It has been such a source of internal distress for me that my mom has never appeared in one of my dreams. I am going on 7 long years of managing to function without her daily visits, phone calls, and emails (anything but texting; she died as an unapologetic flip phone fanatic with an Abba ringtone).
During her unrelenting fight with Stage IV ovarian cancer, I spent months of my life in the hospital alone. Literally…when you add up all of the hours as her steadfast support during experimental 24-hour infusions, chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, procedures, and blood draws, it was months. No matter what we were dealing with, how dire the news or circumstances, how excruciating the pain, how infuriating the commute home — we always managed to laugh. Sometimes, we’d even have hysterical crying fits while she was attached to an IV. It was pretty funny when nurses had to don hazmat suits to safely administer the poison that pumped freely through her veins.
I was my mom’s primary caregiver; her only caregiver. It was my honor to fulfill every last blanket request or food craving or prescription, to spend precious time watching old movies, exchanging memories, trading recipes, and telling stories as she recovered from the latest survival test. I took care of her the way she took care of me.
Though expected, I was positively gutted by her death. I have never recovered.
I will never recover.
When you’re utterly consumed by grief, like I am, you look for any little sign or validation or song to feel less alone, to close the gaping wound in your heart even a little bit more. Last night, my mom finally made a brief appearance in my dream, looking achingly radiant and beautiful and healthy, with her trusty shopping cart at her perfectly manicured fingertips, adorned by nothing short of four gold rings. She would always insist on being the one to push the cart during our endless shopping excursions, and would defiantly go and get her own on the rare occasion I wouldn’t acquiesce to her demand.
We were browsing a Pier 1 type of store–so fitting because it’s going out of business–and I eyed a centerpiece for my dining room table. I examined it thoroughly, turning it so the light hit it at different angles, making the silver and gold tones sparkle, beaming striking rays of light on the once dingy ceiling. I asked for her opinion, as I always did, and she agreed that it would be absolutely perfect for the space.
In true Michele fashion, she insisted on buying it for me, scooping it out of my hands in one fluid motion, rendering me defenseless. She set off to the cash register in haste, so I wouldn’t grab it back in an effort to pay for it on my own.
I stayed at the display for one moment, considering buying another one for my kitchen island, and she was gone.
I frantically searched the aisles with clenched, sweaty fists holding my phone, hoping she’d call to tell me her location. My heart was beating out of my chest in an unfamiliar rhythm as my watery eyes darted from display to display.
I looked for what seemed like an eternity. She was gone.
I woke my husband up at 6:30 a.m. to share this story, as he knows how long I have waited for even one appearance of my beloved mom in a dream.
He immediately said, “I hope it gives you comfort to know she is giving you approval for something.”
I have been thinking about his words for hours, nonstop.
Today marks one year since “When You Lived in My Belly,” the children’s book I wrote to fulfill her dream, was published. Was it approval for that?
I just finished the first draft of my new children’s book centered on grief yesterday. Was it approval for that?
After endless research and countless sleepless nights, tears, and soul searching, I made the grueling decision to opt in for remote learning for the upcoming school year. Was it approval for that?
I don’t know. I will never know.
I do know that, after all of these years, I am profoundly grateful for even a glimpse of my exquisite mom, for any possible nod of approval from my eternal caregiver that transcends the distance between us.
This article originally appeared on Thrive Global