Every once in awhile something really unexpected happens – something that completely knocks your socks off. Last month (of course I started writing this weeks ago, but like everything else I never finished) I had one of those experiences so of course the only way I can fully process my experience is to write it out. So here we go.
I received a message last month via my Etsy store from a stranger. He wrote me a very nice note and explained that once upon a time he dated my mother. He knew her from grammar school, but it wasn’t until high school (senior year) that he actually worked up the nerve to ask her out. His note goes on to explain that they spent a lot of time together. They went to plays in the city (okay anyone who knows my dad, can you picture him EVER doing that??), went to Prom together and he often even drove her to her high school job at an ice cream shop. (Totally a scene straight out of “Leave it to Beaver” amiright??) Anyway, he goes on to say that it was “Devine Intervention” that he found me through this blog when I wrote “The One I’ll Never Know” a few years ago. I guess during their time together she had written him numerous letters. He thought that her letters sounded exactly like my writing style. (But really, did she have my insatiable sense of humor and wit – and sarcasm…ha.) He described her as “caring, kind, compassionate, empathic and had a great sense of humor” – so I suppose it’s clear where the good half of me came from. (Just kidding, Dad, you know I love you.) Anyway, the point of his reaching out to me was because he was recently diagnosed with cancer. He had kept her letters even after all these years and he wanted to pass them on to me. In doing so, he hopes to give me “some insight on the type of person your [my] Mom was when she was younger.”
He has since passed these letters along to my aunt (my mom’s sister), although I have not asked her any details. I will get them eventually and read them on my own terms. Maybe I will learn something or maybe they will simply bring a smile to my face – which maybe that’s the biggest insight of them anyway. I told my other aunt this story, and bless her God-loving heart, her first reaction was she thought it was a sign. Okay, I lied. Her first reaction was to ask if this was a scam and could he be real. Upon my reassurance that he was indeed real, then her first true reaction was that this some was some kind of sign. These days I don’t believe in God like I used to, however, I didn’t take her words lightly and I’ve been thinking about them ever since. Because while I’ve yet to figure out what this “sign” is, I kinda think she’s right. I’ve been on the major struggle bus lately, especially this past year, with various personal things and most days, I find my head is not exactly where it should be (if there even is a “should be” place.) So the timing of this mini time capsule is uncanny.
I think the part about this correspondence that hit me the hardest was not that this stranger has “insight” about my mother. It was his comment that “I [he] talk to her often.” Present tense. I like that. And it’s a huge reminder to me that I’m allowed to do the same. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only nut job “discussing” important life problems with dead people. But sometimes the dead person’s response, or lack thereof, is the only response I want to even hear. I appreciate this stranger’s ability to find strength in forgotten times and not-so-forgotten people. Oftentimes I feel like I’m being ridiculous for missing someone I never even knew or still being so sad eons later over others’ absences. I think what this person reminded me the most was that death doesn’t necessarily mean gone. Long ago doesn’t necessarily mean distant.
Maybe the biggest lesson my absent mother could have taught me was simply how much of an impact one person can be on another. One doesn’t need to be famous or break world records to have an impact on someone. One only needs to be a kind, loving human. It’s the simple things that mean the most. And those are the things that are remembered.