My mother visited me not long ago in a dream. I sat in a campus classroom when someone came to the door and said, “Your mother is here to see you.” That seemed weird—one, because my mother passed away this past Christmas Eve, and two, because my classes are online, but this time my cohort surrounded me.

I left my spot and walked into the next room where my mother stood with a radiant smile on her face and a gift in her hands. Neck scarves, probably four of them, rolled up in a long plastic tube. “I wanted you to have these before I leave,” she said.

“Will you come meet my friends and my teacher before you go?” I said. Mom nodded her head and followed me to my classroom. I introduced her to the people who’ve supported my writing most this past year. She came to leave me a gift before she left.


Sometime last month, my friend David wrote about Mother Teresa, and I carry this story with me. An interviewer once asked what she said to God when she prayed. She replied, “I don’t say anything. I listen.”

The reporter said, “Okay, when God speaks to you then, what does He say?”

Mother Teresa replied, “He doesn’t say anything. He listens.” She offered no other explanation. To her, prayer was spending time with the One she loved. The One who created her and cared for her


The sun rose on Sunday, the night after my dream. I walked the streets of my neighborhood, and I listened. The voices of unknown birds and rustling motions in the treetops filled the morning air. I thought about how my feathered friends can sing whatever their hearts desire, how their songs are as much a part of their nature as soaring through the sky. Sunbeams streamed through the leaves and lit the grass with gold. My mother and her scarves seemed a comfort—as if she came to my school to approve of my work, to protect my voice, to validate my story, and to say, “Don’t let anyone shut you up or shut you down.”

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
    When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;   
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,   
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
    When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,   
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;   
For he must fly back to his perch and cling   
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
    And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars   
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,   
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

31 thoughts on “Listen.

  1. I love that story about mother Theresa Crystal. The lost art of listening. Something we could all stand to become better at. Lovely post. I hope you’re doing well Crystal 🙏

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love that your mother came to you to give you good advice for living. My father came to me in a dream a few years after he died (in 1965!). He just walked up to me in his familiar sports jacket and wrapped me in a big hug. I could still feel it when I woke up. I can still feel it now. Love and affirmation. Thanks for reminding me. 💕

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    1. Thank you, Jo! I love Maya Angelou. She borrowed Dunbar’s line for her first memoir and another line A Song Flung Up to Heaven for her sixth memoir. She does have a poem called “Caged Bird.” She says the caged bird sings of freedom. ❤️

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  3. Ever since I saw your post, I’ve been mulling over how to best respond. First, I am honored that something I wrote stuck with you long (and strongly) enough to become a part of a new story— your story.

    Second, the dream about your mother and the scarves is clearly an affirmation of your writing ambitions—not just from your mom, but from God Himself.

    The thing I like most about your writer’s voice, Crystal, is that it rings true. Reading your thoughts is like walking and talking with a trusted friend. The heart writes with permanent marker; authenticity is hard to erase.

    Write on!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your words of affirmation struck me as divine. I keep hearing from God. Thank you for your part in that. I know you’re stepping away from blogging (and the time that goes into leaving comments like this one), which makes your note that much more meaningful and inspiring. I appreciate you, David. Take care and have a great day!

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  4. This is beautful Crystal. “…as if she came to my school to approve of my work, to protect my voice, to validate my story”. So moving. What an affirmation! I’m sorry for your loss and thank you for sharing. I hope she continues to come to you with messages when you need them most. 🙂


  5. Listening is a wonderful skill to develop, Crystal. Genuine listening takes skill and practice. Most definitely practice.

    Too often, we (and I certainly number myself in this group) don’t listen, so much as we merely pause before launching the next paragraph. Yet, in listening, a person gains knowledge and becomes better. It takes an effort, but the payoff is worth it.

    Oh, as you strongly suspect yourself, your mother’s most recent appearance is no accident. Forever the nurturer, she’s chosen just the right moment to remind you she still is around and that she’s happy. An understatement, no doubt.

    The gift – neck scarves – communicates softness, comfort and warmth. Can you think of a better summary of your time (so far) with your mother?

    Liked by 2 people

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