Where We Find Her

She left us on a chilly December morning. Her little body was worn out. I could feel her leaving.

Memoir by Megan Vered


Several years ago, after one of Mom’s many unsuccessful flirtations with death, I said, Mom, when you get to the other side, promise me you will keep track of us. Utterly offended, she answered, You think that because I won’t be here that you will stop being my children? You will always be my children, and I will know exactly what you are doing.

She left us on a chilly December morning. We sat with her through the night in her tiny assisted-living-semblance-of-a-home, which was packed to the gills with photographs of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren; favorite blankets and artwork; the most fantastic stash of chocolate ever discovered. The hospice nurses advised us that Mom could be in the shadow of death for two weeks, but I knew better. Her little body was worn out. I could feel her leaving.

My husband and I sat vigil. Along with our adopted second mother, James, and our West Highland white terrier, Mac Duff. Though my mother did not believe in God, James brought her unfaltering belief in Jesus into the room, which never failed to provide comfort, despite the fact that we were Jewish and not a Jesus sort of family. James slept in my mother’s favorite turquoise upholstered chair; my husband curled up on the couch. Mac Duff, despite his irritable terrier nature, earned his therapy dog stripes that night, while I hovered at the bedside, singing our much-loved childhood lullaby in the hopes of soothing Mom’s fears the way she had, so many times, soothed mine.

My Pigeon house I open wide and set my pigeons free,

They fly so high they touch the sky and light on the tallest tree.

And when they return from their merry, merry flight I shut the door and I say good night,

Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo.

Mom and daughter.Just as my mother was witness to my first lusty, welcome breath, I was witness to her last. A final rattling gasp—which seemed to lift her skyward—followed by utter silence. I stood by her head, staring at her still, small body, which by now—a month shy of her ninety-first birthday—looked like vintage silk. Finally, I called my older sister Arla, Mom’s chief caretaker. Mom did it, I whispered. After all we’d been through—frantic visits to the ER, multiple hospitalizations, a medication list as long as a novel—I wanted it to sound triumphant, like a valiant crossing over.

You won’t believe this, Megan, but I am sleeping in her bed, and five minutes ago a small woman draped in white crossed over the foot of the bed. My sister was spot-on with the timing; it had taken five minutes for me to leave my mother’s side to pick up the phone and call my sister, who was now living in Mom’s house. My older sister doesn’t have a woo-woo bone in her body, a statement I cannot make about myself or my other four siblings. So if Arla, the straight shooter, saw a woman draped in white crossing the threshold of the bed, then that is exactly what happened.

I like to imagine the tiny draped woman bidding my sister farewell—on her way to meet my father, who had been gone for thirty years. I like to imagine him, hand extended, asking for a dance. I like to imagine them, together, entwined in a welcome embrace. 


One afternoon, toward the end of her life, Danza, my girlhood best friend, was lying in bed, staring out the window. She saw a beautiful, beckoning light. As the light became brighter, she noticed that her surroundings began to dim. She felt herself losing interest in the tangible world. The monotony of black and white could not compete with the brilliant infusion of color. This is it, she thought. She felt herself being pulled into the dazzle. As it turned out she did not complete the journey that day. Months later, she told me that this is when she released her fear of death because death is merely a parallel universe, separated from life by a thin veil; and that after she died, it was only a matter of time before the people she loved would join her.

I was with Danza five months later when she died of lymphoma at age forty-two. It was not long before I felt her—through the veil—one step ahead of me. Opening doors. She was ten months older than me in real life, which meant that she hit all the major milestones before me, especially when it came to seducing boys. It made total sense that even in death she would continue to be the daring trailblazer that she had been in life.

Danza.For a number of months after Mom passed, I could not find her. I kept returning to the image of the thin veil but always emerged disheartened. When I told our family rabbi that I didn’t know where my mother was, he answered, She’s in the same place as my parents because I don’t know where they are either. Yet strange things began to happen. 

Objects began to interconnect in uncanny ways. It happened the first time about a week after her death. I tossed my keys onto the kitchen counter and—as if they were independent beings—they hooked themselves around an eggbeater in a way that I would never be able to replicate. My girlfriend Quinn was a witness. This is how they talk to us, she said. Through exchange of energy. Things like this—energy forces colliding—began to happen every day. Clothing, jewelry, kitchen gadgets, and other inanimate objects appeared to be intentionally interconnecting in curious and seemingly deliberate ways. My response to the continued occurrence of these odd entanglements became a smile, followed by a quiet Hi Mom.

