It’s obvious that I have had a really weird experience, here as a human, alive on earth. The level of connection that I had with my mom was seriously weird. Weirder than I want to believe, and I highly doubt most folks would believe it, which is why only a handful of people outside of my family know about it.
I am even hesitant to put it here. In general, I don’t believe in magic, the supernatural, psychic connections, mindreading….you get the idea. It sucks having experiences that contradict what you believe and not really knowing how to feel about it.
When I was a little girl, I could not be separated from my mom for extended periods. I didn’t spend the night at a friend’s house until I was probably 10 years old. When my brother and I were young, from birth to about 10/11, my mom had her own business — Blossoms of Yore. She made these very popular dried flower arrangements and sold them in all of the fancy boutique stores in town. She would also make fresh flower arrangements for weddings and special events. Most people forgot that my mom was an artist. When she was a teen, she was apparently very skilled. I never got to see any of her stuff, but I do remember people telling stories about it and in particular of a dot art portrait she had done of Jim Morrison that her parents made her destroy for religious reasons.
Because of her business, she would often end up going to trade shows that required her to travel overnight. I can still vividly remember trying to spend the night at my cousin’s house and screaming and crying for my mom. It felt like my heart was physically being ripped out of my chest. No amount of comfort from my aunt and uncle helped. I just cried, screamed, and hyperventilated and had this sense that I would never see her again. I wish that I could find better words to explain how scary it was for me. The same thing would happen even if she were not out of town, and somebody invited me for a sleepover. After several of these episodes, she stopped going to her trade shows.
In the house that my parents built, I would stare at her portrait in their master bedroom and would become overwhelmed with sadness just by looking at her beautiful face. I always had a sense that her life was going to be a tragedy, even when I had no real reason to.
When we were children, she was a phenomenal mother and caretaker. She was very loving and gentle. She was also funny, creative and a fantastic teacher. She used to set up these intricate, but age appropriate, treasure hunts all over the house and property for myself, my brother, and my cousins. She would hide hints all over the house with riddles leading us to the next clue. I was able to fully read and write before I entered kindergarten, because she spent so much time helping me to understand everything. I walked when I was 9 months old and could speak in full sentences shortly after I turned 12 months old (she also documented me with notes in a photo album), and I would be willing to bet my life it was because she spent so much time with me.
Everybody loved my mom. I am talking everybody. Every kid that I knew in school would openly tell me (and embarrassingly their own parents) that they wished my mom were their mom. More than anything else, I remember how safe she felt. I remember her comforting touch and how I would melt into her arms.
She didn’t start to spiral until just before I was about to enter middle school, when she hooked up with Scott. I carried a lot of anger and frustration towards her for an awfully long time because I couldn’t stop holding her to the standard she developed when we were younger. It was very difficult for me to watch her change, and not be able to help her get back to being the mother that she was during those earlier years. But she changed because her life changed.
She had spent 12-years (ding! ding! ding!) in an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage (ding! ding! ding!), was the only one working (ding! ding! ding!) and had been disfellowshipped by her church which resulted in the loss of her entire family and many friends, all at once. It was clear to me how much pain she was in, but it wasn’t easy for me at my age to understand why she couldn’t just let it go in favor of my brother and me. After all this, she met my stepdad, who introduced her to an entirely new life full of drugs, alcohol and Hell’s Angels. I can only imagine how after being treated so poorly for so long, the extreme restrictions of the church and being in the kind of emotional pain that she was, how good it must have felt to have the attention of men and the euphoric effects of drugs, alcohol and all the excitement in her life. It was kind of the perfect storm. She was extremely naïve, and she jumped too fast and too deep into a hole she was never able to get out of again.
