45: Unlatched Doors

45: Unlatched Doors

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Unlatched Doors

For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.

~William Penn

When my maternal grandmother died suddenly and way too soon, I was unable to imagine my life without her. Grandma hugged everyone coming and going. She hugged so tightly often the huggees were left breathless. She also demonstrated her delight in visitors by her insistence on an unlatched screen door. Working in the kitchen, she entertained me and the other grandchildren with stories of angels, hobos, and bootleggers. We would swivel on the vinyl kitchen stools soaking up the words, aromas, and Grandma’s warmth. After she died, I wondered where in the world we would swivel, where in the world we would find warmth.

In the weeks after her funeral, everything felt silly and useless. I found little to laugh about. The haziness of that hot Alabama summer enveloped things more than usual. I stumbled through my graduate school classes. The simple but necessary acts of sleeping and eating took great effort. Sometimes, I didn’t bother with either.

Months after I lost Grandma, when I finally started sleeping a little, I had a dream with a message so profound it had to have been delivered by Grandma or an angel or both. I know this because I am not that wise.

In my dream, Grandma and I visited with each other. We sat in what had been her mint green living room. She wore a white eyelet lace dress and white low-top Converse Chuck Taylors, just like the ones I had purchased a week or so before she had passed away.

We sat next to each other, our knees touching, on the old plaid sofa. The same cuckoo clock hung slightly askew to the left of the couch. The dusty old bird popped out of its clock three times. And I began to cry. In her soft, sweet voice, Grandma asked me why I was crying.

“Because I miss you!” I wailed. “I want you here with me, with all of us.”

She looked at me and smiled.

“Where I am, we don’t miss people,” she explained and patted my knee. “We just wait for them.”

Our visit ended. She stood and walked to the screen door, unlatched of course, and turned to me. She said, “I love you now even more than I loved you then.” She shook her head as if in disbelief. “I didn’t know that was possible.”

I must admit I did not want the dream to end, but I found my grandmother’s brief presence and immense wisdom comforting. In time, I began to sleep regularly again. I also began to supply the salad for my friends’ weekly cookouts again. I even began to enjoy the cookouts and other activities. Finally, I began to laugh again.

Twenty years later, I hope I am a little wiser; however, I always will nurse the hole left in my heart when Grandma died. Of course, since that time, I have lost others too, and I have grieved. It’s never easy. Anytime someone passes on, it’s way too soon for me. But my grandmother’s words have remained close to me and have allowed me, I think, to cope with loss better than I once did.

I’m certain that there’s lots to do in Heaven besides wait. I imagine as those dear to us go about their eternal lives, they anticipate our arrivals with great peace and happiness. Those of us here should take that to heart and live much the same way, knowing the screen door to Heaven is unlatched and a great big hug awaits us when it is our time to move on.

~Dana J. Barnett

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