I Am My Mom’s Dead Soulmate (Essay)

Art by Sam Liacos.

She was going to the beach with the boyfriend my mom hated. They were far away from the city when he crashed the car, and she was killed. They needed the parents to ID the body, so neither villain father nor ghost mother were around to tell the little kids their big sister had left forever.

Vanessa’s grandma was crying uncontrollably, but nothing to be compared with her little sister’s fit of anger with the injustice of the world. She started screaming, yelling, sobbing–everything at once. Her little brother disappeared at first, and came back from Vanessa’s room later, holding her favorite watch. “But she didn’t take her watch,” he said, confused.

Mom was 17. Vanessa was, too, only she wasn’t anything anymore, because she was dead. The best friend my mom ever had was dead, and there was no one to help her process that, because nobody knew what to do about it. How do you proceed with life when you lose your soulmate? What do you do?

She didn’t do much. She tried to keep pushing through.

She had terrible nightmares. She had terrible dreams. She saw Vanessa all the time when she wasn’t really there, and the denial wasn’t quite the same as the ghosts that haunted her every night. She felt like part of her had died in that car accident as well. She wanted to kill the boyfriend who was driving and had come unscattered from the accident. She wanted to kill someone, anyone. She wanted to scream. She wanted to point fingers. She wanted to cry. She wanted to undo what had been done.

She just wanted to feel like she wasn’t alone again.

Mom found some solace in spiritism. The doctrine says, among other things, that the soul is immortal. What espiritismo/spiritism/kardecism (all synonyms) preaches is that when God created our souls, we were all primitive and ignorant. When we die, we’re given a chance to study our past life and evaluate where we did right and where we did wrong, and decide what we want to improve in our next lives. The goal is to be perfect.

Every life is a chance to undo your wrongs for past lives. You choose a family where you’re either needed or you feel like you need to make amends. You grow up around those people who you’ve probably been around for many, many reincarnations before, and you teach them and they teach you, and hopefully you come out of it a little kinder.

If the goal, so distant it’d seemed almost impossible, was to be perfect, and the soul was immortal, than Vanessa and her memory were safe. At first, mom didn’t understand anything but the basics, but it did help her sleep at night.

If Vanessa was eternal, then she wasn’t really dead.

With the passing months, she started seeing Vanessa, but this time more clearly. This time, she believed, it wasn’t her haunted imagination, but Vanessa herself. She’d appear to my mom in dreams, talking about the place where she was, talking about learning, talking about forgiving, talking about letting go. She still missed my mom dearly, but they would be together again sometime soon.

It never even occurred to my mom that it could be a bad omen of death. She accepted every dream with Vanessa as a new blessing. She told me she could always tell when they were dreams cooked up from her subconscious and when it was really her.

Spiritism allowed her that much: the doctrine says that spirituality and mediunity are fluid things. The more you practice them, the more you feel it. If Vanessa really had died only to wake up on the other side, pulled up back on her feet by old spiritual friends, and been invited to evaluate her past life, then surely mom would be at the core of every turn.

Once the spirit’s soothed into the transition of not having a physical body anymore, they may see their loved ones, visit them, wish them good. Sometimes in dream, sometimes in person. Sometimes they’re standing right in front of you, and you still don’t see them, because you wish not to. Fluidity and all.

It isn’t always like that, of course. If a spirit, when dying, rebels against the circumstances that have brought them to this temporary state of death, things can be trickier. They can go years and millennia suffering, refusing help, refusing to leave the planet that’s let their bodies perish.

But, of course, that would never be the case with Vanessa, a good girl by all standards, accepting of others and fate at the same time.

One day, mom had this one special dream. Vanessa was throwing a party in heaven—or, what looked like it, anyway. She was saying goodbye to her friends from there. She told my mom it would be the last time they’d ever talk to each other in dreams. Mom cried and begged her not to go, but Vanessa just insisted they’d be together again very soon.

Vanessa would never, ever abandon my mom, and my mom had to believe that.
In the month that followed, my mom realized her period was late. A pregnancy test later, it was time to tell my father they were going to be broke 20-somethings with a baby.

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