Now that she’s gone, I feel closer to my Mom than I did when she was alive.
My Mom’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease ended Nov 15, 2011, but the insipid disease took her from me long before she left this world. She was robbed of her identity, her personality, her memory and her ability to speak years before her body gave up.
We used to talk about souls and spirits, and when she visited me in Toronto decades ago, we tried a kitchen table séance to learn the names of our guardian angels. As a portrait artist, she studied her subjects features for hours at a time, and sometimes would pick up on feelings behind their neutral expressions. Would she sense me from the other side?
Spirits try to reach us in many ways
We talked for the first time in a dream six months after she died. We were doing a lively jig together, kicking up our heels, our hands held high. This happy image came from a photograph of my Mom and another woman dancing on the lawn at a summer party. Now we were twirling, and she was laughing and smiling at me, something I hadn’t seen in years. Startled by the return of her animated self, I blurted out in confusion: “But I thought you were dead.”
“I’m not dead,” she laughed, feigning indignation in that voice I knew so well, and I felt admonished for having the slightest doubt. “I’m still alive,” she gently teased, seeing my bafflement. Days later, I could still hear her voice in my head: “I’m still alive.”
In his book Ghosts Among Us, medium James Van Praagh says the person who passes over wants to let the family know that he or she is very much alive. He says spirits try to reach us in many ways, but the easiest way is through our dreams when our conscious, rational mind is asleep and our intuitive, subconscious mind is receptive.
Less than two months later, I exchanged words with my Mom again, but this dream frightened me. I was sketching her face, concentrating on shaping her eyebrows, then the eyes, nose and lips. But the face emerging on my paper wasn’t drawn by a pencil, it was surfacing like an image from a Polaroid camera.
Suddenly I felt this heavy presence behind my back on the bed, like someone had just sat down on the edge, causing my weight to shift closer. My heart was racing, my scalp was tingling and the little hairs on my neck and forearms went high alert. Rigid with fear, I lifted my head and I saw a dark shadow rise from the bed and move towards the door.
Although my body and brain were fast asleep, my intuitive self was wide awake and my hand shot out to grab this receding presence. The dark shadow paused, and I blurted out wordlessly: “I love, love, love you, Mom.” Instantly, I heard her nonverbal reply: “I love you, too.” Then the dark mass dissipated and I woke up, still lying on my side, under the covers, with my back to the door. My heart pounded in my chest the rest of the night and the experience left me teary for days.
The first dancing dream was like watching a home movie, but in the second dream, I could feel the energy of my Mom’s spirit. Van Praagh says each spirit has a unique identity and intuitively, through our sixth sense, we know who the spirit is.
The butterfly connection
Spirits can find other ways to communicate with us, such as manipulating radios or lights, aromas, temperatures and insects. The medium says a spirit can project a thought of itself at the exact time you see a butterfly or dragonfly and you immediately associate the insect with your loved one. I almost dropped his book when I read that spirits are capable of manipulating the flight of a butterfly.
In the weeks following my second dream, I began to notice white butterflies everywhere—like a seasonal outbreak of mosquitoes or grasshoppers. I mentioned this larger population but no one shared my perception.
It was most evident when I golfed. During the game, a white butterfly would appear next to me at my tee box, another along the fairway or in the bunker and finally, would land on my ball, on the green, and remain there until I lined up to putt. This is my mother, I thought, showing herself in a non-frightening way. On Mother’s Day, my husband pointed to the butterfly dancing around my knees in the golf cart.
Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon who wrote Proof of Heaven after surviving seven days in a coma, says he toured heaven with an angel on the wing of a butterfly. He recalled being surrounded by a river of vividly-coloured fluttering butterflies.
Last October, vacationing in Mauritius on the other side of the world, I wondered if Mom would find me golfing on this speck of an island in the Indian Ocean. Sure enough, a marigold-coloured butterfly, the only vivid butterfly I saw besides the monarch, flitted alongside my golf cart a few yards until I stopped beside the green. Then it darted up to eye level, over the steering wheel, and out the other side.
When winter came, I asked myself how I would know if Mom was still close by if there were no more butterflies. I found the proof walking through the department store I was in over a year ago buying her slacks and a sweater. There, on a rack facing the aisle, was her cream-coloured sweater with purple embroidered flowers on the front. I stopped to touch it, and held both sleeves by the elbow as if grasping her thin arms. Leaving the store, I chanced to look up on a side wall and there was Mom’s sweater on display high above the racks. The right sleeve was pinned up at the elbow, like she was waving to me from above. I smiled back.