Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chapter 27 - Jerry and the Afterlife

October 22, 1948

Solomon opened Jerry’s front door, “Hello,” he said.

Becky stepped out of the bathroom. There was a bounce in her walk.

“You look pretty and perky,” he said. “Did you get a nap this morning?”

“No, I’m just so happy to be home safe. Yesterday seems like a nightmare. It doesn’t feel real.”

Solomon looked seriously at her and said, “I hope you’ll talk about what happened. It was traumatic enough to have affected you in ways that you’re not aware of yet.”

“Maybe later,” she said with a curtsy and a giggle.

Jerry came out of his bedroom and said, “Well, I got a good nap. I’m ready to talk to my mother in heaven.”

Solomon raised his eyebrows and grinned, “Really?”

“Yep,” Jerry said, “that’s who I really want to talk to.”

Solomon smiled and nodded, “Sounds good.”

“Well, I don’t want to talk to anybody,” Becky said. “It sounds spooky to me.”

“Becky, before we go,” Solomon said, “I want you to know that Bertha Elliott is in labor over there.”

“Good grief, Solomon,” she said, “do you have to do that every day?”

He smiled, “I’m a midwife, Becky. That’s what I do.”

She flipped back her long red curls and playfully stuck her nose in the air, “Hrumph!” she huffed.

When he realized she was teasing, he teased back at her, “Don’t be too snooty, Missy. You might be needin’ my services before this is over.”

She hit him on the shoulder with her fist. “Oh, you dog! That’s not fair. You’re probably right, and that” She slowed down to emphasize the last words of her sentence.

“Nothing to be scared about,” he said, “it’s as natural as can be.”

Becky shuddered, and then she said, “At least today, I might get to see the baby. I ran away the last time.”

“No,” Solomon said, “this time there’s not a baby. Bertha’s baby died a few days ago. I induced her labor this morning so I could deliver it this afternoon.”

“Oh no! That’s so sad,” Becky said.

Jerry rolled his wheelchair to the passenger side of the truck and waited.

Solomon nodded in agreement that it was sad as he picked up Jerry and set him up in the passenger seat. He put the wheelchair in the bed of the truck while Becky climbed in on Solomon’s side and slid to the middle.

When they got to Ma’s, Solomon carried Jerry into the living room. I need to build a ramp, he thought. Then he carried the wheelchair in and parked it near Jerry.

Becky chose one of the overstuffed chairs to sit in. “If I get stuck in this chair, will you help me get out of it?”

Ma had let Bertha move over to the cot where she could be more comfortable as her labor progressed. Solomon pulled a straight-backed chair over to where Ma and Hank were sitting with Bertha. She was lying on her side with her eyes closed. Solomon leaned towards Ma and said, “How’s she doing?”

“She’s having some mild contractions now, but nothing regular,” Ma said.

Solomon nodded and whispered to Ma, “Jerry and Becky are in the living room. Jerry wants to see you.”

“Okay,” Ma said as she got up.

Solomon moved closer to Bertha. She opened her eyes. He could tell that she was having a contraction because she was holding her breath. “Don’t hold your breath, Bertha. Try to breathe through it, hon.” He put his hand on her belly to feel the strength of her contraction.

Ma sat down in the chair closest to Jerry. She asked him to tell her about what he had seen on Normandy Beach on D-Day. She nodded as he told her about the spirit bodies and the bright lights that he’d seen when he was so close to death. Ma knelt down in front of him and put her hands on his knees, “Jerry, the part of ye that is looking at me right now,” Ma made a V with her fingers and pointed at her eyes and then at Jerry’s eyes, “it’s yer soul. Yer soul already lives in the Light World, and it has a temporary attachment to this body.” She tapped his knee with her index finger and said, “This is temporary.”

Jerry threw his head back and grinned real big.

Becky looked up from the fashion magazine and raised her eyebrows.

Ma continued, “The part of ye that’s looking at me and listening to me is eternal. It can never die…ever.”

