The phone rang. I froze, not wanting to answer. A chill ran down my spine as I reached for the receiver. Intuition told me the call wasn’t going to be pleasant. “Hello.” I whispered softly into the phone.
“Sara, this is Jim.” I could hear the pain in his voice before he told me the news. “It’s time. Can you get to the hospital right away? The doctor just told me that Janet doesn’t have much time left and she wants to see you.”
“I’m on my way Jim. Are…are you alright?”
“Hell no I’m not alright Sara. I’m dying inside right now. Just hurry.”
“Hang on Jim, I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
I hung up the phone, hands still shaking from the news. I knew Janet was going to die. We all knew that her fight with lung cancer was almost over, but it hurt so much to lose her. Thoughts of Janet and the years I had known her, whirled in my mind as I grabbed my purse and hurried out the door.
“Come on, aren’t you ever going to change?” I hear myself shouting at the red traffic light. I glance at my watch, sensing that Janet’s time is very short. “Come on, change! I need to be there now,” I say to no one.
Running down the hospital hall, trying to ignore the smell of sickness and death around me, I near Janet’s room. Jim is standing outside in the hall, crying. “How is she Jim?”
“She’s still with us Sara, but not for long. Oh my God, I can’t lose her…. but I…I can’t stand to see her suffer any more.” Jim’s body is racked with sobs as I hold him for a brief moment. “Go to her Sara. She wants to talk to you. She’s been asking for you. I’m ok, just go to her…Goddamn it, this is just so hard to take.”
As I stare down at this once beautiful face, it’s hard to realize this is the Janet my family has loved for thirty-four years. Her cheeks are so hollow; her brown eyes are rimmed with dark blue circles. Each breath is a gasp. I reach down and hold her hand in mine. Gently I rub her hand with my thumb. She opens her eyes, recognizes me and smiles.
Small talk, how in the hell does one make small talk when they are standing next to a dear friend who is dying? “I can’t do this,” my mind screamed in silence. I smile back at Janet, patting her hand gently, letting her know I’m still there.
“I was running some errands in town this morning and wanted to stop by and see how you were doing Hon. Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you.” Oh God, how stupid that must sound! “Do you want me to get Jim?”
“No”, she gasps. The coughing begins and she can’t breath. Oh my God what I am suppose to do. She’s choking and the coughing continues. Jim is beside me now, his tear forming little odd shaped spots on the bed sheet.
The nurse quickly steps to the other side of the bed. “She needs to cough to get the congestion up. She’s alright, just stay with her.”
The coughing fit subsides. “Janet, did you want to talk to me?” I ask as I bend down close to her.
“Yes,” she whispers. “Are you…”? The coughing fits start again. Her lips keep moving but I can’t hear what she’s trying to say. She tries to talk, but no words come out. More coughing fills the room.
“Janet, I have to leave now. You need your rest. I’ll be back later. See if you can sleep for a little while. I won’t be far if you need me.”
I walk out of the room and hurry down the hall. Outside now, I have to get away from the hospital, away from the pending death. I drive to my mother’s house, a few blocks down the street. I cry with her as I tell her that I could not figure out what Janet wanted to ask me.
Two months after Janet’s funeral
“Hi Mom. Got any coffee?” I had decided to stop my mother’s house and spend the afternoon.
“Sara, I always have the coffee pot on. Come on, join me in the kitchen.” Mom smiled as she removed the cups from the cupboard. Pouring the coffee she continued to talk. “Sara I was hoping you’d stop by soon. Something very strange happened to me the other day and I have been wanting to talk to someone about it.”
“You sound so serious Mom. Is something wrong?”
Laughing, Mom stared into her coffee, not looking at me. “Wrong? Oh no, nothing is wrong Dear. I just wanted to tell you that Janet dropped in for a visit the other day. It was the strangest thing.”
Coffee spilled on the table as my hands began to tremble. “Mom, Janet couldn’t have stopped by to visit. She died two months ago. You and I went to the funeral.”
“Oh I know Sara, but she was here. It was the weirdest thing. She came to talk to me. You know Janet and I were so close before she got sick. Janet would come for a visit and we would laugh and talk for hours. We were close. I’ve missed her so much since she died. Other than you, she was the closest friend I had in town”
I stared at my mother. She didn’t seem upset. She was calm and acted as if nothing she was saying should come as a shock to me. “What did Janet need to talk to you about Mom. I mean…how did you talk to her?”
Mom looked up and was still smiling. “I was standing right there”, she pointed toward the sink. I was washing dishes, day before yesterday, alone in the house. I had my back to the kitchen. While I was washing the dishes, Janet spoke to me. Oh don’t get that look on your face Sara. It wasn’t spooky or anything. I was so relaxed, just washing a few dishes and Janet said, ‘Hi Rhonda. I’ve missed you. I’m so glad to see you again’.”
