When my mother was very ill, and she knew that she would most likely not be recovering from her grave illness, she gave me her car. “Take it and use it in good health. I want you to have it!”
I was hesitant to take such a gift, due to my overwhelming sadness at the whole idea of her dying. How could she be so blasé about me taking her car?
Sensing my sadness and my pause in outright accepting her gift, she clarified, “If I get better, you’ll give it back. Now will you take it?”
My mother didn’t get better. She died a week later and her car sat in her driveway, unclaimed. The title had been transferred over to me, but I couldn’t even bring myself to pick up the car, let alone drive it. My husband encouraged me. He had been in the room when my mother declared her intentions of giving me her car. She wanted you to have it! He reassured me. How could he understand? It wasn’t that I thought my mother would disapprove or be upset if I drove her car. It went deeper than that. By making that car officially mine, I would thereby be proclaiming that my mother was gone and that she wouldn’t need her car anymore. The stages of grief are sadly funny. They run so deep and painful that there isn’t even a satisfactory word to describe their anguish. In my case, I just couldn’t bring myself to drive her car.
The day we planned to collect the car from my mother’s empty house and bring the car to our house was a hard one for me. All day long, I knew I would be physically getting that car—bringing it into my world—never to be in my mother’s world again. I kept putting off the time we were to leave. My sister would be driving me to our mother’s house and then I would drive the car home. At the last minute, I just couldn’t go through with it, and my husband, seeing my torment, agreed to ride with us to my mother’s house and drive the car back himself.
When we arrived at my mother’s house, I quickly left my husband in the driveway with a brief goodbye. I didn’t want to see him take off her custom license plate, replacing it with our new randomly-chosen one. I, along with my sister, slipped inside our mother’s house. Her energy was there, everywhere, and we felt her all around us. Her scent permeated every room. It was sad and sweet and surprisingly peaceful.
While I meandered around her living room, looking at pictures of happy times, I heard my very spiritual sister call out from the other part of the room. “Mom says that there is something here for you!”
My knees got weak and I did a double take at my sister. “Are you serious!? What are you talking about?” I exclaimed as my stomach did somersaults.
“It’s a feeling, a sort of knowing that came into my head. I am pretty sure the thought is from Mom,” she said. With that, she wandered over to a roll-top desk and stopped. “Whatever it is she wants you to have, it’s in here. Have you gone through this before?”
Slightly spooking me, I answered her honestly. “Yes, Joe (my husband) went through it a couple of weeks ago when we were looking for important papers Mom needed. There’s nothing in there but papers and miscellaneous junk.”
“Hmm…” she muttered as she began to open and go through the desk herself. “Did you see this when you went through the desk?” she asked, holding a beautifully gift-wrapped box.
“Yes, yes,” I told her. “I saw that before, but it has no name on it and she obviously intended to give it to someone. Put it away.”
“No,” my sister insisted. “This is what she wants you to have. I’ll open it up for you,” and with that, she began to tear off the gold lamé paper. “Oh my gosh!” she exclaimed a moment later, when she had the box open. “It is for you!”
Taking the open box from her, I hesitantly peered inside. It was a key chain—a beautiful large hamsa (sometimes called Hand of Miriam, which is an old, and still popular, lucky amulet for protection from the envious or evil eye). This particular one had a Hebrew prayer inside. I began to cry silent tears. There is no one else in my family that my mother would get that gift for except me. I am the only one who is religious, and she was often giving me Judaica gifts.
My sister interrupted my surprise when she added one last tidbit, “Mom wants you to put her car keys on this key chain. She wants you to drive her car.”
What my sister, who doesn’t read Hebrew, failed to understand was that she was indeed right! This was a key chain specifically for car keys. The prayer inside the hamsa was Tefillas HaDerech (the psalm read to ensure a safe journey–often said for car trips!).
Did my sister get a message from my mother? Who is to really say? Did my mother mean for me to have that key chain at that very time for those very keys? Absolutely! That night I placed my new car keys on the key chain from my mother. And I drove my new car. Her energy was there, everywhere, and I felt her all around me. Her scent permeated the inside of the car. It was sad and sweet and surprisingly peaceful!