Anna Marie woke up from her nodding nap in the easy chair with a start as though someone had whispered in her ear.
She tilted her head to the right and downward so she could look up at the wall to her left around the clouded vision of the cataracts over her eyes. Then, cocking her head the other way to struggle for sight, she looked to the person in the chair to her right as though to question whether that person was seeing something too.
When the other persons showed no obvious response, Anna Marie quickly turned her head again in the awkward posture to look at the wall.
Slowly her chin came down to a normal looking position. Anna Marie’s eyes came into sharp, forward focus as she began to smile with a radiance that seemed to take years off the wrinkled, lined pattern of her face. She smiled, smiled and smiled, nodding her head from time to time at the wall.
Then she turned her head to look down the hallway toward the bathroom, still focusing forward with the radiant smile that slowly turned to grinning wonder.
“Anna Marie, what is it, what are you looking at? Are you OK?” asked the other person.
“Yes, yes, I’m very fine, better than I have been for years. He has brought her to see me, my Glenda LouAnn. I have cried for her. Nothing is worse than having one of your children die before you do. And now, she is coming. Just look at the swirls of beautiful, beautiful flowers, all colors, red, yellow, pink, my, I have never seen so many colors. They’re indescribable.”
“What do you mean, she is coming. Are you trying to say you see a spirit?”
“That was my father on the wall. Usually when he comes, we just smile at each other, and I try to get up close to the wall to look into his eyes. We just smile and smile, it’s so happy, so beautiful.
“But this time he spoke. He told me he is bringing Glenda just for me. She hasn’t been there long enough to come under her own power. He had to help her. And, I can’t really see her, just the flowers, the beautiful flowers. They are magnificent, so spectacular. But I know she’s there. She’s doing it for me.”
Anna Marie looked back toward the wall. “He’s laughing, he’s so pleased that I can see. He’s been gone since the 1930’s , you know. We always had a special relationship, me and my Dad. I was his tomboy. Oh, the flowers swirling and swirling all around the room, great big spirals of them.”
The sounds in the kitchen where Glenda’s widower husband worked ceased.
The person in the next chair was concerned for the husband, but began questioning anyway, “Anna Marie, excuse me, but I want to ask some questions. Are they still here?”
Anna Marie paused for a few moments more in raptured silence, but then answered, “They are beginning to go. There go the last of the flowers back down the hallway. Oh, he is gone too.”
“Anna Marie, do you feel like you are well? Have you begun some new drugs, or is something happening that you are hallucinating?”
“No, I am very well. These things are very real to me, perhaps more real than you and this chair.”
“You focused, almost as though you could see with greater clarity than normal.”
“Oh yes, I could see them with absolute clarity, like having the vision of a child again. The colors were so bright, his face so vivid, every line of it his but without pain and aging, almost as though he had become younger.”
“You said usually when your father comes. Do you mean he has come before? How long has this been going on?”
“Yes, he comes often, more often all the time. Sometimes at night, I’ll nod off watching television, and wake up. There he’ll be, watching over me.
“I am 93, old enough and close enough to my own death that I figure I have been allowed to step over into the next world a little bit. It all started about a year ago. You remember? We were in Southwestern Iowa to get nursery stock. We stopped at a restaurant for lunch.
“We were starting into the door when this woman went in right ahead of us. It startled me she was so different, and I couldn’t explain to myself the way she moved.“
“What do you mean? Different how?”
“Well, she was dressed all in black like a woman of the 1800’s, with a black hat on like a proper widow. And she seemed to float as she walked, about a foot off the floor. And, that’s not all. When we got in the door, she kept right on going across the floor instead of waiting to be seated. I couldn’t believe it, but she floated on up higher at a slant, and went right out the ceiling. It was amazing.
“I didn’t have the time to keep thinking about it because there were others, some of them trying to talk to the people who were at the tables, but they couldn’t hear them. The strangest ones were a group of children in the aisle who kept trying to talk, and take hold of the people coming through. But the people didn’t seem to hear them at all, and worse yet, would walk right through them as though they weren’t even there. I was shaken. But when we left the restaurant, there were no more of them. Everything was back to normal although I became a little hungry later because I hadn’t eaten much.”
“But you are saying that wasn’t the end of it.”
“No, about a month later in the living room, I looked up, and there was the full profile silhouette of a man. I was terrified, and immediately filled with grief. I was sure it was my son, Robert, and he had been killed in some accident, and was there to say goodbye. But I called him, and he was OK. At that moment, I knew who it had been, my husband, my Bud, there to look over me. He and Robert looked a lot alike in profile, same nose, forehead and chin shapes.
“A few nights later, his shadow came back on the wall. I felt the warmth, the tenderness. I whispered to him how good it felt to have him there. I longed to be near him, and started to the wall to put my hand on him. But he withdrew, disappeared, and I was left with a sense that he was afraid it could hurt me if I touched him. He only came back a couple more times, but I couldn’t bear not trying to be near him. He never came back again, but I know he’s here somewhere watching.
“You are a person who loves me, and knows me well. Whatever else you might think, you know that I would always tell you the truth.”
“Anna Marie, I know you would always tell me the truth of what you see. You could even be crazy, but I don’t believe you are. I will always believe that you see what you tell me you see, and you are telling me the truth.”
“Good then. I will tell you the rest. It was about a month after that when our Glenda died. I cried, and I cried, and I cried. We all miss her so much. I would sit alone at night, and hold her picture. When I saw her children, I cried inside for their sakes.
“That’s when my Dad came. I was sitting holding her picture, and his face appeared on the wall, so clear, so wonderful. I haven’t been able to see anybody that clearly for a long, long time. His eyes were so full of compassion. He understood how I felt as though he could see into my thoughts. He was there to comfort me, telling me that it wouldn’t be that terribly long before I was with him, not that long before I would hug Glenda again. I guess it was as though I could see into his thoughts a little too, although I don’t think as clearly as he could see. It’s like these cataracts. The thoughts were obscured, only partly there.
“Now my Dad comes often, maybe once a week. He brings her and the flowers often for me.”
“Have you told anybody else about this, Anna Marie.”
“Only, my brother, but he tells me not to tell it to anyone else, or people will think I am insane. It might make him look bad too, you know.”
“Anna Marie, I love you, and I believe you.”
“I know you do, I know you would, or I wouldn’t have told you.”
That was March. Anna Marie died later, in the fall, after suffering terribly from chronic heart failure. But her corpse had a slight smile on it that the undertaker hadn’t erased.
The person still believes her. He was with Glenda’s husband 25 years later shortly before he died.
“Glenda has been to see me,” her husband said.
“Yes,” said the person not sure whether it was really him or the influence of the morphine that spoke. “How did you know it was her?”
“Why, the flowers. It was the flowers. They just came swirling in big spirals down the hallway.”
Sometimes the person now sits alone at night looking through a glass darkly wondering what he might see some day. He hopes it includes flowers, great swirls of flowers.
Copyright 2008, Jerry W. Engler