Looking for a Sign

I’m not exactly the woo-woo type. I’ve never taken a class in healing with angels or aligning my chakras. When inner child discoveries were the rage, I toyed with writing a how-to book on finding the spoiled brat within.

I’ve definitely known my share of woo-woo characters, a few of whom claim to channel spirits of the dead. I have no desire to master that trick. But I do recall the day my mother summoned her dead grandmother.

Mom was in the kitchen cutting up potatoes when she suddenly looked up and asked, “Big Mom, can you give me a little help with this?” She sought guidance from her departed grandma so she might slice those taters into perfect wedges for French fries.

I was maybe 13 then, so I just rolled my eyes. But after Mom died, and because she had planted this quirky notion, I started to call upon her for domestic wisdom when I’d struggle over something she had taught me. Now that I’ve done it for decades, it’s as though I can sense her drop what she’s doing in her ethereal world to pop by and help me.

On the day my Dad died, the most conservative colleague I had in the newspaper business took me aside and told me to keep having conversations with my father over the next few days. She said I should tell him whatever I needed to unload, as well as what he needed to hear from me, including the fact that he had my permission to depart the planet.

I couldn’t fathom this advice had come from an old-school, hard-nosed business editor. Nevertheless, I followed her recommendation. I even had a few noisy tiffs with dear old Dad as I shed some tears and encouraged him to be on his way. If nothing else, it sure was cathartic for me, and I’ve since urged others to follow the same advice.

A few years ago, while mourning the unexpected death of a friend who had a massive heart attack, I was changing the battery in a hiccupping smoke alarm. I removed the old battery, but before I replaced it, the dang thing went off sans battery. I got a chill. I could practically hear my buddy laughing.

I mentioned this to one of my woo-woo gurus who matter-of-factly said the dead have an ability to mess with electronics. Mischief, she called it. I was pondering all this today when the phone rang.

“You called?” my brother in Massachusetts asked.

“Nope, why’d you think that?”

“It says on my phone I missed a call from you,” he replied.


“Just now.”

“Huh,” I said, “must be Mom.”

“Or father,” he added with a laugh. “If the dead are so good with electronics, why can’t they send email?”

Turns out author Laurie Frankel wrote a novel called Goodbye for Now, which might have some thoughts on that. It’s about a computer expert who develops an algorithm that keeps people connected—via email—with loved ones who have passed away. Apparently a film is in the works, too. Now that’s woo-woo I’d like to experience.


Annie Culver developed a knack for unearthing oddball characters and improbable events as a staff writer for various newspapers. In the early 90s, she went to work for websites where she wrote sassy essays aimed at women. In recent years, she morphed into a writer for several universities in the Northwest. She retired in 2016, yet still enjoys freelancing.

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