My relationship with her ended up being very complicated. I loved her so much and the “old” her was always there, sometimes out front, sometimes lingering in back, but with it was always holding hands with this new dirty version of her that was difficult to live with. Our roles also changed, and I became her mother in many ways. Constantly worrying about her, trying to track her down, stop her from driving intoxicated and getting herself into scary situations. It was incredibly sad to see her breakdown so often and become inconsolable, sobbing but unwilling to talk about her feelings. She did apologize often, both when sober and not. Apologizing for not being the mother that we deserved, and for causing us so much pain and anxiety. An especially sad moment was when she sobbed out that all she ever wanted in life was to be a good mother but that she had fucked it all up. I would always tell her that it was ok, and that she needed to let go of her guilt because it was only going to hold her back. That she gave me much more in life than she had taken and that I would always be there for her. In the end though, I betrayed my promise to her and now have my own guilt that I cannot let go of.
The changes that she went through in her life, specifically from the time she met Scott until she died, was a huge motivator for me to change my own life. I started to see how similar we were in positive and negative ways and started to understand that nobody is immune to the effects of abuse and trauma. I started to understand that when people hit a particular amount of pain that they will do anything to make it stop. Drugs, sex, alcohol, self-harm, suicide. This made me question what was going to happen to me in my future if I didn’t make the necessary changes. Was I going to get murdered? Was I going to kill myself? Was I going to start drinking every night? Was my daughter going to have to watch me suffer and spiral and eventually be trapped by the pain of her mother for the rest of her life?
I am confident as a mother. However, my own mother was far and beyond better than I was when my brother and I were little. This is something that I have beat myself up about until I had a bit of a breakthrough in considering the circumstances and timelines. My mother had my brother and me when she was 20 and 22 years old. She had only been in her abusive relationship for 3 years at that point. She was super young, and I imagine was not yet completely emotionally depleted. I on the other hand, had Audrey when I was 33 and had already been locked in a pattern of abuse for 10 years and had the trauma of her suicide. I was only 2 years away from no longer being able to keep my sanity while also being a mom, a professional and the wife of an abuser.
While our personalities and most of our life choices were very different, we certainly had a lot of similarities and also, a nearly otherworldly connection.
Sometimes it was pleasant. We could easily finish each other’s thoughts and sentences and playing the psychic guessing game was entertaining for guests. Sometimes it was not so pleasant.
My mother drove me mad throughout my teen years and early twenties. I started developing an uncanny sense for when she was in danger or going to get herself into trouble. I would literally beg that woman not to attend certain parties or go out on particular nights when I would get this sense. She ignored me for years, and every single fucking time she would end up hurt or in big trouble. There was the time she drunkenly fell out of the back of a van and hit her head on the pavement. The time that she had ended up in the ER with an abnormal heart rhythm. The time she developed a hematoma in her leg from her ass falling off a sled onto jagged lake ice. The time she was almost raped by a redneck at a barn dance. The time she hit black ice, wrapped her car around a telephone pole and cracked her skull open. I will say, that after this happened dozens of times, she did eventually start to listen to me. Ironically, the first time she stayed home when I asked her to, she was supposed to be on a boat with friends that capsized at the Comox Lake, and everybody died.
We shared dreams. I’m not talking about the kinds of dreams that most people share, such as flying dreams, showing up at school naked, trying to run but not being able to, etc. She and I shared the same EXACT dreams on the same EXACT nights. Some of the dreams were reoccurring and I will share the two that were most common.
The first example, we are not together in the dream, but individually locked in a room full of small cages. In the cages are unhealthy birds and the cages are littered with layers of empty bird seed shells, droppings and feathers. The food dishes are all empty and the water dishes have water but are cloudy and sour. The birds are dying. In our dream, we are desperately trying to clean the cages and help the birds, but the birds are dying one by one and there never seems to be enough time to get the cages cleaned in time to help the birds. The door opens and we get into a canoe that self-propels itself over a lake in total darkness and silence. As the boat floats over the surface, little splashing noises start to break the silence and kittens start to bob up. Another desperate panic starts to save drowning kittens. Many kittens are pulled from the water and clutched close before the dream ends.
