Chapter One of my new novel.
The car hydroplaned on the ice. I saw the SUV coming toward my compact car, but there were other cars on both sides of me. My mind froze. They say your whole life flashes in front of you before you die. It’s not true. Your mind goes blank. I’d call it shock maybe.
Time stopped. I wasn’t in my car anymore. I was in a rose garden, lying on a soft, fluffy blanket. I notice I’m smiling. Smiling. What just happened? Opening my eyes, I see my Grandmother sitting next to me. Even though she wasn’t 87, the last time I saw her before her death, her smile and twinkle in her eye was unmistakable. She wore a black and white polka dot dress. Her trademark. I sit up and lunge at her. I hug her hard, kissing her cheek like I used to, without stopping.
“That’s my girl. I wasn’t sure you’d recognize me?”
I let her go and say, “I remember those 1940 pictures of you showing off your legs while standing on the porch steps. I missed you so much. “
“I know you have. I’ve heard your prayers. You always say hi to me. That’s nice.”
I look around. Red roses in full bloom are just steps away. The garden is luscious.
“I had regrets about your life. I should have stayed in Milwaukee and took care of you instead of you going into a home. I felt selfish. We could have lived together and you would have been happier. Maybe you would’ve lived longer. I wasn’t ready to lose you.”
“Windy, you called me every week from Phoenix. And, you wouldn’t have been able to stop my falls. My knees were really weak. Old age. Arthritis. They all took their toll. You have nothing to regret.”
“Are we in heaven? It’s so beautiful here. Where’s Grandpa?”
“No, you’re in purgatory. It’s beautiful because that’s what your mind imagined it to be.”
“I have control of my surroundings? What’s purgatory really like?”
“Don’t worry about such things Windy. It’s a peaceful place to work out your earthly problems. You’re going to have a lot of help here. This is your first step toward moving on to heaven.”
I look around more freely. The sky is a baby blue without any clouds. The sun shown bright. I saw a hummingbird flitter past toward lilac bushes in the distance. The smells of this place were overwhelming. Pleasant. It felt like it should be heaven.
“Why are you still here Grandma? Why aren’t you in heaven?”
“I’m waiting for your mother, my baby. I’ve been watching over her and she still has a ways to go, but I’ll make it easy for her when the time is right.”
I immediately thought about my mother. She must be crushed by my death. We were so close. Sure I had a brother and sister, but I was the one that stood by her side through thick and thin. My smile began to fade.
“Windy, don’t worry about your mother. She will survive this. She has guardian angels watching over her. It’s time for you to concentrate on yourself right now. Why don’t we leave the gardens and get you settled in your contemplation room?”
I stand up along with Grandma. I’m amazed at how healthy she looks. Her hair is pulled back into a bun. She wears a single strand of pearls. Her dress just cover her knees but it flirts out to the sides as she walks. No scarring visible, she’s the ultimate of health.
I begin to notice the feeling in my limbs. My back isn’t sore from the scoliosis and my knees aren’t cracking from arthritis. I have a jump to my step. The smile comes back as we walk along a cobblestone path. Lush green grass on both sides, I notice something amazing. There are other people around playing. A Frisbee swiftly flows through the air toward a young girl no more than thirteen. I begin to wonder if she died prematurely, or is like my Grandma, choosing her own age to be.
A dog jumps up as a man throws a tennis ball to catch. Dogs? I begin to think about Baby, my Labrador Retriever I lost in the 90’s. Will I see her? Is this what purgatory is all about? Fun and games? No, Grandma said I’d have to face my earthly problems.
My brow furrows. The catholic church believes purgatory is a calm place where you reconcile your sins before you can enter heaven. I remembered listening to non-believers, saying purgatory wasn’t in the bible so it must not exist. I nod my head, in wonder.