23: Honk If You’re Home

23: Honk If You’re Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Honk If You’re Home

No one ever really dies as long as they took the time to leave us with fond memories.

~Chris Sorensen

The phone call came at midnight. “Jackie was in a car accident,” my father-in-law said. “It was a head-on collision with a drunk driver.” He spoke the words we dreaded. “She died instantly.”

I felt numb. Jackie was my husband’s only sibling. We had just celebrated her fortieth birthday seven days before. She loved her new job, which involved a lot of driving through small towns in the rural part of the state. She enjoyed meeting new people and selling a product she believed in.

Now her life had been cut short by a man who had several previous DUIs and was driving without a license.

Jim and I packed a few things and drove five hours to Mom and Dad’s house.

We arrived just before sunrise. For the next several hours, as we answered the phone and neighbors rang the doorbell with food and condolences, we asked ourselves over and over why Jackie’s life had to end in such a shocking way. No answers came.

Three days later, the funeral service was everything it could be. A recent photograph of her, vibrant and smiling in her favorite red dress, sat atop the closed casket, along with a blanket of roses, her favorite flower. In the foyer a table held other photos, along with a letter she had received a week before her death, congratulating her for being “Top Salesperson of the Month.” The chapel overflowed with relatives and friends.

Jim gave the eulogy. He spoke of Jackie’s generosity, her love of animals and her generous spirit. He worked hard to make his words uplifting and inspiring, while giving a true portrait of his sister’s unique personality and quirky sense of humor.

“Sometimes she could be a bit demanding,” he recalled. “In college, when she came home on weekends, she always laid on the horn when she drove into the driveway. That was the signal to come out and help her unload her laundry.”

Jim also spoke of her deep faith. In her view, death was a “graduation” to something better: eternal life.

“There’s a temptation to think of her life being cut off at a young age,” he said, “but my sister might disagree. She always thought that the time to leave was ‘while the band’s still playing.’”

When the service concluded, we walked out to our car for the drive to the cemetery. Our sedan, only a few weeks old, was parked directly behind the hearse. As we came down the steps in dignified silence, the car horn suddenly began honking.

Embarrassed, we hurried toward the car. Just as we got there, the honking stopped. Jim chuckled and said, “I think that’s Jackie.”

We got in the car and sat waiting for the others.

“Do you really think that was Jackie?” I asked.

Jim put his hands on the steering wheel and said, “I’m sure of it. This wheel is still quivering. I guess she approves of what I said about her.”

Just then, the horn gave a couple of short little honks, as if to confirm what he said. Jim laughed.

“Now I know it’s Jackie. She always did have to have the last word!”

We proceeded to the cemetery. Though we said nothing more about the honking, I realized the dull ache in my heart had lifted. Later that evening, my mother-in-law revealed that she, too, was convinced that Jackie’s spirit had “come through” and caused the honks.

“Every time she came for a visit, she let us know she had arrived by honking the horn. When I heard the horn honking at the funeral,” she said, smiling through her tears, “I knew it was Jackie saying ‘Don’t worry, folks — I’m home.’”

~Maril Crabtree

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