A week ago from last Saturday (March 28) I had a really comforting dream of my mother. I dreamed she brought me a tray of cupcakes while I was still in bed. I got out of bed and we were having a nice chat and I was telling her about a craft project I’m doing where I’m repairing an old afghan. I told her, “You know, the one you used all the time when you were—” I was just about to say “dying of kidney failure” when I realized (in the dream) that she was dead. I put my arms around her and hugged her tight and said, “Oh Mama, it’s so good to see you.”

I woke with such a profound sense of comfort and presence. I thought she’d come by to comfort me because I was so worried over a friend who’s really sick—and that may be part of it. But I didn’t realize that the day before two women who were a seminal part of my childhood, and also very important to her, Vera and Irene, had died within a day of each other. I got the notification for their death this past Saturday (April 2). Neither family knew each other and so it’s just a fluke I got the notification the same day.

To say it knocked me flat is an understatement. I wrote both condolence letters today because I didn’t want them to get lost in the shuffle and procrastination is not my friend. Platitudes and vague expressions of sympathy would not do for these ladies. I needed to let their families know they truly mattered, but you know, condolence letters are tricky. I’ve received several in my time and know the ones that had the most impact delivered more than platitudes but kept it relatively simple because when you’re grieving you don’t need or want a complicated or goopy message. Simple and heartfelt is best. Making it about them, the dead, not about you.

Which isn’t always easy, but I think I did a decent job. And at least it gave me a chance to purge some of the emotions I’ve been holding back. I hope their families can receive them in the spirit they were written, but that’s out of my hands and beside the point. They have their grief to deal with—and that’s a thousand times more than mine and will take time.

All last week I had a potent feeling of spirits in the house. Ginger was acting scary, too, staring wild-eyed into corners of the room, cringing. Because of the rough time she had before coming here, she does tend to be jumpy at sudden noises or movements, but there was none of that going on at the time, and it seemed…off. Excessive. So more than once I found myself saying to the room, “Ancestors are welcome, spirits of place are welcome, but if you’re some transient spirit here and scaring my kitty, you can get the hell out.” Curiously, Ginger relaxed after that.

Since Saturday I’ve wondered if it was Vera and Irene I was telling to get the hell out. I hope not. They are always welcome and Ginger will just have to live with it. After all, those two monumental women were ancestors of mine, too, even if only one of them was related by blood.