I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since my mother passed away in June. I’ve come to realise that losing her is something I’m never going to come to terms with. I’ve had so many times where I’ve thought to myself “oh, I’ll have to tell my mother about that” or “my mother would like one of those”. My brain is having a hard time realising that I’ll never see her again. When I go back to Scotland to visit my father everything seems normal, except that she’s not there any more. It’s like a black hole, a missing piece of the jigsaw. It’s emptiness.
Memories are a good and a bad thing. They remind me of all the good times we had and make me smile. But they remind me that those days are in the past and I can never share a joke with her again. She had a characteristic booming laugh and whenever we’d have people over to the house I could always hear her laughter whatever room I was in. I miss hearing it. And there’s no consolation. But the point of this piece is not a negative one. I don’t need to bear my soul and I’m big enough and ugly enough to take care of myself.
My mother had a really good sense of humour and she’d appreciate some of the strange things that have happened recently. The first was on the morning of her funeral. To recap, I was setting up the sound system in the church to play – at her request – “All along the watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix. As I was speaking to one of her friends (who was arranging the flowers) I had this strange urge to switch the radio on. As soon as I did the line “cheer up sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean, to be a daydream believer…”, which is by the Monkeys. My mother’s name was Jean and I was surprised to say the least. If it was a coincidence that that song (which I’d not heard in years and haven’t heard since) should happen to play at the exact moment I seemingly randomly switched the radio on, then the odds would have to be astronomical. But that’s not the only such instance of strangeness.
My mother’s best friend and my father were having a cup of coffee in a local coffee shop. They were talking and she was telling my father how she really missed having my mother to talk to and that she was having a hard time. No sooner had she uttered the words “now that Jean’s gone I don’t have anyone to talk to” than the radio that was on in the background suddenly played “All along the watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix. Another coincidence?
Next it was my brother’s turn. And he swears this is true. He was lying in bed one night thinking about life after death. He, like me, is not religious at all so he, like me, worries that after life there is nothing. He was just going over in his head all the possibilities and trying to be positive, hoping that he might see my mother again some day. He said over and over in his head “give me a sign”, looking for hope when suddenly the idea popped into his head to turn the radio on. When he did the song that was playing was “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. In case you’re one of the handful of people who’s not seen the film “Ghost”, that’s the song that’s played when the hero (Patrick Swayze) goes into the afterlife at the end of the film. A very emotional film it is too.
These thing could be considered to be coincidences. I walk into Morrisons supermarket and hear songs that my mother used to love all the time. But the significance of events like those I’ve described are more profound. I don’t believe in the idea of heaven and hell. I believe that when your body dies your memories and personality go with it (although not necessarily your soul). And I don’t believe in God. However I do believe that there’s more to life than this. There has to be. And the only thing I know more certainly than that is that I’ll never know what it is while I’m here. That’s as it should be. And that gives me hope. Some people get hope from religious faith, and I can understand that.
But with the sort of signs that I’ve described cropping up from time to time I feel like maybe I’m not alone. And I get hope. And life with hope is a mile better than life without.