By Melony Clark
I remember Memorial Day weekend last year like it was yesterday. The air was thick with the scent of charcoal, sea breeze, and boat fuel. Known elsewhere in the country as the official kickoff to summer fun, it had already been summer in Florida for a while. From the outside it looked like a typical holiday weekend. Except this time nothing was typical. This holiday felt different, in fact everything felt different. Everything felt wrong- like I’d been suddenly jerked out of my own reality and inserted into an alternate reality from hell. You see, my mother had been hospitalized for the past couple weeks with a sudden and severe illness, and despite everyone’s hopes and prayers, it seemed like the writing was on the wall. I knew in my heart the end was near.
Sure enough, on Saturday morning just before 11:00, the moment we had all been dreading arrived. My mother passed away peacefully in her sleep, surrounded by her husband of over forty years- my father, and us, her children. Devastated, we said our final goodbyes, and gave our last hugs and kisses to the woman who meant everything to us for as long as we’d been alive. After leaving the hospital, we rallied together as a family at my house. We spent the afternoon alternating between laughing, crying, listening to my mom’s favorite music, looking at old photos, and reminiscing about all the good times we had growing up. My siblings and I even managed to throw some food together for a cookout that afternoon. I remember our reasoning behind it being something like, “You know… if Mom was here, she’d be trying to feed everybody.” So, that’s what we did. Somehow it felt like we owed it to her.
The evening wore on, and my Dad and siblings eventually decided to go home for the night. We’d had a mentally and emotionally draining couple of weeks and the next days and weeks were going to be equally as challenging, so we decided to try to get what little rest we could. My husband and I walked everyone outside to say goodbye, and we all stood in the driveway for at least another 15 minutes chatting before everyone left.
It was when I walked back into the house and set foot through the front door, that I immediately knew something else was wrong. My husband and I both noticed the house felt stiflingly hot and humid, even though we had only been outside for 20 minutes at the most, and the AC had been running on and functioning all day. It was the kind of humidity that hung in the air, and it was thick. My husband did a quick check of the thermostat, and the display screen was completely blank. He tapped the screen a couple times to see if he could wake the thermostat up. Still nothing, the display was still not responding and the AC unit was just as dead. I was furious to say the least, of all times for this sh*t to happen… In any other circumstance, this would have been a minor annoyance, but on this night, it felt like an insult to injury. I wanted to scream, cry, throw things, but feeling defeated I settled on a few choice curse words, and then tried to collect myself. My poor husband tried to fix the AC, but his efforts were in vain. We ended up opening the windows and turning on some fans, but it only provided marginal relief from the heat.
Throughout the night, I found myself tossing and turning in bed, my mind racing, unable to find any respite from the heat or the grief. I kept replaying the last time I saw my mom, the look in her eyes, the sound of her voice. Eventually, I drifted off into a fitful sleep, but the heat and the grief made for a restless night. The rest of the weekend came and went and as the sun rose and set like it always does. I felt like I had aged years in the span of just a couple days. I again was feeling the grief, and the holiday felt hollow and meaningless, a cruel reminder of all that had been lost. In my moment of grief, my husband hugged me tightly, then looked at me with a slight smile, and as tears are streaming down my face, he said to me, “I know what happened to the AC.” I looked at him puzzled. He looked at me with a completely serious look on his face and continued, “It was your mom, she’s still trying to figure out how to be a ghost.” The sheer absurdity and hilariousness of that statement was too much for me. I laughed harder than I had in a while, but then I thought to myself, maybe he’s right. It’s not like people die and just automatically know what to do in the afterlife, right? I’m sure there’s a learning curve and maybe it takes a day or two for dearly departed souls to figure out how it all works. In that moment it all made sense to me, and if that was the explanation, I should probably cut my mother a little bit of slack.
Oddly enough, my husband’s observation unlocked a memory of conversations that I used to have with my mother as a little girl. These were about relatives who had passed on and the afterlife, particularly her mother – my maternal grandmother, who passed away when I was still very young. My mom wasn’t a superstitious person, but I remember growing up in our house if anything unexplained or weird happened, like cabinets being opened, toilets being flushed, or random appliances being seemingly kicked on by themselves, her response was always “Oh, that’s just Grandmom.” In that moment it all clicked for me, and I realized the apple really does not fall far from the tree.
It’s been almost a year since my mother’s passing, and I have to say the AC is not the only weird thing going on in my house. I’ve experienced objects disappearing and then reappearing after a short period of time, I’ve had rings come off my finger and switch hands in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping, and I’ve witnessed newly installed light bulbs blow out for no reason. Some of that can probably be chalked up to general absentmindedness or coincidences, but I must wonder if there is something else happening here. . Could it be that my mom was visiting me in the same way she believed her mom visited her years earlier?
So, as we celebrate Mother’s Day and Memorial Day this May, take a moment to remember your moms, and all your loved ones, whether they’re still with us in this realm or not. In the years to come, I feel I’ll look back on these holidays as a testament to Mom’s strength and resilience. I take comfort in knowing that she is at peace and remember her as a magnificent, strong-willed woman who loved us dearly, even in death. Now when I hear strange noises from the AC unit or find an item that was once ‘misplaced’ I smile and say to myself, “Oh, that’s just Mom.”