Jerry’s eyes scanned Ma Patsy’s face. Tears were welling up in his eyes.

“This temporary body is a barrier,” she continued. “It keeps ye from being able to see the Light World, even though it’s all around ye. The Light World and the afterlife are the same. I want ye to know how easy it is to see that beautiful world.” She peeked in the exam room. “When Solomon gets a minute, I’ll ask him to help ye get into the chamber. Ye won’t be needin’ a wheelchair in there.”

Solomon pulled the cot away from the wall so he could get behind it. He needed to use his right hand to examine Bertha. He moved her sheet and sat down on the cot. He pulled a rubber glove onto one hand and squeezed lubricant on his index and middle fingers. “Bertha, put the bottoms of your feet together and let your legs relax and drop open for me.” Bertha did what he asked. He slipped his hand under the sheet and inserted two fingers into her vagina. That’s about five centimeters, he thought.

He could feel the amniotic sac bulging. “I’m going to break your water to make your labor go faster,” he said. Leaving two fingers inside her, he moved the sheet out of his way, and reached for the amniohook. Using his two fingers as a guide, he slid the instrument that looked like a crochet hook alongside his fingers until it reached the end of his fingertips which were embedded in the bag of waters. He dug the hook into the sac and pulled. A gush of clear water poured out of Bertha onto the towel beneath her.

“Things should go faster now,” he said to Bertha and Hank.

Becky had noticed that things were much quieter with Bertha’s labor and delivery than they had been with the unpredictable Nellie’s last month. Solomon said to her, “You’re welcome to sit at Ma’s desk in the exam room.” Bertha said that she doesn’t mind.

“Okay,” she said struggling to get out of the comfy chair.

Solomon smiled and reached out his hand to her. She pulled herself up belly first with his help.

He said to Jerry, “Are you ready to be amazed?”

Jerry sighed real big and said, “I can’t wait!”

Solomon scooped Jerry up out of the chair. Even thought he weighed a hundred and eighty pounds, Solomon picked him up as easily as he would a three-year-old. He carried him into the transfiguration chamber and set him on the floor in the middle of the room. Ma had already lit the candle. Smoke from the vanilla-scented incense spiraled upwards. Solomon walked out of the room and shut the door.

Becky followed Solomon into the exam room. He intended to introduce Bertha, but he saw that her teeth were clinched, and she was holding her breath again. Solomon stooped down beside the cot. “Bertha, don’t hold your breath.” She didn’t respond to him. He touched her shoulder and said, “Look at me, Bertha.”

She opened her eyes, and he said, “Take a deep breath and pant.”

She tried, but then she shut her eyes again and held her breath.

Solomon motioned for Becky to have a seat at Ma’s desk. He cleared papers out of the way for her and handed her a notepad and a pencil. “Write down any questions you have,” he said.

She looked approvingly at him. “You look good in your white doctor’s coat.”

Jerry stared into the mirror like Ma Patsy had told him to do. His eyes went slightly out of focus and his vision blurred. He concentrated on the memories of his mother. He remembered her as a rotund, happy woman. She was “soft” he’d said as a child on her lap. She’d rub his back and tell him stories of when he was a baby.

He stared so long that his eyes watered from the strain. He watched the swirling smoke rise to the ceiling of the room. It formed a puddle on the ceiling, and then it cascaded into a corner and dropped down again. He looked over at Ma Patsy. She sat Indian style on the oriental carpet. Her palms rested on her knees. Her eyes were closed. The smile on her lips indicated that she was experiencing a sublime reverie. Jerry was disappointed in himself.

He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind. Tinkle clink. He opened his eyes and looked up at the wind chime. He was sure that he’d heard it move, but he didn’t see anything. He shut his eyes again and waited. Tinkle clink clink. He opened his eyes and looked at the chimes again. He could see them moving this time. He could also see a mist forming in the spiraling smoke. Gradually, the mist took the form of a young man.

Ma opened her eyes. She knew that they were not alone in the chamber.

