When my grandmother died, my mother grieved with all her heart and soul. To a 12-year-old, it seemed she was always crying. There seemed a deep and unreachable sadness about her that no one could heal. One day, the crying stopped. Something happened to help heal her grief, but I never knew what it was until years later.

Time passed and while I was home for my college summer break, my mother lost her engagement ring. She had shed a few pounds and her rings were fitting looser. One night, her diamond was not on her finger. She was, as you can expect, upset, as was my father. We both kept asking, “where were you, what were you doing today?’ But she didn’t remember doing anything unusual. No gardening, no breadmaking, nothing especially “hand-risky.”

She told a friend about the ring. She immediately suggested a trip to Lilydale, a well-known local spiritualist community. “Their psychics are really good.”

At first Mom pooh-poohed this. “I don’t believe in that nonsense.”

Her friend persisted, Mom relented, and off they went on their psychic adventure.

When they returned, Mom immediately walked into our living room, looked around, then headed to my father’s lounger in the corner of the room – the only chair my mother rarely sat in. Primarily because my father was usually in it. I watched as she removed the cushions. Mom’s hands disappeared into the bowels of the lounger and seconds later, emerged holding her ring. “The psychic was right.”

It seems she’d been dusting all her little “bric-a-brac” on the shelves next to the lounge chair, had taken a break and plopped into the chair. She must have stuck her hand down between the cushions, as my father’s pockets would often overflow there. It was a virtual piggy bank of change.

That night, Mom came into my bedroom and sat on the edge of my bed. “You know, I do believe, somewhat, in the whole psychic thing and ghosts, especially after what happened to me, but I hated to admit it.”

“You mean the psychic?” I asked.

“No, not exactly. Right after my mother died, I was sick with grief. I could barely function.”

“I remember. Dad and I were very concerned. But then, almost overnight, you got better.”

Mom nodded. “I remember the night. I was lying in bed, trying to sleep. And then this happened.” Mom stood up, then sat back down on the edge of my bed, near the bottom.

“Did you feel that?” she asked.

“Of course.” I’d felt the bed sink under her weight.

“That’s what happened. There was no one else in the room, just me and Mother.”

“Your mother? But she was…oh.”

“Oh” is right. I felt a calmness wash over me, as if she were saying, “It’s okay, Mabel. I’m still here. You need to pull yourself together. You have a family who needs you. I’m in a good place now.”

Goosebumps tingled up and down my arm as my mother continued.

“I didn’t hear her voice, of course, but I realized it was her spirit talking to me. And as soon as that happened, I felt better. I went to sleep and the next morning I felt at peace for the first time since she’d died.”

“You were suddenly better. Almost back to your old self. Dad and I were so relieved. We were worried about you.”

“I know you were, and I’m sorry, but I’d never experienced such grief before. I think that’s the reason I went to Lilydale today. Because a part of me believed that ghosts and spirits could exist. And maybe, if I believed, just like children believe in Tinkerbell, the psychic could help. And she did. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” She bent over to give me a kiss.

“For future reference, when I die, I’m coming back as a cardinal, my favorite bird. And since red’s my favorite color, I’m going to be a male because they have all the brilliant red feathers.”

Years later, after Mom passed away, I grieved as intensely as she once had. But one morning, a magnificent male cardinal flew onto our crabapple tree outside our living room. I watched it. It watched me. Then off it flew, leaving me feeling calmer.

These days, Mom often brings her Cardinal friends around. They sit in the lilac tree outside my bedroom window, keeping me company as I write.

“Hi, mom,” I say silently.

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