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Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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Return to lately 2010.
rest in joy
december 1, 2010
When Mary's mom died in 1998, prior to us flying up to Milwaukee for her funeral, we received a sign from her.
On the west wall of our living room is a fireplace. On either side of that fireplace are photographs Mary and I have taken together over the years. Some are of our travels back and forth across America and Canada, some are of our cats, some are of our parents.
One picture in particular has always been a favorite of ours. It was taken in Cape Elizabeth, Maine in the mid-eighties. Mary and I are sitting at a picnic table at one of the rocky beaches, Joan on the other side of the table, standing, raising one hand in a happy salute. Joe took the picture.
When we enlarged our pictures for the fireplace wall, that was one we definitely wanted to include. We hung it with the group of framed photographs to the right of the fireplace.
Because it was a favorite photograph, the same evening Joe called to tell us that Joan had died, Mary at one point went out to the living room, to look at that photograph of happier times.
Except, the photograph was no longer on the wall.
She called me over. "Where's the photograph of us with my mom in Cape Elizabeth?"
I looked at the wall to point it out to her, but it wasn't there.
The thing is, there wasn't even an empty space on the wall where her photograph had been. All the framed photographs were evenly spaced from each other. There was no gap.
Even so, I looked behind the bookcases below the spread of pictures, to see if maybe it had fallen. It hadn't.
I knew that photograph had been on the wall. Had been on the wall for years.
Just as Mary did, with a very deliberate attention I looked from photograph to photograph. No Cape Elizabeth photograph.
We went to the wall on the other side of the fireplace, even though we knew the picture in question had never been hung there, and again looked from frame to frame. No Cape Elizabeth photograph.
It had disappeared, and disappeared without leaving a gap in the arrangement.
Two days later, as we were getting ready to leave for the airport, we did a quick circuit of our rooms, to make sure everything was in order, and there was the Cape Elizabeth photograph, back up on the wall beside the fireplace.
I know for a fact it hadn't been there the two days before. For a fact. We had both checked a number of times over those 48 hours.
I absolutely believe Joan, after her death, supernaturally removed this photograph from our wall for two days, then put it back, as a sign. A communication.
(Some people, of course, will roll their eyes. They'll insist the photograph was always there. If someone dismisses compelling anecdotal evidence with an absurd explanation (despite our meticulous examination of the wall over and over again during those two days, the two of us just "somehow" continuously missed seeing it), that's fine, but then I roll my eyes at them.)
When Joe died earlier this year, we didn't get any such message. I wondered if maybe mothers have a greater need or capacity to communicate from the afterlife than fathers did.
But then, this past Friday, November 26, it happened.
Mary takes Xalatan. It's an eye drop to control her borderline glaucoma.
Joe, Mary's dad, took the same medication. It was a connection between them. They'd often talk about the different side effects each had experienced, comparing notes.
Because of her stroke, which qualified Mary for Social Security disability benefits, her drug coverage is through Medicare Part D.
Medicare Part D is administered by different private companies (they bid for the contracts.) Each company is allowed to have its own reimbursement plan. The company Mary is enrolled with, Cigna, sent us a notice at the beginning of November saying they were no longer going to provide benefits for Xalatan. They wanted Mary to switch to a different, cheaper eye drop medication.
The thing about these eye drops (as Mary and her dad discussed a number of times), is that if you find one that works, you should really stick to it. And in fact Xalatan had worked really well for Mary, significantly reducing her numbers for borderline glaucoma, without an allergic reaction (such as itching).
The Cigna notice said you could request continued benefits for Xalatan if your doctor completed a form (included with the notice) and submitted it to Cigna for review.
Which we wanted to do.
Except, a day or so after receiving the notice from Cigna, the notice went missing.
It had been on the counter between our kitchen and our breakfast nook. Mary had stapled all the pages of the notice, including the form, to the envelope it came in.
And now it was gone.
We searched everywhere for it. Went through all our papers. Emptied all our wastebaskets, to see if we had accidently thrown it away, even though that seemed extremely unlikely. We even looked upstairs, looked in our car, in the garage.
The mailing had disappeared.
Friday morning, November 26, I pulled on some clothes, took out our garbage, then walked down the block to the communal mailbox.
Pulled out the mail, brought it back to the garage, handed it to Mary.
I passed through the kitchen into the hallway off the kitchen leading into our master bedroom, then through there into the master bathroom, and past the double mirrored doors of the walk-in closet, where I changed from my street clothes into pajamas.
Mary walked in. "Look at this!"
I took what she was holding out in her hand.
It was the Cigna notice.I was shocked. "Where'd you find it?"
She showed me a colorful circular from a local supermarket that had been part of the mail I had just picked up, the type of multi-page ad that features bargains of the week in the meat department, produce, etc.
She placed the Cigna notice in the folded center of the circular, showing me where she found it.
My first thought, of course, was that it couldn't possibly be the same Cigna notice we received three weeks ago. How could it get from our kitchen counter to the mail box outside, half a block away?
It must be a second notice. Even though Cigna had never sent us a second notice before. But it was the only explanation that "made sense". I looked at the notice some more. "Where's the envelope it came in?" I could check the postage date.
"There was no envelope."
She placed the notice back in the folded center of the supermarket circular. That was how she found it.
But you know what really made me understand this was something outside what we know? What science knows?
In all the years Mary has been receiving notices from Cigna, and she's probably gotten over a hundred by now, none of them have ever been stapled. Cigna doesn't use staples. (Actually, now that I think about it, I don't know of any company that uses staples for its mailings.)
Yet there, in the upper left-hand corner of the notice, was a staple.
Exactly like the staple Mary put in the notice three weeks ago, just before she put the notice on our kitchen counter.
I believe Joe, in some way that is beyond our understanding, made that Cigna notice disappear, then reappear, just like Joan did over a decade ago with the disappearance and reappearance of the Cape Elizabeth photograph. I believe Joe wanted to send a sign to us. That he still exists on some plane we can't perceive. That there is life after death. For all of us.
We really miss you, Joe. And will miss you even more, this holiday season. But we're happy you're on a new journey.
Rest in joy.
My short story The Bad Boy has been accepted by the anthology Serial Killers, published by Static Movement.
My story Suddenly the Sun Appeared can be read online in the current issue of Midnight Street. Please consider making a contribution to the magazine, so it can continue publishing online. Midnight Street is consistently nominated for Best Magazine by the British Fantasy Society.
In keeping with this month's theme, the Video Lately this time around deals with cats and suicides.