Another amazing one from my friend Chris Bing! Chills again. Has anything like this ever happened to you?
During the last six months of her illness, we had to put my mom in Hospice care. This was both good and bad: bad because we realized with certainty that the end was not far off, and good because she was able to stay in her condo of twenty plus years. And there was a steady stream of caregivers on hand to help her, but more importantly, to keep her company. My mom most feared being alone and these dedicated workers filled a gap and she was grateful to have someone to talk to during those long days.
One of her favorites was a young mother named Mariana, who came to visit my mom two or three days a week. She’d arrive around 11:00 AM, make my mom lunch, and then spend the rest of the afternoon doing odd jobs around the condo; washing dishes, washing clothes and tidying the place up. But mostly she would come sit next to my mom in her chaise longue and talk. My mom loved Mariana and as the weeks went by, began to open up and talk to Mariana about her life and eventually about her death. Mariana is a beautiful soul, and a gifted and willing listener but did not shy away from discussing with my mom about her religion and the spiritual world beyond life and death, which Mariana, a devout Catholic, profoundly believed in.
One day, my mom asked Mariana why she did it: why did she go house to house and take care of a group of dying strangers? Mariana smiled at her and explained that it was her calling to come and comfort these people, to explain her faith to them and to get them prepared for what was going to happen once people pass from this realm to the next. What was coming, she explained, was so much better than what they were leaving. Faith was a powerful thing.
My mom looked at her for a moment with an almost bemused expression on her face.
“I don’t know about that one, Mariana, I’m not sure I believe that at all.”
Mariana smiled, “It’s alright if you’re not sure, Virginia. But I am sure. Only joy is coming and it will be wonderful.”
“Hmmm,” said my mom, “I just don’t know. But here, I’ll tell you what, Mariana, when I get there, if I can, I’ll send you a sign. How’s that?”
Mariana laughed and said, “Now that would be wonderful, Virginia, really, really wonderful!”
A few weeks later, Mariana was assigned to another Hospice patient and she was never able to see my mom again.
A few days after my mom had passed away, Mariana called to tell us that the day before she had been in the car driving to pick up her daughter at school at around 3:00 PM, which she did everyday at this time. It was her habit on these drives to listen to NPR on the radio. But this day, for no reason whatsoever, she decided that she would listen to something completely different. She randomly chose another station by merely pushing the first button on her radio that she came to, and see what would come on. What came on was a local pop station playing Billy Joel’s “Only The Good Die Young” at the exact moment of song where he was singing the lyric:
“So come on Virginia, show me a sign
Send up a signal and I’ll throw you a line.”
She was so surprised by this sudden burst of lyric that seemed to be aimed directly at her, that she began to veer the car into the lane next to her. A car suddenly appeared on her right, blasting its horn, quickly passed her and drove from sight. But not before Mariana caught sight of the car’s vanity license plates that read: VIRGINIA.
Mariana had to pull the car over and take a moment to get a hold of her self before she felt like she could safely get back on the road. When she called us to speak of her encounter, a full day later, we could still hear the emotion in her voice. Strangely enough, this song was from the album, The Stranger, a record my parents gave me at Christmas, 1977. Although she probably heard me playing this song a thousand times (in fact, this song was the reason I wanted the album in the first place), I doubt my mom even knew the name of the song much less be able to come up with any of the lyrics. And yet…
Before she hung up, I asked Mariana what she made of it all and you could literally hear the joy in her voice.
“Oh, I took it as a sign. Don’t you?”