The holidays can be tough for those who have lost a loved one. Essayist Mel Miskimen lost her mother in the spring and is facing her first Christmas without her:
After my mom died, I waited for her to send me a sign. It was August. Mom passed in April and so far? Nothing.
I knew the veil separating the world of the living from the dead was permeable from my past guilty pleasure, watching psychic Sylvia Brown on the Montel Williams Show. She knew exactly how the deceased was contacting the survivor. “Every time you smell a cigar, it’s him,” she’d say or simply, “Feathers.”
Was I a believer? Not really. She gave people peace of mind and closure. What’s wrong with that? I needed closure. I needed peace of mind. I needed feathers.
How does one choose a psychic? The Internet! Did I care about a person’s ability to channel the Archangel Metatron who walked the earth as Enoch? No. The more I read about spirit realms and meta physical soul retrievers, the thing I cared about? My immortal soul. Was I playing with hell fire?
And then, I saw a listing. The psychic’s name? Same as mine. Her suite number? 817. And when is my birthday? August 17! I got an appointment for that Wednesday.
I waited in the hallway. I heard her checking her voice mail through the office door:
Hi, it’s Sharon! I just wanted to call about my soul contracts, call me, bye!
Hi, it’s Anthony, and I forgot what you said about my star chart!
Hi, it’s Sharon, again, the dog’s not eating, is it because she’s mirroring my issue with food?
I was just about to run to the elevator and press "lobby" when her door opened. She looked the way I had hoped: Judi Dench with a heaping helping of Helena Bonham-Carter. Her office was The Great and Powerful Oz meets Mad Men. The smell took me back, to another lifetime . . . another place: Madison? 1974?
She lit the regulation psychic medium candle.
“How can I help you?” she said.
“I want to know why my mom hasn’t sent me a sign?” I said.
“How long has it been since she crossed?”
“April,” I said.
She said nothing. She just looked. At me? The wall? Was this the moment? Mom?
“You’re mother . . . was . . . confused . . .” she said.
“Yeah, she a little loopy,” I said.
“She thought she was dreaming–”
“Oh. Was she alone?” I said.
“There was a woman with a big hat, a deep red color, like wine.”
My mom had a black and white picture of her mother from 1922 in a big brimmed hat, that she told me was a deep, red, wine-color. That was freaky.
“How come I don’t feel her around me?” I said.
She shrugged. “I’m sorry our time is up,” she said.
That’s it? A shrug?! She couldn’t have made something up, like . . . “She sends you spam email?” I walked to the elevator and pushed the express button . . to Hell.
When I got home, I called my dad, to see how he was doing. “I tried to call you,” he said, “But I kept getting this message, something about your in-box being full.”
It had been awhile since I purged. I started to delete, delete, delete, without paying attention and then I just happened to see the date and the time. I pressed play.
Hi, it’s your mom. I’m doing much better today. So you don’t have to worry about me...if you were going to worry...don’t worry. Bye.
I pressed the save button. I had my sign.
Lake Effect essayist Mel Miskimen is a contributing writer for More Magazine, guest blogger on The Huffington Post and the author of Cop's Kid. She lives in Milwaukee.