62: Life After Life

62: Life After Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

Life After Life

God has not taken them from us. He has hidden them in his heart, that they may be closer to ours.

~Author Unknown

“Granny?” Johanna’s breathless voice greeted me from the phone. My heart skipped a beat. Had she lost the baby?

She continued. “I wasn’t going to tell anybody about this. They’d think I was crazy. But now, I just have to tell you the good news.”

Ah. So the baby must be all right. I knew that Johanna was enduring a peculiar pregnancy. The doctor had warned her not to get pregnant because she had a clotting disorder that would endanger both her and the baby. But, as sometimes happens, she got pregnant anyway.

Now, she was in the seventh month of pregnancy, and the fetus was not growing. The doctors called it “intrauterine growth retardation.” They had a name for it, but they didn’t have a solution. Every two weeks, they did tests: sonogram, blood pressure, urinalysis. They could detect a heartbeat, but the fetus was only about three inches long. It hadn’t grown for several months.

When she told her doctor that their church was faithfully praying, he simply raised his eyebrows as if to say, “Lot of good that’s doing!”

“What’s the news?” I asked, hardly daring to breathe.

“The night Granddad died, he visited me.”

My dead husband visited her? I understood now why people might think she was crazy.

“That night, I was in bed, sleeping beside Tom. I woke up, smelling cigarette smoke. It was the same way Granddad used to smell.”

I recalled that Don did have a distinctive smell when he was still a smoker. I could tell without looking whenever he was in the room with me.

“Wow! Then what happened?”

“I opened my eyes, and he was standing there, across the room from me. He walked over to the bed, smiled, and sat on the bed. I could feel the bed go down. It wasn’t some ethereal ghost or anything, it was Granddad.”

“I don’t think you’re crazy, Johanna. I think you really saw him—or something like him. What time was it?”

“About 2 o’clock in the morning.”

I did a quick calculation. Don had died in Honolulu at 4 p.m, which was 10 p.m. on the East Coast. Adjusting for the time zones, he’d made it to Atlanta much faster than any jet plane could make the trip.

“That’s wonderful,” I said, thoughts racing through my mind. I’d often thought about life after death, heaven, all that. When I became a grieving widow two weeks previously, I wondered if what I’d been taught was true, or if it was a cultural fairy tale like Santa Claus. Did churches, society in general, conspire to create a myth about heaven to make us feel better? You know, patting us on the shoulder and telling us our loved one had “gone to a better place?”

If Johanna truly had seen Don a few hours after his death, then most assuredly, there was life after this life. “What happened next?”

“He smiled, leaned over, put his hand on my belly and began to talk to the fetus. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but he went on a long time; it seemed like a half hour or so.

“Then, he stood up, smiled, and gave me the best hug I’ve ever had. I could feel his warm body pressed lovingly against me. Then he walked out the door.

“I got up and wrote down everything I could remember about it, figuring nobody would ever read it, but I wanted to record every detail for my own benefit.

“That morning, while I was fixing pancakes for the family, I began to feel life for the first time. The fetus was moving around.”

“Awesome,” I breathed.

“Today I had my two-week checkup with the usual tests—and they did them all twice. They couldn’t believe the results the first time around! The fetus is growing, growing faster than they could imagine.”

Johanna’s giggly excitement was matched by my own. Was it possible? Was there hope for this tiny smidgeon of a person?

Because of the clotting disorder, doctors discussed taking the baby by caesarian at eight months, but when the time came, everything seemed to be going well. The fetus was growing. Johanna seemed to be healthy. They decided to watch and wait.

I flew to Atlanta to care for the other children during the coming birth, and I got to read Johanna’s journal from that strange, glorious night. It was just as she had told me, along with lots of reminiscences of her dear grandfather.

The baby, named Elena after me, was born on her due date and weighed over eight pounds! A week later at her checkup, the doctor said, “I’ve heard of other cases where the fetus did not grow. Intrauterine growth retardation. But I’ve never heard of a case where the fetus suddenly started growing and then was born healthy.”

He added, “There’s no medical explanation. This had to be a miracle.”

Little Elena is now six years old, an energetic, healthy, normal girl with a lively imagination. As for me, I no longer doubt there’s life after death. It’s no fairy tale.

~Elaine Olelo Masters

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