Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chapter 26 - Harkening to Heaven

October 22, 1948

It was after midnight when Solomon got back to Jerry’s cabin. Turtle was on his way to the jail in Black Fort. A deputy had taken Ma home, and Jerry sat alone at the kitchen table. Becky’s bedroom door stood open, and her bedside lamp was on. Solomon stood beside her bed. She was still wearing his flannel shirt. Her breathing was slow and regular like she was in a deep sleep. She looked peaceful.

Solomon sat down at the table with Jerry. “I’m surprised she’s sleeping that soundly,” he said, “after all that’s happened tonight.”

Jerry smiled and said, “I gave her a phenobarb pill. The VA gave it to me for when I can’t sleep.”

Solomon dropped his head and let out a soft growl.

“Did I do the wrong thing?” Jerry asked anxiously.

“You have to be real careful about what you give a pregnant woman,” Solomon said as he opened his bag and pulled out his stethoscope.

Solomon moved Becky’s blankets and sat on the edge of her bed. He felt for her radial pulse.

Jerry rolled up beside him. “She’s alright,” Solomon whispered to him. He touched her cheek and neck with the back of his hand. She was wet with sweat. He pulled the top quilt off of her and laid it on a chest at the foot of the bed. He warmed the bell of his stethoscope with his palm, and then he pulled the covers back. He slid the bell under the flannel shirt and listened to the baby’s heartbeat. He said, “The baby sounds fine,” as he covered her with the quilt. “When did you give her the phenobarbital?” he asked Jerry.

“It’s been about two hours.”

“Can I see the bottle?” Solomon asked.

“Sure,” Jerry said handing it to him.

“How much did you give her?”

“I only gave her one pill,” Jerry said.

“Okay,” Solomon said, “I’m going to sleep in the rocking chair. I want to be there when she wakes.”

Jerry said, “You’re a good man, Solomon.”

Solomon smiled and said, “You get some sleep too, man.”

Jerry said, “Okay. Wake me if you need anything.”

Solomon sat down in the rocking chair and rocked for a few minutes. He scooted down a bit and put his elbow on the armrest. He leaned his head over on his fist and dozed off.

Solomon woke a little before dawn and saw that Becky’s bed was empty. He stretched the stiffness out of his arms and neck. He heard the toilet flush, and then he heard the bathtub water running. He stood by the bathroom door and said, “Are you okay, Becky?”

“Yes, I’m fine, Solomon. I just want to clean up,” she answered.

Solomon rubbed his eyes and looked at his watch. It was five thirty. He’d slept three and a half hours in the chair. He went into the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. He sat at the table while it perked.

Jerry wheeled into the kitchen. “Short night, huh?”

“Yeah, it was,” Solomon said rubbing his whiskers.

“Becky can take a while when she’s in the tub,” Jerry laughed. “If you gotta pee, do it off the back porch.”

Solomon grinned and said, “I might do that,” as he walked out on the back porch. He came back into the kitchen rubbing his hands. “It’s cold out there.”

Jerry cut four big slices off a loaf of bread. He buttered them and put them on a pan while he waited for the oven to heat up. He and Solomon sat and drank coffee as they discussed how Turtle would be an old man before he got out of prison this time.

Becky came out of the bathroom in her robe and slippers. Her hair was wound up on top of her head with a fluffy blue towel. Her cheeks were rosy from the heat of the bath. “Good morning,” she said to them.

Jerry said, “Yes, it is a good morning. What a blessing it is to have you with us safe and unharmed.”

“I owe it to you, Solomon,” she said sitting down at the table. She hesitated, and then she said, “I uh…I wondered how you knew where I was.” She looked him squarely in the eyes.

He looked down at his hands. Then he looked back at her face. She was intently watching him for his answer. So was Jerry. Solomon felt his face flush. Do they think I had something to do with Turtle’s carrying her off to his hooch? “You don’t think that I…”

“I just wondered if you already knew that Turtle was building the hooch out there. That’s all I’m asking,” she said quickly.

Solomon shook his head no and said, “I…uh…I don’t know where to start with this.”

Jerry and Becky’s eyes were fixed on him.

