“Maybe tomorrow,” she would whisper.
As she grew weaker, there were calls to family members, and new promises made. Occasionally, relatives would stick their head in for five minutes only to find Sarah resting. Not wishing to awaken her, they left before even letting Sarah know they had visited. A cute card or cheery note was left, but not the hugs she had looked forward to. No matter, sweet Sarah was thrilled that they had come at all.
One day, as I stepped into her room, I found a girl of about ten with long brown curls and a dimpled smile sitting in the chair next to Sarah’s bed. I could hear them talking about childhood adventures, an animated conversation about the feeling of sand on your feet and the squishy ooze of mud through your toes on a rainy day. Sarah wriggled her toes under the covers as if experiencing the wonder. There were flowers on the stand beside Sarah’s bed, and the little girl said the rose petals felt soft like fur on a baby kitten. I smiled as I watched Sarah pet the edge of the blanket.
Neither of them seemed to know I was in the room, so I didn’t insert myself in their conversation. I merely assumed the girl was her granddaughter and left quietly to give them their much-needed time together.
I came to know the girl as Alicia. She carried a gentle grace about her, and behind her bright blue eyes was the wisdom of untold years. Looking at Alicia, with her long, thick lashes and rosy, cherub cheeks, I pictured Sarah looking much the same way when she was a child. Whoever she was, and whoever had brought her here to visit her grandmother, I loved Alicia for what she did for Sarah.
Alicia visited every day for the next week, and Sarah seemed to rally. She was stronger and happier than I had ever seen. Always, their conversation revolved around the simple pleasures of life: the thrill of climbing trees, the tired ache of your legs from running, or the soothing comfort of slipping into bed after a long day. Through the eyes of this child, Sarah revisited her own childhood.
When Sarah tired, Alicia read to her from books she had brought from the library—always stories about adventure or mystery, with a young heroine at the center of the story. I enjoyed listening too, as Alicia read in a sweet, lyrical voice that danced across the words. The characters were strong, real, and spirited with a fight to be won—a few of them reminded me of Joan of Arc. There was always a moral to the story and a lifelong purpose being carried on in those adventures. Faith was a strong thread.
On November 26, at 9:10 p.m., I stepped into the room to find Alicia sitting quietly and holding Sarah’s hand. The only light in the room was a glow coming from behind the girl’s head.
Surprised to see Alicia here so late, I worried about how she would get home. “Do you need a ride?” I asked her.
“They’ll be coming for me soon,” Alicia said.
I bent down and spoke softly to the little girl. “You’ve done so much good for your grandma. You were exactly what her heart needed.”
“Oh, she isn’t my grandmother,” Alicia corrected. “We’re just good friends. We found each other at the end of a prayer.”
“A prayer?” I asked.
“She prayed, and I listened. She was afraid of dying alone.”
I sat down in the chair across from the girl. I watched as Sarah’s respirations slowed. I felt for her pulse against her cool and fragile skin. The beat under my fingers was weak and barely palpable.
Sarah took her last breath. It took only a moment. Her chest rose one last time, and then her face relaxed into peace. With tears on my cheeks, I said my final farewell. We nurses are never immune to the pain, just seasoned enough to tuck it away until a later time of reflection.
I wiped my face and brushed back my hair hoping to gain composure. I had to tell Alicia that Sarah was gone.
When I turned to the child, I saw only an empty chair. My eyes scanned the dark room, then checked the hall. I didn’t want the child to be alone in her grief. Even as I grieved Sarah’s passing, I no longer ached for her plight. She was in a good and gracious place.
As I exited the room to find another nurse to verify the time of death, as required, I saw something shining on the floor, catching the light from the hallway. A penny. I counted ten pennies circling the bed—ten heads-up pennies from heaven.
A shiver tickled down my spine, and I swear I heard the giggle of little girls.
Lori A.Grawitch is a prolific writer of short stories spanning all genres. An author from Mascoutah, IL, she is a long-term member of Writing.com with an extensive portfolio and active blogging site. Lori has spent the last 20 years as a hospital nurse and writes stories inspired by the patients she has served. Her stories seek to deliver uplifting messages of hope and faith.
Photograph: Patricia Crisafulli
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