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Voices / Memoir

A sign from beyond

Peter ‘Fish’ Case finds a timeless lesson from his mother in a long-forgotten note

Peter “Fish” Case is a longtime area radio personality and an independent brand marketing strategist.

My mom died a number of years ago, and she died at home in Vermont with her family and her loved ones by her side.

That day, my father and I sat on the couch, side by side. I couldn’t tell you how long we sat there, but we were quiet. Three minutes could have gone by, 30 minutes could have gone by, three hours could have gone by — I just don’t know. Everybody was in the house, and everybody was quiet.

And with my inevitable black humor, I just decided to turn to him.

“I just realized something,” I said. “I just lost half my audience.”

He looked back at me and said, “Who’s the other one that’s listening?”

* * *

My wife’s mother had passed away, too. She would go outside and just randomly say, “Hi, mom.”

“Who are you talking to?” I asked her.

Every time you see a cardinal, it’s your mom coming back to visit, she said.

“Oh, cool,” I said. “I’ll look for cardinals.”

Crows. That’s all I ever got. No Cardinals. Crows. Pigeons.

And then somebody else was telling me that every time you find a dime somewhere, you know that that’s a loved one reaching out. Nickels and quarters. That’s all I ever got.

* * *

I’m kind of an endurance junkie. I’m part of this team called the Mud Dux, and we were heading out to Tupper Lake, up near the Adirondacks in New York, to do a race called the Tinman.

We were riding in the car on this on this long journey. My buddy Joe and I were talking about exactly why we put our bodies through these gyrations of swim/bike/run and these long distances. A 1{1/4}-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, a 13.1-mile run — that’s just in a day. Why do we do that?

And Joe said, “Well, I’ll tell you why I do it.”

I said, “All right. Why?”

“Because I have amazing conversations with my mother on the swim.”

“Really?”

Joe’s mother had passed away, too. And he had vivid, vivid conversations with her when he’s swimming, “like she’s right there in front of me,” he said.

“What happens when you get out of the water?”

“Well, the day really starts to get hard and suck. But while I’m swimming I have conversations with my mother — but not just when I’m practicing, just on race day. So I’m never going to stop doing them because I always want to have this connection to my mother.”

I thought, “Wow, that’s amazing.”

* * *

I was really getting super frustrated. It just seemed to be coming at me that these other people have seen these little signs from their mother or from a passed loved one.

I was really at my wit’s end with it one day. I was muttering, “Would it be hard, Mom, just to kind of come out and just give me a little sign? A little one? Just a dime?

I was cleaning something. A card fell on the floor. It was a note from my mother.

And I read the note, which she wrote to me when I moved out of my parental home.

“Remember, we will always be there for you when you need us,” she wrote — and then, I shit you not, in parentheses she put the phone number, like I would forget it. “Be it money, food, paper goods, soap, laundry soap, body soap, trash bags.”

I was like, “Wow, mom, this is an amazing sign.”

And then later on in the note, she told me to remember: “Don’t let go of that child in you — a child is sensitive to feelings.”

That’s something I always remembered — and I literally went out the very next day and had it emblazoned on my arm, partially because I’m an idiot.

But it just shows you how much a note — a simple note, from however many years before — could mean.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #466 (Wednesday, July 4, 2018). This story appeared on page D2.

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