Let me begin by assuring you that my mother is alive and well, although some people find this hard to believe. In fact, even when presented with seemingly incontrovertible evidence, such as meeting her in person, some people find this hard to believe. I say this because of a few strange encounters at my father’s church.
Both of my parents are on their third marriages, which in some circles is fine, but as my father is a minister, there are, perhaps, some people who might frown on such things. I have no direct evidence that any trickery was involved on his part, but last year I visited him in Maine where he had recently moved from Ohio, and, like most times that I visit anyone on a Sunday, I was asked to sing during his church service.
The singing went well, and I stood at the back of the sanctuary with my father after the benediction, shaking hands and humbly receiving the many compliments given to me by the congregants as they left. The strangest comment by far was the woman who hugged me and said “That was beautiful. I know your mother heard that in heaven and is very proud.” This was confusing to me, as I had just seen my mother a few days before, and had spoken to her on the phone less than 48 hours earlier. Had this woman killed my mother and was now letting me know? That seemed unlikely, as the woman was using a walker and I felt that my mother could have easily taken her down.
So then I had to think, had my father told his congregation that the mother of his children had died, thus creating a more church-friendly back story for his current marriage? Or had this woman just assumed that because he had remarried, and was a direct servant of God, his previous wives must obviously be dead? Well, when the person behind this woman in line echoed this sentiment, I began to get suspicious. Of course I never asked my father about it. What would I say? “Hey Dad, did you tell everyone Mom was dead?” Awkward. So I ignored it and didn’t think about it again.
Flash forward to August of last year, and the funeral of my uncle. My uncle Gordon was my mother’s brother, and he happened to have lived just a few towns over from my father in Maine. When my family and I attended the funeral, it seemed only natural for us to stay at my father’s house, and of course I was going to sing in church on Sunday morning. So, without thinking, I invited my mother to come to church too, since she was in town as well. Oops.
I had forgotten that my mother was dead to my father’s congregation, and indeed he was less than thrilled when I mentioned that my mother would be in attendance. However, I was quite proud and surprised when he introduced her during the service as the mother of his children. She waved, they smiled, and it seemed no harm was done. I thought the matter at a close. Until yesterday.
This weekend we visited my father again, and I sang in church again. At the end of the service, a woman (was it the same woman? I don’t know….) came up to me and praised my voice. She asked, “Did your mother have a nice voice, when she was still with you?” They still think my mother is dead!
So did my father tell everyone that last August we were visited by her ghost? Did these women just miss that particular Sunday and no one managed to gossip to them that the pastor’s first wife was there? Did they all just assume that she was a ghost? Perhaps they are getting a little senile and don’t remember anything about last August. I don’t know. What I do know is that, although my mother is dead in Maine, she is alive in New York, and the alive version of her thinks that this is hysterical.