38: Tommy’s Visit

38: Tommy’s Visit

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Tommy’s Visit

Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth
Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.
~John Milton, Paradise Lost

My friend Tommy was a talented writer, cartoonist, and performer. We grew close over nearly ten years, meeting for coffee, drinks, or meals at least once a week. Tommy died suddenly in 1995, and I was heartbroken. But our friendship didn’t end with his physical death.

In late November of 1997, my eighty-four-year-old father became ill. Our doctor said he had the flu and would be well by the time I had to go out of town in January. I am a children’s author, and had a speaking event and book signing. Tommy knew better, and one night he visited me in a dream.

He was at my father’s house, sitting in the living room, talking to me. He told me, “Your father is going to die soon, and it’ll be okay. He’s coming to be with all of us.” However, he said, first, Fath would get very cold, and the only thing I could do was to keep him warm. Then Tommy pointed and said, “Gin, would you grab me that shawl on the back of that chair?” I wouldn’t have called it a shawl; it was a black-and-red checked blanket. In the dream, when I covered Tommy with it, he turned into the likeness of my father and died.

I knew that Tommy had somewhat prepared me, and the following day I told my family so that they might be somewhat prepared as well. Some of them believed me. Others chose to put their faith in the doctor’s brighter prediction instead.

That evening, I went to prepare dinner for Fath. I went nearly every night. Although my own car was old and unreliable, Fath had given me his new New Yorker to drive. Since he had been so weak, I helped him to the table. As he began eating, he asked, “Gin, would you grab me that shawl on the back of that chair?”

For a second, I froze and I can’t remember breathing. He was talking about the red-and-black checked blanket. I got the “shawl” and wrapped it around my father’s shoulders, letting my fingers linger for a while.

Instead of improving, Fath got sicker — and colder. He was admitted to the hospital, and doctors explained that the drop in his temperature was caused by a pancreatic disorder. Then his other organs began to fail. He described seeing and speaking with his parents and Uncle Bill; they were all deceased. On Christmas Eve, he told my daughter Hannah and me, “Two more days, then no more nightmares.” Then he closed his eyes. I was at his bedside on December 26th when he took his final earthly breath.

My grief was unfathomable. The only comfort was what Tommy had told me: “It’ll be okay. He’s coming to be with all of us,” and the fact that Fath’s family members were guiding him Home.

Somehow I mustered up the courage to keep my speaking engagement and book-signing date, but my heart wasn’t in it. Fath had often accompanied me to such events, and I feared I might not be able to do this one, especially without him.

As I entered the Thruway and retrieved my toll ticket, I glanced at the car in the lane next to me. It was, of all models, a New Yorker. Even more unbelievable was its license plate: LHK 880. My father’s name was Lester Herman Kroll, and he always claimed that his lucky number was eight.

The car soon disappeared into traffic, but I knew without a doubt then that Fath was with me on my trip after all.

~Virginia Kroll

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