The Gathering


Mom. Better Times.

She had been given 2 months to live. They discovered a grapefruit-sized tumor on her bladder, inoperable.

Two years later, after multiple sessions of chemo and radiation, and a few experimental drug therapies, she was still with us.

My mother, aged 53.

The 3 youngest siblings still lived at home. We 3 oldest were scattered. One in Atlantic City, one at college  and myself, in Michigan, 14 hours away.

Over the course of those 2 turbulent years, I had made many emergency trips back to Pennsylvania.

“This is it”, my family would announce.

I would drop everything and go home. Employers understood; my husband, always supportive.

Somehow, each and every time, she would show improvement.  I’d go back to my life and wait for the next call.

This time, something was different. My youngest brother had assured me by phone, she was back in the hospital, but doing well.

I was relieved, but failed to reach Mom at the hospital. I’d try again the next day.

I was awakened in the middle of the night in a complete sweat, trembling nervously. I woke up my husband with 2 simple words.


Newlywed Margaret.

“It’s Mom”.

It was a busy time of my life. I was deeply involved in a new job. I was scheduled to speak at a banquet for 200 the following night. We had a pending offer on a new house.

No matter. I had to go home.

I scheduled the earliest flight, convinced there was no time to drive.

The family was shocked by the surprise visit. They were even more surprised when the other two sisters arrived, unannounced, later in the day.

After all, the doctors said Mom was doing okay.

Our mother was not surprised. She had summoned us, without saying a word.

She died 2 days later. April 30, 1980.

Goosebumps. Still. Thirty five years later.

** We never talked about why we all showed up that day. A few years later, I came across an article that discussed the phenomena that folks who are about to die sometimes send out spiritual messages to loved ones.  I believe.

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61 Responses to The Gathering

  1. Shrewed Up says:

    What a beautiful piece and, I too believe.

  2. hard stories to tell…beautiful and tender.

  3. Rose Red says:

    I too get surprised sometimes what stories I want to tell the blogging community. This is a lovely story, like I want to know more about your mom.
    I have had that happen before, connections with people I have been close to that I can not explain.

    • Thanks, Rose, there are just some things that cannot be explained in worldly terms. She was an interesting, infuriating and complex person. I need to write more about her, but there are painful memories to address. Thanks for reading and commenting. ☺ Van

  4. Your mother was beautiful, Van. For years I volunteered with hospice and these kinds of experiences weren’t that rare. I don’t doubt for a moment that your mom reached out to you. We are more than we can measure. Thanks for sharing with us:)

    • Hospice volunteer…bless you for that, Diana. It takes a special kind of soul. Since that time, the “reach out” has been validated through so many other stories. Hard to deny. ☺ Van

  5. lbeth1950 says:

    Your mother sounds like a beautiful, tortured creature. I am hungry to hear more of her and you.

  6. Silver Threading says:

    I have goose bumps at your loving recount of the last days of your mother’s life. WOW! Similar happened to my husband and his father. We lived in Montana, his Dad in California. He waited for my husband to get there. He died on his 80th birthday a few hours after Ron had arrived at the hospital. Sending peace to you Van. ❤

  7. LaVagabonde says:

    I’ve heard of this happening. She hung in there a long time. Sounds like your mom was a fighter and you were all deeply in tune with each other. I had a similar experience when my mom almost died from blood loss -I woke up freezing cold. It was painful and I couldn’t stop shaking. I learned the next morning what had almost happened. It didn’t happen to any of my siblings.

  8. This is a beautiful story, Van – thanks for sharing it.

    There is far more to this world we live in than mere ‘things’ that can be measured or proven by scientific means – and I’m glad that those possibilities opened up for you in time to see your mother off to the next phase.

  9. Erika Kind says:

    Having goose bumps too reading this story. Beautiful how love is able to connect and call! Thank you for sharing this story, Van.

    • I’d like to think it was love, Erika, but at this point, we were all connected by anxiety and stress. Lots of unresolved issues with Mom. There was to be healing. Thanks for sharing the goose bumps ! ☺ Van

      • Erika Kind says:

        Oh yes, I see! Sorry, I did not mean to interpret anything. But when you are called to someone by the feeling… it is love. The other issues around are actually on the surface (of course not visible when you are in the midst of unsolved situations). But the core is always love. It is always only what we make of it during our life. It is not an excues, but also your mom must have faced difficult situations which made her the way she was. Perhaps it is a little easier to deal with it, when you can accept that one day.

      • I agree, Erika, that the core is love. It took a while to see that, we all came to a place of understanding and forgiveness. Some took much longer than others. No need for “sorry”, I followed your line of thinking. Thanks. ☺ Van

      • Erika Kind says:

        Much love to you, Van!

      • Back to you, Erika, thanks for your thoughtful observations. ☺

  10. Wow, what an amazing story!

  11. George says:

    That’s an amazing story. I’ve read about that phenomena but never knew or spoke with anyone involved in it. Did you speak about why you showed up at the time and not since, or was it never brought up at all?

  12. Oh Van. Beautiful. Sad. Raw. Amazing. Spiritual. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. ❤
    Diana xo

  13. Gosh, Van, your mother was a beauty. I’m so sorry she had to go through what she did, but to be surrounded by her daughters at the end is at least something, isn’t it? My mother was in the US when her father died unexpectedly in Germany. She awoke with a start before she learned he had died and felt his presence in her room. We don’t look for any other explanation than that he was reaching out to her somehow.

  14. Rellick says:

    I’m glad you had more wonderful years with your mom. Blessings

  15. Hello Erika shared your lovely blog and I wanted to come over and say hi! I love this post! Blessings to you! 🙂

  16. writerinsoul says:

    I think most anything I could say has been said by others, Van. We need a word, though, for what ties us to these people in our lives (like it or not). Love isn’t quite it. It’s something primitive and needs to encompass the pain and conflict connected to the feeling.

    This was a great story and I’m glad you decided to share it.

  17. Angie Mc says:

    A beautiful tribute, Van. You capture the mystery of this time so well. I’m glad to know you and your mother ❤

  18. Pingback: Flashback: Bruce Springsteen Surprises U2 Fans in 1987 and I was there. | Family Love Does More

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