It was the first time in months that I felt joy. The further I ran, the happier I was. The wet chill reminded me of fresh grass clippings while running through the sprinkler during the summer. It clung to my bare feet and held on for the ride, wherever it would lead. I felt free. The order from my dad to stay in the yard was nothing more than a mere whisper that was washed away by the thin mist that surrounded me. Laughter bubbled up through my five-year-old self. And when it finally escaped me, it traveled through the field and was lost somewhere in the fog. I stopped running and yelled into the barely-there cloud. “Ha!” I guess I expected an echo. “Hello!” There was no return of my voice. I looked around. I was further out than I had ever been. In every direction I looked, I could only see grass, a tree or two, and a white blanket that consumed the distance, consumed my house. My laughter ceased. I felt the chill of the morning, and my toes were aching from the cold. I wanted to go home, but didn’t know which way. Panic filled me as I began to cry for my dad. Tear’s covered my face while I cried to no one. That’s when I felt her.
Mom placed her hand on my cheek. Her touch was soft, just like it always was, and it tickled, just like it always did. “It’s okay, Dear, I’m here. Look,” she directed me to look to my right. My pink tea-time table was set in the field, complete with my flowered tea set. I ran to it, and I sat. She sat with me. In that moment, I had forgotten that she had been gone for so long. But that no longer mattered because we were going to have tea at my table. Just like we did every morning until she left.
“I like your dress,” she said as I passed her a cup of imaginary tea. It was a white, lacy dress that Dad had recently bought me for church. “It’s beautiful, just like you.”
I smiled. Mom always told me I was beautiful. Every day. I missed that. “Are you going to stay, Mommy?” I asked. A flower appeared on the table. I picked it up and smelled rose. It reminded me of the previous summer when I helped her trim the rose bush. “I didn’t like when you were gone.”
She placed her hand on mine. It was lighter than normal. “I missed you too, sweetheart,” she smiled and stared at me. I don’t remember how long she stared; I was too busy passing out the pretend cookies. “Baby, I need you to know that even though you don’t see me every day, I am here, watching over you and I will be for the rest of your life.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know I went to Heaven, right?”
“Yeah, but you’re here now,” excitement tickled a smile onto my face.
“When the fog leaves, you won’t be able to see or hear me anymore, but I need you to know that I will still be with you, okay?”
And just like that, my excitement was gone. I stood up from my chair and moved to Mom’s lap. I held her, and she held me, until the fog lifted.
My father dismissed that day as a child’s overactive imagination. My aunt insisted I get grievance counseling, which I never did. Eventually, I also dismissed it as imagination. Whatever it was, it helped the younger me get through the passing of my mother from cancer.
But today…today feels so much like that day thirty-five years ago. I find myself in the field, distant my back yard. The sun has barely risen. I feel a slight chill. Everything is the same, except this morning is crisp and clear. There is no fog in sight. I don’t know why, but every inch of me feels the same as I did that day. Stranger yet, I’m not sure why I am in the field or how I got here. I feel a soft touch on my cheek that leaves a tickle. “It’s okay, Dear, I’m here.” I look toward the touch, and I see her. My mom, who is just as beautiful as she was thirty-five years ago when she died, is standing next to me.
She smiles and moves her hand from my cheek to my hand. “It’s over,” she says. “It’s finally over.”
My memories of the past six months come back to me. Pancreatic cancer. The pain. Secretly wishing I would die quicker to end the misery, and to end the burden I was on everyone. Wishing I would survive to be there for Declan. Knowing survival was not an option. Feeling angry. Feeling sad. Feeling… beaten. I remember leaving my body. Lingering. I lingered here for…
“Two months, sweetheart,” Mom answers my thought. “Once you pass, your spirit stays until the weather is just right for fog. It’s the fog that lifts us to Heaven.”
“But I don’t see any fog.”
“You are the fog,” she says with a knowing smile.
“But fog is just moisture accumulation.”
“Partially. When fog forms, any lingering spirits on earth are gathered into it, and then raised to Heaven once it dissipates.” She nods her head to my left. I turn to see my six-year-old son who is, like I was when my mom died, crying and lost. “It also acts as a window,” she says, “allowing the living to see us if we choose. He is very handsome, dear.”
“Declan, his name is Declan,” I say, excited to finally share my son with my mom.
“It’s time to say goodbye, Amanda,” she says as she looks from me to my son.
I reach out and touch him. “It’s okay, Baby,” I say. “I’m here.” I think about our mornings that we played with his train track, and it appears. I guide him to his favorite toy as we play and say our goodbyes. He nestles into my lap and we sit on the earth, holding each other, until I begin to feel lighter. Thinner. And I leave this world behind, following my mother to a place called Heaven.
Written by Sheryl Marasi
More stories like this can be found here.
Please feel free to leave a comment. And I always appreciate you sharing my stories that you enjoy!
The photograph (above) that inspired this story is by Jessica Musser Photography.