Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Before dying by Eleanor Stem

White Light of Death

Once I worked in the upstairs offices of a bank, located in the Dallas area. A coworker was an older man who never married. He lived with his sisters and took care of his mother. We will call him Lewis.

One day, Lewis sat down on the chair next to my desk. He asked, “Do you believe in life after death?”

Being quite young, I hadn’t thought too much about it. I shrugged and said, “I guess. Why do you ask?”

Then he proceeded to tell me of his mother’s last day on this earth.

She had been on her deathbed. Lewis’ father was already gone. His parents were young during the Prohibition era and they loved to dance. As Lewis put it, “Every Saturday night, they’d go out and shake a leg.”

He sat on a chair by his mother’s bed. All of sudden, she raised her arms. “You come here and let me help you.”

She faced the other side of the bed and proceeded to attend to someone or something. Lewis asked, “What are you doing, Mama? Who do you see?”

“Oh, I’m just fixin’ this little boy’s collar. He’s dressed like they did at the turn of the century. One side of his collar's tucked under his coat.” She patted what would have been the little boy. “There now, fixed.”

She lay back and closed her eyes. Lewis’ mind wandered, thinking of his youth and his parents.

Mama said, “Do you think they’re in heaven?”

Lewis jerked awake. He must have drifted off. “Who Mama? Who do you see?”

“There, at the end of the bed. The Jacksons are here.”

They were the couple Lewis’ mama and daddy danced with on Saturday nights. Even though it was Prohibition, they’d go honky-tonkin’, kick their feet and swing around.

Lewis couldn’t see who mama saw, but he said, “I’m sure they are. They were good people.”

He no longer allowed his mind to wander, to drift off to sleep. His mama was having hallucinations. As the clock by her bed ticked away the afternoon, a little girl dressed in frills came to her bedside, neighbors from her past, church matrons and friends who had died in France during WW1.

“There are so many crowdin’ in, Lewis. I’m afraid they’ll move the bed.”

Lewis couldn’t see anyone or anything. All he saw was her lace covered chest-of-drawers. The lamp on her bedside table, the clock that ticked away the day.

“They want me to come with them,” she sighed heavily, “and I am tired.” Her voice weakened. “So very tired.”

Later that afternoon, Lewis’ mother passed away.

* * *

I was with my dad when he died. We were in a curtained room in the ER. An oxygen mask covered his face. I stood beside the gurney, my husband off to the side. My dad kept looking at where my husband stood. He pointed over and over, his glassy eyes wide. My husband looked where he pointed but we didn't see anything.

My dad died a few minutes later.

After the hospital’s minister came and gave us condolences, the ER doctor and nurse, who had attended my dad, came in. I asked, “Do you ever see the spirits of those who die?”

Without hesitation, the doctor nodded. “Yes.”

With a great deal of hesitation, the nurse finally nodded and said, “Yes, I have, too.”


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