing.
At the end of the conversation, my mom told me that my brothers and I should stop beating ourselves up. I knew what she meant immediately.
My mom was alone when she died. It broke our hearts that we weren’t there with her, but she told Christopher that was the way she wanted it. She didn’t want us to see her die, because she knew it would be too much for us to bear.
And I have to tell you, I felt so relieved after that phone call — still very sad, but comforted. Because it somehow didn’t feel like the end anymore. It felt like the beginning of something new, like there could still be some sort of connection, even if only a tiny one.
I’m not religious, but for first time in my life, I understood what people meant when they talked about faith, only my faith had nothing to do with a God. My faith was in believing that this isn’t all there is, that this goes on — WE go on. My mom and my grandmother are hanging out together in the afterlife, you guys. Being reunited with people we love isn’t just for the Jesus-loving set … it’s for everyone. It may sound batshit crazy or far-fetched, but that’s what I believe now.
And then, not long after that, my Mom made an appearance in the real world.
I’d bought a new mattress. The delivery men were carrying out my old mattresses and were almost out my front door when suddenly they stopped. I heard a metallic clink. Something had dropped on my hardwood floor.
The delivery guy came in and held out his hand. “If you’ve been sleeping with these in your bed, I can see why you wanted a new mattress.”
I couldn’t believe it. He was holding a handful of nails that I’m 1000% positive I never put in my bed. I never even hung anything over my bed because … San Francisco, earthquakes. Come on.
I have to give props to my mom because her haunting had been worth the wait – she really brought her A-game. Her methods weren’t pedestrian: she didn’t knock things over or come stand as a ghostly apparition by my bedside.
Nope, my mother came via the Macy’s delivery truck.