98: Here for You

98: Here for You

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

Here for You

My home is heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.

~Billy Graham

“It doesn’t look good,” Kim, my sister-in-law, said over the phone. “But then again, how many times have we said that?” she said with a small chuckle.

My mother-in-law, Gloria, seemed to have nine lives. It had been nearly eleven years since Jim, her husband, had passed away. All the years of taking care of him after his stroke had taken a toll on Gloria’s health. Since his death, she had survived a heart attack, ovarian cancer, more than one stroke, two hip replacements, and a seizure. She had been in hospice care, but was dismissed when her death didn’t come in the expected six-month timeframe. She just always seemed to bounce back. Her tiny, eighty-nine-year-old body just kept on ticking, no matter what life threw at her. In fact, while we did not get to see her often due to the distance between us, we had all commented when visiting last summer that she seemed healthier and more vibrant than she had in years.

Even so, the toll was enormous. She could no longer get out of her wheelchair. She had a very hard time hearing, despite hearing aids in both ears, which made conversation frustrating for her. This led to occasional bursts of inexplicable anger. Her doctors said that her eyesight was too poor for her to read, but she insisted on “reading” her newspaper every day.

The most difficult loss was not physical. She was often confused. She had periods of lucidity, but she frequently mixed up her children and grandchildren, calling us by each other’s names. Although she had lived with Kim since shortly after Jim’s death over a decade ago, she would complain that she was ready to go “home,” to the house that had been sold years before.

She now required round-the-clock, in-home nursing care. She hated the medical fuss, and hated the hospital even more. She often tried to get out of bed on her own, or thrashed to try to release the medical apparatus she was attached to when in the hospital. Once young, beautiful, and lively, this was not the way she wanted to live.

We used to joke that Gloria was too ornery to die, but I believe that fear kept her here. She was a strong Catholic, but once confided that the unknown of death terrified her. So she lived on for years, in a sort of a halfway zone, partly here and partly gone.

Now Gloria was back in the hospital, which we knew she hated, and Kim told us that this might be it. Life had been so hard for her over the past years that my other sister-in-law, Jean, said she didn’t know what to pray for — was it better for her to recover, or was it her time?

“What makes this time different?” my husband Jeff asked.

“She said Daddy’s been visiting her,” Kim replied. “He has told her not to be afraid, that he’s here for her. She seems very happy to see him — she’s not so agitated.”

This wasn’t the first time that Jim had shown himself since his death. Shortly after he died, Kim had a very vivid dream — he sat at the foot of her bed and told her not to be sad. He was fine. He wanted her to be happy. Kim awoke and could have sworn he had actually been there.

And on the day of his funeral, Devon, my then four-year-old, asked Grandma why she was crying. Gloria explained that she was missing Granddaddy. Devon, with an innocence that can only be possessed by a small child, replied, “But Grandma, Granddaddy’s right beside you. He’s holding your hand!”

This was the first time we had heard of Jim visiting Gloria, and Kim said that his visits had been frequent. After the call, Jeff and I talked about whether he should fly home to see his mother. We agreed that he would book a flight in the morning.

Very early the next morning, before anyone else was up, the phone interrupted my early morning quiet. Even the ring sounded different. I knew. Kim said Gloria had died early that morning. It had been very peaceful.

Gloria died on November 15th, the eleventh anniversary of her husband Jim’s death, in the early morning, just as he had.

We no longer had to wonder what to pray for. She had gone home — and Jim was there for her.

~Bridget McNamara-Fenesy

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