Angela Burrows believed in a hereafter. She thought that was a good way to go out, believing there was something else waiting there. Angela said her body was done. All worn out. She told her family, her friends, her hospice nurse that she would go away on June 25th. She told them she’d seen quite a few people who were already where she was headed. They were waiting for her. They wanted her to come, now. She told them she’d come when she was ready. On June 25th.
So Angela planned a memorial service for herself. She spent hours with her daughter pouring over details of who, what, where and how that should happen. It was to be in her own backyard, which was filled with hydrangeas, massive decorative cherry trees, a couple of plum and crabapple trees, and little park benches scattered here and there. There was to be no casket. Angela was to be cremated, because she said she wouldn’t be needing her body after she died, and she couldn’t see the sense in taking up all that ground space to bury something that wasn’t even useful anymore. And, she thought a burial plot, casket, funeral and all the fuss surrounding that was a huge waste of money. A simple urn would suffice just fine. She told her daughter that she didn’t much care what was done with the ashes and the urn. Because she’d be somewhere else, anyway.
Angela and her daughter and her friends cried together and laughed together, as they planned this one, last celebration of Angela. Some of her friends thought it rather morbid to be planning such a thing, so they chose not to participate. Some found no humor in any of it. But, Angela said she suspected the joke was on everyone. Because she’d be somewhere, no matter what everyone else did now. Angela found happiness and sadness, humor and grief in moving through this whole process. And if she could find humor in planning her own memorial service, well, it was not her problem if others couldn’t.
When all the planning was done, Angela gave her daughter one, last, stern warning: “Do this like we’ve planned it, because I’ll be somewhere, watching. I will know if you screw this one up.”
So June 25th came, and Angela Burrows breathed her last breath. Her daughter was shocked, but not surprised. Death is always shocking, the way everything keeps going along, as though nothing really significant has happened. The sun comes up, traffic lights keep working, the wind blows the boughs of trees, children run and play, work goes on, and the moon rises again in the sky. But for Angela’s daughter, her mother’s death was shocking, and time froze.
Despite the frozen time, Angela’s daughter carried out her mother’s wishes. The memorial came and went, just as Angela had planned. And though Angela’s daughter was pretty sure it wasn’t possible, she wondered if her mother had also had a hand in planning the perfectly blue, cloudless sky and the faint breeze that made the cherry and plum and crabapple blossoms gently waft, spreading a sweet scent of summer across Angela Burrows’ back yard.
The hospice nurse went to her mailbox and retrieved a curious manila envelope. She didn’t recognize the return address. She carefully teased the flap open with a fingernail. Inside was a large photograph, with a note attached:
Look at the image in the upper-right hand corner,
just next to the plum-tree.
The note was signed, simply: “Angela Burrows’ daughter”.
The nurse immediately recognized the back yard as that of Angela Burrows. In the upper-right corner, just next to the plum-tree, floated a shining image, slightly opaque. It was clearly Angela Burrows, doing just as she had said she would do. She was there, watching, just to make sure that this one didn’t get screwed up.
(The hospice nurse still has this photo . . .)
©Janet Mitchell, July 2012. Any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All characters have been fictionalized.