There is a voice you will always recognize, it is the voice of love. For me it is my mother’s voice. A year after she died I had a dream in which she appeared at the foot of my bed. She spoke to me, and I saw her there. Her presence was real; she wasn’t fuzzy, shimmering or ghost-like. She spoke to me and I recognized her voice. I heard her say she loved me and would always be there for me. Maybe you’d say it was a vision, or some kind of visitation, it felt real.
My mother died over 50 years ago. When I was in my twenties, and starting to process the impact of her death I dreamed about her often. The theme of those dreams was that she had been carried off against her will; that she hadn’t chosen to leave me. It was what I needed to hear and understand to move through the grief I’d been holding in since her death. I didn’t believe it was really her as I had when I was eight.
Over the years I’ve heard her voice at various moments. When I was in my 30’s and struggling with a decision, in the middle of a massage I heard her whisper in my ear. Last week she appeared in a dream, and told me what I needed to hear. I heard her voice again offering me guidance, and in the dream I remember thinking ‘She has come a long way to say this to me, I need to remember it.’ I woke immediately and wrote down her words.
I don’t think my mother’s spirit traveled through time and space to tell me what I needed to hear any more than I believe God speaks directly to me, or anyone else. What my mother told me was true, I knew it before I heard her words. I needed to hear it in a voice that wasn’t mine. What she offered me was tough love, the sort you need from your mom, even when you don’t have one. Sometimes we need to mother ourselves, and sometimes we can’t so we need to sneak up on ourselves and use someone else’s voice. I needed to hear what my mother said to me, and I needed to have that message be a loving one.
I don’t think I could have been as kind, forthright and loving with self-talk as my mother’s voice was to me. One of the most important pieces of letting love in is to allow someone to hold you in all your stinky failure and misery. I needed to hear that message from the mommy who sat me in her lap the day I came home from first grade crying with my ripped tights and bloody knees. Before she removed those tights, or even my coat she sat down in the winged armchair and pulled me into her lap to hold me tight and comfort me.
That is one of the last memories I have of my mother. I tripped on my way home from school, and the older kids had teased me. That’s why I was crying; I was humiliated. I didn’t even realize my knees were bleeding. We sat in that chair and her voice soothed me. There hasn’t been another voice to take the place of hers and so I conjure it up in my dreams when I need to be kind with myself. I’m not always good at treating myself with kindness and understanding, I generally rely on other people for that.
Needing your mommy is universal. My daughter is no longer a child. Sometimes she needs me to be her friend or her adviser, and once in a while I can sense she needs me to be her mommy and just hold her and kiss her forehead and remind her it will all be OK. I am as grateful for those moments as she is; I need them as much as she does. We don’t talk about them.
I am grateful for the many loving people in my life who hold and guide me, and get me through hard times. Hard times is an odd construct. I mean I have a roof over my head, a warm house, a fully stocked fridge and a garage with a car in it. And none of that shields me from emotional pain, or anger, or the kind of feelings this tumultuous year (and particularly) this fall have left me feeling. When people ask how I am, I say ‘fine’, but the truth is I’m not.
When I feel like this it’s tough to imagine feeling any other way. I have trouble writing, sleeping and focusing on the very things that will help me lift myself out of this funk. Of course I know this is temporary, and it won’t be long before I am fine again. My reliance on others is necessary and I no longer fight it. I call friends and conjure up my most fundamental and primal support, my long-dead mother to soothe me, and speak to me in the voice of love.