Solomon tried to choose his words carefully, “There is a world that surrounds our world. We can’t normally see it, but it’s here, and it influences us all the time.” He stood up. “Sometimes I see things that most people can’t see. Sometimes I get messages from that world. Last night, someone from that world told me that you were in trouble, and she showed me where I could find you.”

Becky cocked her head and gave him her little half-smile. “Do what?” she said.

Jerry sounded excited, “I know that world exists, Solomon. I saw it on Omaha Beach on D-Day. All the bombs going off around me couldn’t compare to the brightness of it. I saw people rise up out of their dead bodies and float up into that world. I kept waiting for my turn, but it never came. I woke up in a field hospital.”

Becky looked at Jerry with wide eyes. “You’ve never said anything about that!”

“That’s because I didn’t want people to think I was crazy,” he said.

“Some people call that world the afterlife,” Solomon said, “but it’s really just an extension of our world. It’s a continuation of life.”

“Is it heaven?” Becky asked.

“Some people call it that,” Solomon said.

“My Sunday School teacher said that heaven is up in the sky,” she said.

Solomon smiled, “Do you believe that?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it, I guess.”

“It’s all around you,” Solomon said, “and within you...just like Jesus said.”

Becky sat silently for a while, and then she said, “And someone from that world told you where I was?”

“Yes,” he said.

“What else did that person tell you?”

“She told me that Turtle had kidnapped you and taken you to his hooch,” Solomon continued, “and she told me that she’d show me where it was.”

“That’s what Ma Patsy was talking about,” Jerry blurted out. “She said that you,” he pointed at Solomon, “and Sarah were going to Turtle’s hooch. When I told her you were the only one out there, she looked flustered and said that she’d explain it later. Is Sarah the one who told you that Becky was in trouble?”

“Yes,” Solomon said, “she’s my great-great grandmother.”

“So Ma Patsy can see that world too, right?” Jerry asked.

“Yes, she taught me how to see it and how to communicate with people in it,” Solomon answered.

Becky sighed and sat up straight, and then she squirmed a bit. “Uh...can you see that world right now?”

“I could if I wanted to,” he said, “but right now I see the same thing you and Jerry see…the kitchen.”

Jerry smiled.

“And when I die,” she said, “I’ll go to that world?”

“Well, there’s no where to go. That world is here all around you and within you,” he said.

“Oh yeah, that’s what you said before,” she said. “It’s kinda hard to picture it.”

“I know. It’s hard for me too,” Solomon said.

“And for me too,” Jerry said. “I saw it once, but I’ve never seen it again. I figured you get to see it when you die, or almost die.” Jerry leaned in closer to Solomon. “Are you saying that I could learn to see it anytime?”

“Yes,” Solomon nodded.

Jerry asked quickly, “When can you teach me?”

“Ma’s a better teacher than I am when it comes to the afterlife,” Solomon said. “She has a special room that makes contacting that world easier.”

Jerry was beside himself with eagerness. He rolled around the living room like a man pacing. “This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever heard. I’ll call Patsy today.” That’s when he remembered that his phone line had been cut. “Oh, crap! Solomon, could you call the phone company about repairing my phone line?”

Ma was just getting up when Solomon got home. “Did ye get any sleep last night?” she asked.

“Not much,” he answered. “What patient did you want me to see this morning?”

“Actually, ye have time for a nap before she gets here at ten thirty. Her name’s Bertha Elliott. She says her baby’s quit moving. I think it might be dead.”

“How far along is she?”

“Thirty-six weeks,” Ma answered.

“How long since you heard a fetal heartbeat?”

“Last week,” Ma said.

“We may need to induce her,” he said.

“That’s why I suggested ye take a nap,” she said. “Ye might be up all night again.”

“Okay, wake me at nine thirty.” He started up the stairs and remembered that he still needed to call the phone company. He came back to Ma’s office and said, “I’ve got to call about Jerry’s telephone line.”

“I’ll do it,” Ma said, “go to bed.”

Ma let Solomon sleep for three hours, and then she knocked on his bedroom door. “Time to get up, son.”

He came downstairs and found her bent over her desk going over Bertha’s chart. He stood behind her to read over her shoulder. “Does she know that her baby may be dead?”

“Yes,” Ma said.

“You know baby’s slow down when they get close to full term. There’s not room for much movement,” Solomon suggested.

