Tiny people can leave a giant footprint. About two years ago, my mother-in-law, Jean, called on Mother’s Day to thank me. I was not accustomed to this softer side of her; she was raised with a pragmatism that she wore like a fitting skin. As a stand -alone holiday phone call of gratitude it would have been enough to fill a hole of approval I had longed for. It was not that at all, really. It was a gateway, a door. It was a beginning.
A crucial part of my story is that my mother passed in 2005, my dad in 2010, my only sibling in 2015, and while they all live within me daily, I did not turn to Jean with the depths of my pain so easy to access. She made clear that grief had its place and was not a stranger to her own painful life moments, but I kept my need for mothering and familial bonding close to the vest. Our relationship was not more than it could have been, and not less than it should have been. It just was.
Jean’s declaration of thanks at my role in raising our daughters, now 28 and 31, signified a shift in her own consciousness; I sensed immediately she was doing an inventory of her life. It had become important for her to share a generosity of words and I was the beneficiary. My being a recipient of praise from her had been scarce-but when offered, it brought a smile. This wasn’t the scaling of a wall. It wasn’t crossing a bridge. It was: “she sees me.” That felt good.
An eloquent writer and English major in her day, she edited many of my writing projects over the years, some for publication, and while her focus was on the better word choice, or pristine grammatical structure, it was that comment, such as: “remarkable and real,” after reading an essay I wrote about my sister’s final breath, or “ important and informative,” when describing part of my mom’s journey with cancer that stirred satisfaction. She called it as she saw it, so this kindness of recognition to me on Mother’s Day was my signal not to just pry the door open to more consistent, intentioned communication. It was a directive. In her words, this time was met with her desire to know me, to learn more about my life and how I was living it.
How often did we talk about spiritual matters in the past? Never. My path in this realm has been an awakening of layers over many years, and while this calling has led me to working with clients as an intuitive, psychic medium, I had no expectation of discussing this opening in my life with Jean. It came up organically- Jim had paved the way during one of his many weekly phone calls with her, reporting about his reading of the book, Journey of Souls. He marveled at how I was living and talking about what he was reading about, though I had never read the book. My accounts of experiences I was having, as well as my connection with the other side, resonated with Jim as this collection of life occurrences by those who had passed on technically, but lived to tell the story, matched many of the things I was reporting. Jean was intrigued; she asked questions, relished accounts when I shared messages- anonymously so as not to betray confidentiality- and exchanges I was having with spirit and clients. It was safety for me; her factually trained- mind tried less to make sense of it as she leaned further into all that is and could be.
I could hear delight in her voice when I called; as a woman challenged physically by the indiscriminate and unkind force of Parkinson’s disease, she gracefully accepted the disruptions to her mobility and dexterity, while welcoming reprieves through conversation and exploration of new beliefs and ideas. We emailed too, and I was continuously struck by her cognition. She seemed to track effortlessly on the phone. Parkinson’s had left that alone; age cast no shadow there. We talked about death; the passing of her dearest life-long friends, most of whom I shared messages with when they chose to come through. She affirmed them; I had no hesitation to withhold any of this and it was a beautiful entry for her into her own post mortality life. She found great comfort in it. This kind of ease, the flow and recounting of the lives of her granddaughters, my feelings, observations, and intuitive input about her health, were the definition of being in the present moment. No judgement. No history. No future. Just those moments. Freedom.
As physical challenges became grave, attempts were made to figure out some of those causes, but not surprisingly, just shy of 90 years old, Jean did not yearn for heroism, or extension of her life beyond her clarity of thought. She rode this wave with the understanding she was tired, and ready to welcome all that awaited her. This was communicated to her family, and to me. She told me she would be talking to me; “in eternity.” I believe people die on their own terms to a degree. I barely left my mom’s side for 10 days during her dying process, but she chose to pass when I was not there. Jean spoke to our daughters with great clarity only a few hours before she turned serene and inward. Her final moments were peaceful as she transitioned beyond. A teacher to be sure, but also a life-long student with a thirst for knowledge that was never quenched, Jean left behind an affirming echo. I can distinctly hear her laughter, her steady, purposeful “I love you,” to me the day before she died, and perhaps more poignantly, she heard mine.