It was August 1981 when my telephone rang. It was my brother-in-law calling to tell me my 66 year old mother had been found down and unresponsive on her front lawn. An ambulance had taken her to a local hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Within an hour a second call confirmed her death. I quickly made ready to travel and in a few hours I was driving to Detroit from Washington, D.C. A John Denver tune played in my head. Something about some days being diamond, others stone. This day was clearly stone and I do not remember much about the trip. I think I drove all night.
My younger brother had lived with her. A Vietnam war veteran, he stayed in her home partly out of convenience, partly to watch over her. It was he who discovered her in the front yard, then gave her CPR without success. I found him partially unhinged. I thought the experience had been too much, which seemed reasonable. The unexpected death of a loved one is indeed difficult. He faulted himself for not saving her, which added guilt to loss.
It was not her death which had disturbed him so, though that clearly had a real impact on his emotional state. "She's still here." he said. That is what troubled him so. I fully believed him. My mother was an exceptional psychic and deeply spiritual. A day or two before her passing she called to tell me goodbye, though I did not know it at the time. Her conversation with me was a bit cryptic and I found it frustrating. Her words became all too clear after her death.
My mother had a personal trait, a behavior, that had become her hallmark. She would stand at the kitchen sink doing dishes, ever so slowly, as she stared out the window, her mind in another place. We could hear the silverware being washed and dried, tinkling, clicking and clattering. It took the longest to do for some reason, and I think she enjoyed it. Perhaps she found it relaxing. Many, many hours had passed this way in our home. That hallmark behavior was apparently still active.
Our bathroom shared a common wall with the kitchen, with that wall located just to the left of the kitchen sink. When we lounged in a hot bath relaxing our cares away, we could clearly hear the silverware being washed and dried. That sound was unmistakable. That very sound was heard by my brother as he bathed in that tub the day my mother died. She passed about midday, or early in the afternoon, and her body was in the hospital morgue. He bathed in the late evening. It was the sound of rattling silverware that turned death into a haunting experience. When my brother told me he heard the silverware, I had no doubt that my mother was still in the house.
My wife, our two young children, and myself spent that first night in one of the house's two bedrooms. I do not recall if it was her room. I was very tired. During the night my wife woke me. There was fear in her voice, though not great fear. "Your mother just kissed me." she said. "On the forehead, just like she always does." Again, I did not doubt it. My wife's emotional state made clear she believed my mother kissed her.
You see, my mother worked in a hospital and was fearful of passing on contagious illness to her family. When she kissed someone it was always on the forehead. My mother often kissed my wife and children on their foreheads. My mother and I did not have a relationship that included kissing. That she kissed my wife and not me was our family norm.
No more was heard from my mother and there was no continued haunting. That kiss was a mother's goodbye.