“Bertha thinks her baby’s dead,” Ma said.

“Did the phone company say when they’d be out to fix Jerry’s phone?” Solomon changed the subject.

“They’ve already been there,” she said. “I saw them leave about an hour ago.”

“Good,” Solomon said, “by the way, Jerry wants to talk to you about the afterlife. He had an experience on Omaha Beach when he was shot.”

Ma nodded, “Tell him anytime’s good for me.”

“How do you feel about today? I plan to call the clinic and ask Alice Moriah to send the patients here.”

“Yeah,” Ma said, “today’s fine and dandy.”

Solomon put on his white coat and stuffed his stethoscope in his pocket. He sat down beside Bertha in the waiting room. She looked at him with sad eyes. He picked up her hand and held it between his hands as he studied her face. She looked away from him at first, but then she looked at him when she felt his kindness and his strength. When she relaxed, he asked softly, “How do you feel right now, Bertha?”

“Scared,” she said.

He concentrated on sending his psychic energy into Bertha. The amazing thing about this, he thought, is that giving psychic energy to someone else doesn’t take any away from me. It’s like tapping into a reservoir of energy and simply becoming a conduit for it.

Bertha sighed deeply and said, “I feel that, Solomon.” She sat for a few minutes with her eyes closed as Solomon’s hands held hers. He gently stoked the back of her hand with his thumb.

When she opened her eyes, Solomon whispered, “Are you ready?”

She didn’t answer, but she got up and walked towards the exam room. Bertha’s husband, Hank, walked with his arm around her shoulders. Solomon handed Bertha a paper cup and a hospital gown and said, “I need you to empty your bladder and get me a urine specimen in this cup. And let the gown open in the front, please.”

Solomon turned to Hank, “Has Bertha told you that the baby may be deceased?”

“She told me it’s dead,” Hank said.

Solomon nodded and said, “It’s good that you came with her. This is real hard on a woman. She’s already come to know and love the baby inside of her.”

Bertha came out of the bathroom and handed Solomon the paper cup. He put it on the counter beside the sink, and then he helped Bertha onto the examining table. Two ribbons kept the gown closed over Bertha’s breasts. He spread a sheet over her and folded it back to expose her belly. He opened the gown, and using both hands, he palpated her abdomen. He found the baby’s back and placed the stethoscope over it. He heard nothing. Listening was just a formality. His hands could sense that the little lump of flesh within Bertha’s uterus had been released by the baby’s soul. Baby Boy Elliott had already ascended into the Light World.

Both Bertha and Hank stared at Solomon expectantly, hopefully. He covered Bertha’s belly with the sheet. Her hands lay just below her breasts. Solomon put his hands on top of hers and said, “I’m sorry.”

Tears welled up in her eyes and Hank bent over and kissed her forehead. They already knew what Solomon was going to say, but hearing it made it real.

Solomon started an IV and set the drip to keep the vein open. He moved the IV pole with the glass bottle of saline out of Hank’s way. He helped Bertha’s feet to find the stirrups, and then he pushed the extension into the table. He used a syringe to insert prostaglandin gel into her vagina. “Bertha,” he said, “I’m putting a gel into you that will soften your cervix and help it to dilate.” He put his index and middle fingers inside to make sure the gel covered her cervix. He found that she was dilated three centimeters and that her cervix had thinned about fifty percent.

“Are you okay?” he asked her. She was staring off into space. “Bertha,” he said. She ignored him. “Bertha,” he said again. She looked at him this time. “I’m going to strip your membranes. It will sting a bit.”

She nodded okay.

Solomon firmly thrust his finger into Bertha’s cervix. He forced the membranes away from the internal os and circled the inside while he pushed.

Bertha sucked in air through clinched teeth.

“It’s done,” Solomon said pulling off his gloves. He pulled the exam table extension out so she could take her feet out of the stirrups. He handed Hank a box of tissues for her.

Solomon said, “Ma’s going to give you an enema now to get you ready for delivery. I’ve got to run a short errand, but I’ll be right back.” He rubbed her forearm and said, “Are you okay?”

She nodded yes.

He hung his white coat on the hook by the sink and left to go pick up Jerry and Becky.

Copyright © 2008 by Robbin Renee Bridges
Coping with Grief through Afterlife Communication

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