Bertha was between contractions. Solomon squatted beside her and stroked her forehead. “I want you to breathe during your contractions, hon. Your body needs oxygen for your labor. He put a glove on his right hand and squeezed lubricant on his fingers. “I need to see how you’re doing since I broke your water.”

“Oh no,” she said rolling onto her back.

“I know,” he said, “I’m sorry. I need you to put the bottoms of your feet together again.”

She did what he asked, and Solomon reached under the sheet to check her for dilation.

She winced when he touched her. She looked over at her husband and reached for his hand.

“You’re there, Bertha,” Solomon said, “don’t you feel like pushing?”

“No,” she said, “I’m so tired. I can’t do it anymore.”

He had a look of concern as he straightened his back. He said, “I need to get you on the delivery table so I can help you with forceps.”

Becky watched the exchange. Her elbows were on the desk. Her hands covered her mouth and nose with her chin resting in her palms. He’s amazing, she thought. He’s so kind and gentle. He knows exactly what to do to make things better. And he cares so much about his mothers. I want him to deliver my baby, but I’d be embarrassed if he did those things to me. What should I do? Dang, I don’t know what to do.

A handsome blond young man descended to the floor of the transfiguration chamber. He stretched, and then he bent down and touched his toes. “Feels like I need to get the kinks out of my back,” he said. He was wearing typical Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes. He looked at Ma Patsy and Jerry and said, “Shucks, I’m overdressed, aren’t I?” His clothing metamorphosed into casual shirt and slacks.

Jerry’s mouth dropped open. Ma just grinned.

The young man walked around the room. He reached up and touched the wind chimes. His fingers passed through them, but they still tinkled sweetly. “Nice,” he said.

Ma stood up and said, “What’s yer name, young man?”

“Well now, Ma Patsy,” he said, “I don’t seem to have a name.”

He sounded Irish. “Are ye a friend of Sarah O’Hara’s? Ma asked.

“Who? I don’t know the lady,” he said.

“Ye’re obviously a very healthy soul,” Ma said. “Ye came without being called.”

“Yes, I feel quite well,” he responded.

Ma asked, “Is there anything we can do for ye? Why are ye here, and who are ye?”

“Oh, I see,” he said. “I understand your confusion. My physical body is dead in the next room.”

Jerry was completely lost, but fascinated. Ma was genuinely puzzled, and then it dawned on her. Her mouth dropped open. “Well, I’ll be. Ye’re Bertha’s baby!”

“That’s right,” he said. “I am the child of Hank and Bertha Elliott. They’re good people.”

Jerry said, “But…but you don’t look like a baby.”

The young man asked, “Would you like me to?”

Ma said to Jerry, “He can look anyway that he wants to look. The body that his soul was attached to died before he was born. That means that his soul is totally pure and innocent. He’s filled with the wisdom of the Light World. He’s already returned to God, which is a soul’s ultimate destination. Now he serves God as part of God’s Will. ”

“You’re words are kind, Ma Patsy,” he said, “I’m simply a servant of God, and it is my honor to serve you.”

Ma Patsy and the young man were standing while Jerry sat on the floor looking up at them in amazement. The young man said to Jerry, “Would you like to stand up too?”

Jerry said, “I would if I could. I assure you.”

“Then stand up,” the young man said as he extended his hand to Jerry.

Jerry reached for the outstretched hand. Surprisingly, it had no substance, but Jerry felt a pulse of energy as a current ran through his body. He gasped, and then he got up on his feet. “What did you do?” He felt of his legs, and then he touched the colostomy bag on his side.

The young man pointed at it, “You won’t need that anymore. Just take it out.”

Ma Patsy helped Jerry pull the catheter out of his side. The hole healed immediately leaving a small white scar.

Tears ran down Jerry’s cheeks. “Oh God,” he said, “how can I thank you?”

“You can serve God and love mankind,” the young man responded.

Ma Patsy asked, “What name can we use to call ye?”

“Call me Servant,” he said.

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

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