I took another drink of my coffee and waited for Mom to continue.
“At the time, I was lost in thought Sara, thinking about you and the grandchildren. I suppose I was daydreaming. At first, when I heard Janet’s voice, I wasn’t surprised. Remember how she would come in, never knocking. She’d just walk in and start talking to me. That day I was so lost in my daydream, for a moment, I forgot that Janet was gone!”
“Mom, when did all of this happen? What brought Janet back here?”
“Sara. I haven’t talked to anyone about this. I know it would seem so far-fetched to most people. Anyway, as I was saying, Janet spoke to me and without thinking, I continued washing dishes and answered her. I told her how nice it was that she could stop by. I told her how much I’d missed her visits. And then, Sara, it hit me! I knew it couldn’t be real because Janet was dead.
“Oh my God Mom. What did you do?”
“Well, I turned around, thinking I must have just been imagining the voice, you know, sort of lost in my daydream and just imagined she’d spoke to me. But…when I turned around, there she was Sara, big as life. Sitting right over there in the same chair she always sat in. I was a little dumbfounded, but not upset and certainly not scared.”
“I think I understand Mom...but what happened after you saw her?” I knew without a doubt that what my mother was saying was true . I felt a chill run down my spine, but wasn’t frightened.
“Oh I walked right over to the table and told Janet how much I’d missed her and ask how she was doing now.” Mom laughed, a nervous laugh this time.
Mom stopped speaking, and sat quietly at the table, remembering the visit. “Janet smiled at me Sara. She smiled right at me and assured me that she was fine and in no pain! Then she laughed and told me that right before she died, she’d been trying to ask you a question…Sara, Janet said she had tried to ask you if you were pregnant again.”
I sat there; trying to digest the things my mother was telling me. “What did you tell her Mom?”
“I told her that you had went to the doctor last week and found out that you are going to have another baby! When I told Janet the news, she laughed. Oh Sara, she laughed and it was like music ringing through the room. Her eyes twinkled so brightly, more than they ever did in life! It was a warm, happy moment for both of us. I wanted to reach right over and hug her.”
“Did you Mom?”
“Did I what Sara?”
“Did you give Janet a hug,” I ask as I laughed with her.
“No, not really. I wanted to and I started too, but when I reached for her, I realized that she was fading away.” Mom looked up in the room as if she were watching Janet’s image disappearing again.
“It’s a girl Sara! Our new grandbaby is going to be a girl. That was what Janet was so excited to tell you in the hospital. She knew you were pregnant and she wanted to tell you that the new baby is going to be a beautiful little girl. Janet said the baby will have red hair, just like you always hoped for!”
“Mom, how did she look? I mean did Janet look real when you saw her, or was it a spirit? I want to know just what you saw Mom. This is just so wild. I’ve heard about things like this happening before, but never knew anyone who has really experienced it. Did she look like a ghost?"
“At first, I thought she looked so real sitting there, in her favorite chair. After the initial shock wore off, I realized her body was sort of transparent. It’s so hard to describe. I mean she looked just like our Janet and yet, I could almost see through her, but not quite. When I tried to touch her, she quickly became more transparent and disappeared. Just before she left, she told me about the baby being a girl and that she will have beautiful red hair, and that was it."
“I honestly don’t know what to make of this Mom. Do you think it’s possible that it really happened? I mean, do you think Janet came back here just to tell us that?”
“Oh Sara, I’m not sure of anything Sweetie. I know what I saw and what I heard. But I also know I was spaced out in a daydream at the time, thinking about you, my two grandchildren and the new baby you are expecting. I know that I wasn’t scared in anyway and it all felt so normal to me. Even after she left I felt warm inside and it was such a relief in my mind to know she was really ok. She''s not suffering anymore. She looked so peaceful Sara and so happy. I felt good after she left, just knowing all was well with her. I know that I won’t miss her so much now because I got to say good-bye to her this time.”
“Mom, do you think she’ll be back? If she appeared to you once, don’t you think she may...ah, might return?”
No, Sara…no, I don’t think I’ll hear from Janet again in this lifetime. It was as if she died, leaving unfinished business here in this world and needed to clear it up before she departed for good.”
I got up from my chair and went over and hugged my Mom. I knew when I walked out the door of Mom’s house that day; the sadness within my soul would be lifted over the death of Janet. I’d spent many sleepless nights wondering what Janet’s dying words to me had been. I kept recapturing those moments, trying desperately to hear her voice, to understand her words. Through some odd experience in nature, my mother was able to give me the peace of mind I needed. Mom and I both moved forward with our lives that day and the lingering pain and sadness over the death of Janet was gone.
Six months later when my red-headed daughter was born, I had no doubt left about Janet''s visit to my mother.
© Copyright 2002 Sherry Gibson. All rights reserved. If you read it, please help me out by rating and reviewing it for me. Thanks, Sherry