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The Front Walk

On a night not long after my precious mom died from cancer, I was reading the last two chapters of The Ripple Effect—the ones on death, dying and the afterlife. I was crying hard from sorrow, because, unlike the people in Betty's book, my mom had not come to me from Heaven in a dream, and I was feeling sort of cheated. The house was so quiet around me, you could hear a pin drop. Suddenly, I saw a strange flickering on the living room ceiling. I figured a moth was passing by the light out front, but the weather was too cold for moths. I looked out the window and saw that the spotlight aimed at our front walk was flickering like crazy. It had never done that before. But then, unusual things had happened recently out on the front walk.
The first happened the evening my mom died. My husband was in the bedroom, and I and my two cats were in the living room. I was fidgety, watching TV, and suddenly one of my kittens ran across and flew like crazy into the front window. "Why is he so anxious?" I thought. "Someone's out there, walking up the path. Who could be visiting us now?" I had no reason to think this, but my cat was acting like someone was there. I went to the door to see who was coming, but saw no one. Suddenly, the cat calmed down and wasn't interested anymore with what was outside. I shrugged and sat back down. Then the phone rang. It was the nursing home letting us know that my mom had died about five minutes before. I felt a shiver, and I knew darn well that Mom had just paid a visit to our front walk.
It was frigid cold the next day when we brought Mom's belongings home. My husband and I were freezing as we went back and forth from the car to the house, carrying her things. Thoughts of Mom were on my mind, and I said to myself, "She'd be upset to see us suffering in the cold like this because of her." Then we noticed the pungent smell of a burning cigarette on the front walk. My husband and I don't smoke. Neither do the neighbors. But my mom had been a serious smoker for years. We used to joke about it because she had called cigarettes her "vitamins." She quit smoking when she moved into the nursing home, so nothing of hers smelled of smoke. Standing on the walk, my husband and I gave each other a knowing look. There was no reason for the smell of cigarettes to be on our front walk. We knew this could only be Mom's funny way of saying "hi." The smell lingered for a while and later went away.
I've accepted that my mom, most likely, will never visit me from Heaven in a dream. But I will always think of the flickering light, the anxious kitten, and the mysterious scent of cigarettes as sweet "hellos" from her. And perhaps the next time something strange happens on the front walk, I will simply go to the door and invite her in!

Marilyn Zelinsky Syarto



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