The second example that I must share caused me a tremendous amount of anxiety through my life and this dream occurred on a regular basis. It is short and not detailed. We are in a car together and she is driving. We go over a bridge, a cliff, or a mountainside and plunge into water below. We each always woke up as soon we realize that we are going to die.
One evening, when I was about 13, I was laying awake in my bed, petting my cat, when I heard what sounded like a whisper in my ear. I stopped petting my cat to be still and listen and I heard it again, but this time the whisper clearly said my name. Immediately after the second whisper, I was completely unable to move, except for my head, which I immediately started to violently shake back and forth, trying to break free of my paralysis. As I lay there, completely unable to move my body, with my own name being whispered in my ear on repeat, shaking my head, my body just felt heavier and heavier like it was sinking through my bed. I fought against the weight while unable to move. I was trying so hard to move that my muscles were burning. I could feel hands all over my body and my eyes started to close. I have tried so many times to describe the whole feeling, and as silly as it sounds, all I can really say is that I felt like something was trying to pull me somewhere else, out of this world and I was fighting as hard as I could to make it stop. With no warning or comedown process, everything stopped in an instant and I went flying off my bed with all the force I had been exerting. My body hit my door, I opened it, ran into the living room, and started to freak the fuck out. My mom came out of her room and asked me what happened. She listened patiently to me and started to cry about halfway through my story. Scott was also with us and after I finished, he told my mom “You better tell her.” My mom confessed that the exact same thing had happened to her the night before, but she did not want to tell me or my bother because she did not want to scare us. Several months later, my brother had a remarkably similar experience early in the morning before school. My mom was already at work when it happened, and he was so physically and emotionally traumatized by it that I had to call my grandparents and we ended up taking him to the ER. My brother and I were often at odds during our youth, and it was one of the only times that I can recall wanting to comfort him and him accepting it. For the record, I have experienced sleep paralysis hundreds of times through my life, and what happened was nothing like sleep paralysis and I was fully awake when it happened.
I know that this all sounds totally insane and unreal, I must point out that this stuff was well known and documented within our tight circle of family and friends. A lot of people jokingly referred to us as witches and they might not even have been all that wrong. This next bit, I already regret sharing because it just tops off the psycho sundae with extra nuts. Both of my great, great, great grandmothers on my mother’s side of the family (Egan & Alexander) got themselves into a lot of trouble with their supposed talents. One of them could move objects without touching them and the other predicted several people’s deaths in a row (it was a car accident) while reading their tea leaves. The telekinetic one was beat by her husband for doing it and made to stop. Her favorite object to move was a piano bench and it ended up in my aunt’s living room and then later in the Kingdom Hall.
Going back to the dreams, I am not sure how much that last dream bothered my mom, but we did talk about it the year she died. It was about 6 months after I had returned home and there was a lot of tension between us. My expectations of her upon returning home did not match up with the reality of things and I was crushed. In addition to feeling crushed, I was starting to feel like she was going to drive me insane with worry. We went out for dinner and had a very honest and quite lovely heart to heart over several things. Eventually, the honesty led me to tell her that I felt that this shared dream was a warning to me that I needed to listen to. A warning that if I did not sever the weird connection that she and I had, that if she ever really went overboard, I would go right over with her. I spoke in more detail about how much I anxiety that I’d already lived with, always knowing when something was wrong or waiting for something bad to happen. When speaking of our connection I said, “I don’t want this anymore.” If memory serves, we both cried a little. I remember her holding my hand from across the table and telling me that she wasn’t mad, but that she was proud of me for being able to put myself first. She also apologized, for the 100th time for being the cause of most of my anxiety.
Sadly, this whole conversation and interaction only happened because of the immense amount of marital pressure that I was under. James had grown incredibly frustrated and angry with me for being so close to her at this point in time. We all lived together for about 10 months when we first came back to BC, and it was a total disaster. He started lashing out at her the way he did me (verbally and emotionally) and she had the challenging task of trying to help me see that I was being abused, without pushing me away, as I was still deep in denial at that point. It also triggered her into binge drinking, which triggered me into depression, which triggered him into cruelty. It sounds so weird to say, but he was very jealous of the closeness we had and angry because he felt that I tried more to take care of her, than I did of him. I wish that they both didn’t need me to take care of them in the first place.
