Joe loved ghost stories. Celebrity ghost stories, ghost hunters, or ghostbusters. It didn’t matter as long as he could sit in the dark and be scared out of his mind. This of course meant I was also held captive watching some D list celebrity talk about the hanging woman they saw while staying at a hotel in hollywood.
There’s something about being scared that is equal parts awful and thrilling that you can’t help put peer out of the little gaps between your hands to see what is happening next though you really don’t want to know.
Joe was afraid of a lot. Ghosts, snakes and spiders. I’ll never forget the time I came home from work to find him sitting in the hallway with a cup over a large bug. I have no idea how long he’d been sitting there but he had captured the terrifying creature and had stayed still until I got home to get rid of it. There’s something about someone else’s fear that makes you suddenly jump out of your own skin. I took a piece of paper, covered the cup and walked the little guy down the stairs of our apartment. I did it all while Joe was freaking out behind me convinced I was going to get stung in the eye and the bug was of course probably poisonous. I rolled my eyes but there was a part of his fear that put an extra jump in my heart as I watched Mr. Bug leap onto the grass.
When you have cancer, you know a lot about fear. It can leave you feeling sick and more aware of everything and everyone around you.
You also have to control the fear.
Joe and I got a little hippie-dippy over our course with cancer. I realize now it was all about control. We spent more time in Whole Foods trying to understand what our food is made of and giggling through the nut butter aisle. We stopped eating red meat. Joe meditated and tried to get me too. He’d order fruit from Mexico and whip up his healing smoothies in the morning.
Control the fear.
Joe was more into it than me and I look back now and wish I would have supported him more. At the time, I was so afraid he’d get on some internet miracle cure train and forgo traditional treatment. It scared me. I was afraid I’d lose him without giving it a try. I now know that it had more to do with control than anything else.
So, Joe was pretty excited when I started getting into essential oils. It seems every cool mom is doing it and when you’re promised a little swipe of oil will make your child sleep — you’ll buy into anything.
So there I stood in my kitchen, mixing oils into coconut creams and pumping Joe’s room with relaxing lavender and thieves. I was pretty sure I was doing something though there’s really no proof of much.
When Joe went into hospice, I packed up my oils and diffuser and filled his room with peace and calming. I changed the oils in hopes I was giving him some pain relief. There was also this ghost loving, hippie part of him that hoped that as the magical oils floated up into the air, maybe, just maybe I was helping his soul get to where it needed to go.
A few weeks after Joe died, the diffuser did too. I was aggravated my fancy contraption had stopped working but it hasn’t been high on my priority list to get fixed as the rest of life sped along.
Last week, I hit a dark spot in the middle of the night.
The baby wouldn’t sleep more than 30 minutes or so and every time I finally fell asleep I’d hear her wailing again from her room.
I begged for her to please sleep. I begged Joe to please help me. I was afraid I’d never survive the night alone, or this life alone.
I laid in bed between a crying fit and started thinking about my magic sleepy oils. I started searching online to see if how to mail back my broken oil pumping machine. I eventually gave up and gave in to my sleepiness.
The next morning, I got Mira dressed for school and we were on our way. As I was driving, I had the most surreal daydream I’ve ever experienced.
Now, yes, I was sleep deprived and yes, there’s the chance I’ve completely lost it but it was the most comforting, beautiful image in my head. I was dreaming but I was awake.
I walked right up to Joe and he wrapped his arms around me. But the most amazing thing was that I saw him in heaven. I could picture him standing in the clouds and hugging me.
I came to as I made my way through traffic and thought to myself, I wonder if this is part of the grief process? Is it part of it when you can see your loved one in heaven instead of just missing them on Earth?
I soaked in the feeling of hugging Joe as I dropped Mira off and headed home. My arms loaded with bags, I walked in the back door and was suddenly pulled to the front of my house. I couldn’t even believe what I was seeing.
The oil diffuser that had been broken for months sat in the same spot but was lit up and was bubbling water and blowing smoke. I couldn’t even move but could only stare at the machine I’d messed with and moved around the house to every outlet trying to get it to work again.
I took a picture just to prove it to myself.
To be honest, I didn’t even question it. My very first inclination was that it was Joe. My heart was bursting until the practical side of my brain started to take over.
Wait, maybe Joe’s mom had fixed it while she was here babysitting last night? Maybe she plugged it in again? I called her quick and she told me she hadn’t touched it in two months since we were both trying to figure out why it stopped working.
I told her about my night and my morning and we both sat on the phone and cried.
I have absolutely no explanation why this thing started working that day.
It’s kinda scary and kinda wonderful.
Honestly, I don’t even care if there’s some logical reason for what I saw.
That morning, I have no doubt Joe was there and maybe even trying to spook me. But I wasn’t afraid for a second.