51: Until She Was Ready

51: Until She Was Ready

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Until She Was Ready

Peace — that was the other name for home.

~Kathleen Norris

My grandmother passed away while my family was in transition. I received the news while trapped behind a fortress of boxes as I prepared to move from my college apartment in Pennsylvania to my new home in Virginia. Meanwhile, my parents’ house in Connecticut had been on the market for months; my father already spent his weekdays living in a hotel near his new job in Maryland. Two offers on the house had fallen through, and my mother stayed in Connecticut to keep up the property and to visit my grandmother in the special care wing of the assisted living facility. My grandmother had been suffering from dementia for years now. The doctors had only recently discovered the cancer.

We worried about my grandmother during those last months. My grandparents had bought the house in Connecticut when it was new. My mother had grown up in that house, as had I. Our family had special ties to it, and my mother was worried that my grandmother wouldn’t understand. During our visits with her, we tried to explain about the move. Some visits were better than others. Sometimes my grandmother tottered on the edge of lucidity; most of the time, she just babbled. As soon as the house in Connecticut sold, we planned to move my grandmother to a facility in Maryland to be near us. But the doctors said her time was near, and my mother and I worried that moving her in such a state would leave her confused and troubled at her time of death.

“The house is holding out,” my mother said each time a contract on the house fell through. “It’s waiting for your grandmother to be at peace.” But the house in Connecticut didn’t sell, even weeks after my grandmother’s death. My mother said the house felt “heavy,” like it would never sell. There always seemed to be something getting in the way of a sale.

We chalked it up to bad luck — that is, until my dream.

A few weeks after the funeral, while sleeping in my new apartment in Virginia, I had the most vivid, lucid dream I’ve ever experienced. A spotlight shone down from Heaven, and my grandmother appeared. She was elderly, but she was in the prime of her old age: she could walk and talk again, and her long, silvery hair flowed to her shoulders. We walked together, she and I. At first I was so enamored to be with her again that I didn’t question the strangeness of the dream. Everything was real: her voice, her eyes, even her scent. I didn’t pay attention to where we were walking, and before I knew it we had entered my parents’ house in Connecticut — the house in which I’d grown up, the house in which my grandmother had raised her family, the house that wouldn’t sell.

The house was dark, and my grandmother wondered where everyone was. I explained to her about my new apartment in Virginia, about my father’s job in Maryland. It was probably Saturday, I told her, and my mother had probably gone to Maryland to spend the weekend with my dad.

“I’d better call her, then,” Grandmother said. She walked into my parents’ bedroom and reached for the phone.

“No,” I warned. “If you call her, you’ll only scare her. She won’t understand.”

“But I need to know where she is.”

I didn’t know how to explain it all to her. Although I could control my actions, I had only limited control of my ability to speak. So instead of trying to explain it all, I gently took the phone from her, hung it up, and began brushing her hair. This calmed her, and I walked her to the bed, tucked her in, and waited until she fell asleep. Just before I woke, I had two thoughts: I was glad she hadn’t called my mother, and it surely must have been a dream, for my parents’ bed and phone were located on the opposite side of the room from where they had been all the years of my childhood.

A week later, my mother called. She was upset, and her voice trembled. While she was at the hotel in Maryland over the weekend, she said, she’d had a dream. In it, her mother had called her on the hotel phone. She sounded far away and confused, saying, “I can’t find you. I need to know where you are.” My mother awoke terrified and distressed.

It was then that I revealed my dream. My mother listened as I told her every detail. She asked me to repeat it over and over. What convinced her it was absolutely real was the bed and phone being on the other side of the room. She and my father had moved them after the funeral to better stage the house, she said — a fact I couldn’t have known.

We stayed on the phone for hours talking. Our collective dreams had sent us a message. It was just as my mother feared: my grandmother’s spirit had been drawn to the house in which she spent the best years of her life. And when she found it empty of loved ones, she became lost. My mother and I agreed: one of us would have to try to make my grandmother understand.

One night while alone in the Connecticut house, my mother felt the same heavy presence that seemed always to lurk in the house. She was sure my grandmother’s spirit was present. She sat down on the bed and opened her heart. She thanked my grandmother for all she had done for her family and her granddaughters. She explained in detail the move to Maryland. She told my grandmother that we would always love her. My mother fell asleep with this thought, and when she awoke in the morning, the house felt airy and light. My grandmother’s presence was gone; her spirit was at peace.

A week later, I dreamt of my grandmother. She was smiling, her eyes twinkling the way they did in her prime. I knew that wherever she was, she was happy. She told me she would look in on us from time to time, and then she disappeared into a ray of sunshine. When I called the next morning to tell my mother the good news, she had some good news of her own — the house had sold to a family that reminded her of our own family twenty years earlier. There were two children eager to take over the tree house that we’d built in the backyard and eager to play in the game room in the basement, and a grandmother who already lived down the street eager to visit her growing family.

It was as if the house had been waiting for the right moment, waiting for a family that would love it the way we had, waiting until my grandmother was ready. And remembering her smiling face and those twinkling eyes, I knew that she was.

~Val Muller

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