He started to really lose it when she and I both started crying in our sleep on the same nights at the same times. He violently kicked me in the leg one night to wake me up and referred to me as a “mommy’s girl” frequently afterwards. After that, I felt a pressing need to detach from her to try to quiet things down. Interestingly enough, it actually kind of worked. I stopped having dreams, stopped crying in my sleep, stopping feeling so much for her on a regular basis.
Until the night of August 11th.
That night I couldn’t keep my mind off her and was overcome with worry. We hadn’t spoken for 2 months at that point, and I missed her. I had been having to push fantasies out of my mind that involved breaking up with James and being able to reconnect with her again. Unable to sleep, I was scrolling social media feeds in bed and came across a post from one of the local news stations about how a woman’s body had washed ashore at one of the beaches earlier that day. My heart actually did just stop, and I remember the feeling of it bubbling back to life a few seconds later. Like 2 beats on top of each other for a moment while it tried to get back in rhythm. I sent my brother a message and asked him if he had spoken to her recently. He let me know he had talked to her yesterday, but that he was unable to reach her that day when he tried. I sent him the article and told him that I felt like it was her. He assured me that she was probably fine, as it wasn’t unusual for her to not return calls for several days at a time.
Two days later, on Monday, Taze messaged me and asked if he could give me a call. James and I were just getting into the car to go to the gym. We went back to the house, and I sat down on a chair in the enclosed veranda, knowing what was coming.
“Hey, is James with you?”
“Yeah, he is right here.”
“Ok” and he sighs
“It was her wasn’t it.”
I don’t really want to recount the words that started coming out of my mouth in the seconds right after that, but as I was in the middle of it, James grabbed my arm and pulled me up from the chair that I was sitting in and wrapped his arms around me from behind and pointed out the window. There was a herd of 12–18 massive bucks trotting through the yard, and every one of them looked right into my eyes. It was probably nothing, but it felt like something.
Because I couldn’t have a baby shower, we had a party after Audrey was born. At said party, it was like a wave of people confessing all their feelings of her in the air. It was kind of intense and I may or may not have forcefully and physically removed somebody from my bubble who just would not leave me alone about it after I had asked them to, repeatedly. My Aunt Sarah swears to God she saw her reflection on the ferry one time. Her friend Kim went on and on and on at Audrey’s welcome party about how she could feel my mom’s presence all the time. She also told a funny story that was totally classic Rhonda, about how when the Cranberries came out with the song Zombie, my mom thought they were singing Tommy, so she sang that song replacing Zombie with Tommy until Kim realized and told her.
I think people expected a lot more from me after she died, due to the deep and profoundly weird connection that we shared when she was still living. They would ask me if I felt her or ever saw her (fuck off) and stuff like that. They seemed either disappointed or thought that I was lying to them. I never did and I still haven’t “felt” her presence or anything like that. I don’t even know if I believe that is a possibility. But I am envious of those who claim that they have felt her out there in the air. There are days when I am desperate to feel her again.
When I visited the Southern Gulf Islands a few weeks ago, my Aunt Sarah and I organically got to talking about a lot of the things that I was in the process of writing about with this blog entry. It was very good for me to hear from somebody who is older and had known her since childhood. Sarah was able to confirm that my impressions of my mom when I was younger were 100% correct and true, and that our feelings on what happened to her lined up perfectly. She described my mom as being like a living fairy princess until she met Scott. The word “golden” has been used to describe her many, many times. In my thoughts, she was molten golden love to her core.
“No, 2018 goes into the loss column for the loss of the golden friend and crush of my youth. To me, she was light and life, and all things good and glorious. I had the privilege to know her for many years and I can only hope that she knows peace.” — Eric Kozak (my dad’s brother, reflecting on whether 2018 was a win or a loss year in one of his writings)