One evening at dusk, my husband went to check on our sailboat, only to find that the light by my side of the V-berth was on. In the three years that we had owned this boat, that light had never worked. It was one of those things that my husband was going to get to. Mom, holding high specifications about bedside reading lamps, apparently had lost patience. My husband created a myth that the salt air was affecting the electrical connections on the boat. I prefer to believe that Mom intervened.

Months later, the day of my niece’s Mexican destination wedding, I misplaced my wedding rings. I had tucked them, along with other jewelry, into a cloth bag, which I had placed in the safe. Upon retrieving the bag, I shook out the contents. Everything was there, but no rings. I pulled the sheets off the bed, upended the wastebasket, even crawled around on the cool tile floor. No luck, until my sister Eve—the practical problem solver—showed up. Patting the bed with her palm, she felt something hard in the packet of travel tissues near her right hand. We picked up the flimsy packet and out fell my rings. Mom had a thing about tissues. She not only bought little travel packets for us girls, but also snappy leather cases to add an air of elegance. It was essential for a woman to have tissues on board. Okay, Mom, I get it. We are all going to cry at Sarah’s wedding. I will act like a lady and put the tissues in my purse.

As time passed my siblings and I began to find her in heartwarming places. My brother Oran found her in the traces of pink and gray that line the sky during sunsets; my sister Eve, in the nimble hummingbirds that visit her Baja garden. I saw her in Utah while soaking in hot springs. As I looked up at the inky sky splattered with shimmering stars, a comet traversed the sky like a billowing scarf. Hi, Mom.

You think that because I won’t be here that you will stop being my children? You will always be my children, and I will know exactly what you are doing.

Perhaps I am guilty of attributing meaning where there is none, yet I am now convinced that, as she predicted, Mom is witnessing my every move. I imagine her, in full color, liberated from pain and sorrow. Across the veil. I find her.


The first anniversary of her death has passed and Mom is back. We cannot gauge her presence on a map. No pin drop can distinguish her whereabouts, because she is everywhere. Neither coming nor going, she is part of the deep river of consciousness that brews inside me. All-pervading, she is making herself known in a new way.

While I yearn to hear her singsong Hello on the other end of the phone and share my latest small-world story or dish about Miss America bathing suits, Academy Awards gowns, or recent political activity, I am adjusting my sense of hearing so I can receive her words. Mom is talking, but her voice has changed. No longer the MIA (Mildred Intelligence Agency), keeper of the family lore who tracked our individual stories with the determination of a bloodhound.

On December 28, the first anniversary of her death—anticipating a tough day—I treat myself to a facial with Nadine. Five minutes in, she asks, Megan, is there a song your mother used to sing to you?

I flutter my eyelashes, glance up at her. Yes, there is.

I don’t know what to tell you, but she’s telling me that when you’re sad and miss her, you need to sing that song.

That song. The one I sang to soothe the rhythm of her ragged breath. The one I hummed to help me through that final night. The soothing song she sang to us as she held us against her breast. The one the cantor sang at her final celebration of life.

My Pigeon house I open wide and set my pigeons free,

They fly so high they touch the sky and light on the tallest tree.

And when they return from their merry, merry flight I shut the door and I say good night,

Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo. Cooroo. 

Cocooned in her song, I exhale. Nadine interrupts. Megan, your mother is such a chatterbox. She won’t stop talking. She says I have to show you this flower in my room. She insists that it’s beautiful and fragile like you. And she keeps telling me that you have to believe in yourself.

I wonder what the flower looks like and why my mother is so insistent. Her perception was always keen, but this feels different. Like she is reading between the lines etched by daily life. Barriers broken down, I assume she is telling me with her 360-degree vision that I am supposed to believe in myself. Believe in my creative abilities as a storyteller. Another veil lifted.

Mom's children.She shows up again during silent meditation the following evening at Friday night services. The first time I have gone to temple since the days immediately following her death. My eyes are closed, I am starting to well up, and suddenly Mom appears. Playful yet adamant, she is explicit. I want you to stop crying for me. You have a wonderful life ahead of you, and new doors are about to openI want you to embrace your life and stop mourning the loss of mine. I open my eyes, look around. Did anyone else hear?

Her words come back to me. You think that because I won’t be here that you will stop being my children? You will always be my children, and I will know exactly what you are doing.

So now, for her sake, I try to release my sorrow. I open my eyes and wait. For new doors to open.



Megan Vered is a published author and avid storyteller. Following her mother's death, she sent a family story to her siblings every Friday. Where We Find Her is part of that collection. 

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