On the second day of Yom Kippur, I was teaching meditation at a synagogue to a group of hungry and tired middle-aged people. Hungry because it is a day of fasting; tired because they were hungry! It was my first time teaching at the temple, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I decided to accept the “job” (volunteering) because I thought that this Yom Kippur, the first Yom Kippur since my mom passed away, maybe being in temple would feel good. Ten days earlier on Rosh Hashanah we had a family dinner and my mom’s absence was palpable. I ended the night with such heaviness in my heart, with pain in my ears, and tears in my eyes. So going to temple had to be better than that!
When I shared with the students that my mom had recently passed away, and that I started the Balanced Mind Meditation Center at the JCC in La Jolla in her memory, the woman in the front row asked, “What was your mother’s name?’”
“Ruth Jacobowitz,” I replied. “Why?”
She got this dreamy look on her face and held out her arm and said my mom is here in the room and she is so proud of me. She felt goose bumps on her arm.
That is the third time that someone has told me that they felt my mom’s presence in the room with me. These people all have something in common; something having to do with energy. I’m not saying I don’t believe them. I want to believe them. It feels good and hopeful to believe them. And I know that just because I don’t understand something, and can’t prove something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
The first time it happened sort of freaked me out. I was having a massage and the therapist whom I know, trust and love had this whoosh up his arms and said that my mom said, “You are the one!” loudly and clearly. We didn’t know how to interpret her message. I am the one to do what? To make a ceremony for her? To take care of my dad? To try to make a difference in the world? She had just passed away a few days before. He said she was still around, which freaked me out even more.
About six weeks after her passing, I visited an energy healer who shared with me that my mom was busy on the other side. She was annoying her handlers with questions about what was next and she was trying to control her new environment. That certainly sounded like the Ruth I knew!
The healer said when my mom left her body she was guided by her mom and another couple, a man and a woman. I imagine that might have been her grandparents. But, who knows? As crazy as it sounds, I wanted to make sure my mom was o.k. I had been taking care of her emotional needs for the past twelve years and I was worried that if there was an afterlife that she might be alone or scared. She was not comfortable alone when she was alive. She and my Dad were together 67 years and she always said she would have to die first because she could never live alone.
I asked the healer why my mom hadn’t sent me a sign. She said, “Well, I don’t really know how to say this but your mom isn’t thinking about you. She’s trying to figure everything out.”
Shortly after seeing the energy healer my sister Jan gave me the book “Signs from the Afterlife” by Lyn Ragan. In the book, the author explains how to notice signs that your loved ones are sending you messages from beyond. One of the chapters talked about how bird feathers can be a message from a departed loved one. The day after I finished the book I had an incredible experience finding six feathers in my driveway next to my car. I wrote a vague post about it on Facebook, not willing to come right out with the feather/gift from beyond concept for fear of sounding like a kook! A dozen friends commented that the feathers were gifts from my mom. I keep them on my vanity with other objects that I like to look at everyday. They are precious to me. I found one more feather a week later and I keep it in my car. I also wear something of my mother’s every day. I feel like I am keeping a warm connection to her when I can touch something that was hers.
I stayed at temple for seven hours that Yom Kippur. After my meditation class I sat through four services in a row. The community in the sanctuary was the perfect container to experience all my longing and loss and heartbreak. I was fortunate to be sitting with two wonderful women for the memorial prayer service. One of the women had lost her brother, husband and mother. She knows more about loss and grief than I do, times ten. She grabbed my hand and told me that I had a fabulous mom. I said “You did too,” through tears that felt lighter than the tears I shed ten days earlier on Rosh Hashanah. My chest felt lighter too. Maybe I needed to be in a place where I could tap into the felt sense of common humanity that I teach about in my Mindful Methods for Life course. We all have sorrow. Intellectually we understand that suffering is part of the human condition. Feeling it in your bones is different. That is what is meant by a “felt sense” of something. I had the felt sense that we were all in this together, and that made the experience bittersweet.
May we have people to sit with when we have suffering. May we be safe. May we live our lives with ease.