With apologies to my sister if I got any of this wrong:
My sister was talking to her kids the other night about our father and how he is still a presence in our lives. Apparently, Brian (her youngest) remembered playing in his room shortly after my father passed away and feeling someone rub his head and put a hand on his shoulder. He knew it was his Papi, so he wasn't afraid. In fact, he said that he had felt the same presence recently when he was playing in his room. "I know it's Papi." My niece has had the same experience, that feeling that someone is in the room with her, watching over her.
My family has always had an affinity for the spiritual side of things. Growing up, I experienced a healthy mix of Catholicism and...something else. Not Santeria, not voodoo, but some sort of white magic mixed with old wives tales and a belief system my mother feels as strongly about as she does the church. Religious statues and photos are spread around the house (most notably Santa Barbara, San Lazaro and Pope John Paul II) and called upon daily. My mother spends the first part of her day reading from a book of prayers to honor my father and grandparents, but also for the comfort she receives from the ritual. In good weather, she is known to go to church multiple times a week. She will ask God to bless us before we leave her side and she will thank God (and Jesus and the Virgin and the saints) whenever good fortune shines upon a loved one. Candles are lit, holy water is sprinkled, prayers are said, but sometimes there is more.
Here's a good one: I'm a teenager holed up in my room and my mother calls me out into the hallway. I walk out and go "What?" She proceeds to rub me from top to toe with...a coconut. A real unopened coconut. This is supposed to clean me of any bad spirits lurking within me.
Another: On New Year's eve, my mother will mix up a bucket with holy water, regular water, some perfumes from the botanica and some flower petals. If you are living in that house and planning to shower, please know that you are expected to do your final rinse with whatever is in that bucket. What difference does it make if flower petals stick to your body? After midnight, she will walk through the whole house sprinkling holy water and then she will pitch that bucket out the door, sending all the bad spirits out with it.
She's got a million of them. You better believe my mother can fix what ails you through the power of prayer, a well placed lemon or a strong dose of Vick's Vaporub. In recent years, I have come to know my mother's powers and am starting to believe that I may have some too, although I have no idea what to do with them. I often say to my friends, "I must have brought you with my thoughts." Part of me is starting to believe I can. Is it magic when I have a dream about someone I haven't seen in a long time and then I hear from them the next day? The strongest example was the time my mother, sister and I all had the exact same dream about my dad, on the same night. Spooky, yet comforting.
My mom says she learned how to use her gift from her mother, who had learned from her mother before. I have never known my mother to use her skills for anything but good, so maybe leaning in and listening more closely when she tells the story is what I need to do. You never know when a good spell could come in handy.