Kim B.

My Grandfather was very important to myself, my two brothers, two closest cousins. Our fathers were not in the picture and for a few years as children we all lived in the same house together with our grandparents. I still say those few years were the best childhood memories I have, the other parts of childhood were chaos and moving all the time. On 11/3/2004, my grandfather’s long battle with cancer took him out of his misery. That day I will forever remember. He had asked for me before passing. Because of his state, I couldn’t bear to see my hero, the best man that I’d ever known, like how he was, so I didn’t see him. I would carry regret with me for many, many years to come after that.

I’ve felt him and smelled him numerous times. Once was in my car when I was going through my messy divorce/child custody, I was drained emotionally and pulled my car over to cry. I felt a calm around me, then I smelled his cologne he always wore, followed by a gentle breeze. The auto windows were completely up. I’ve seen his name on an envelope out of the blue when I was missing him a lot. These are just two examples as there are many more. I battled my ex-husband for over six years in court. It was financially, emotionally, and physically draining beyond words.

I was a single mother working full-time with three children and paying for all my bills. My doctor gave me some prescriptions to help my state of mind at the time. Over time, I got dependent on the drug. Many times I would want to overdose just to stop the misery of what had been six years of hell. On 10/10/2013, I had hit my breaking point. My landlords hadn’t been paying their mortgage and the house was foreclosing. I could not find any other place that I could afford. I was broken. The stresses and heartaches over the years finally took a toll. I was drinking, and slumped down the cupboards I was leaning against. I put my face in my hands, feeling utterly helpless. I wasn’t thinking of how my children would react if something happened to me; I was drowning in sorrow. Somewhere while I was feeling this way, I texted my coworker. I have zero memory of this and when I checked my phone days later, there was no record of any such text on my phone. Apparently, I told him I didn’t feel too good and I thought that my medications were having a bad reaction with the wine I was drinking.

He called back frantic but I didn’t answer because I had passed out. He sped to my house in panic. When he got to my house, all he could see was me lying on the kitchen floor, not moving. Somehow, he managed to wake my 8 year old son at the time, and had him open the door as the cops and ambulance were came in the house. Thankfully, my son was too sleepy to see me. They worked on me for 21 minutes. My co-worker was sitting out on my porch; it was after 3 a.m. One of the paramedics came out and my co-worker asked how I was doing. The paramedic looked at my co-worker and said that I didn’t have any vital signs in over 20 minutes, they didn’t think I was going to survive.

I remember, all of a sudden, standing in a yard. The grass in certain areas was very well maintained. Beyond the small yard were fields of wheat: Everywhere I looked, it was never ending. I noticed the sun was shining so bright, at least it felt like sun at time. The sun was so bright. I remember instinctively squinting my eyes then, realized I didn’t have to squint. I have never experienced that kind of bright-beyond-words, warm feeling. I looked in front of me to find an old house with a wrap-around porch. The house needed a paint job, I recall thinking to myself. As I was staring at the house, I felt a presence to my left. I looked over and it was my beloved grandfather. I couldn’t believe it! Inside, I was screaming with excitement and joy. However, at the same time it seemed normal, as if he and I were suppose to be there together at the same time. I recall every detail of him, he was back to the kind of chubby belly he had, a white t-shirt, his red suspenders, and his hat that he always wore kind of lop-sided. He took my hand and without speaking we were communicating. He told me, ‘Let’s go in the house sweetheart. Come on let’s see.’ We walked down to the house and stepped up on the porch that needed to be painted as well. I recall that the screen door was old like the house and creaked as we opened it. Once inside, I was hit with familiar smell of my grandmother’s homemade split pea soup! I hadn’t smelled that in years. She was alive on earth but had been down with dementia for years at the point. I looked around and inside I was so excited! It was a feeling I’ve never felt before, I was ‘home.’ I had no thought of my family as this was all oddly ‘ok’. As I looked around, I saw my grandmother’s big garden out the bay window in the kitchen. I was so thrilled and recall thinking that, ‘Grandma is finally able to garden and cook again!’ As I turned around and walked into the living room, I recall seeing my great aunt, whom I never met, there smiling at me. As I scanned the room, it was full of people in my family and loved ones who had passed but I couldn’t make out anyone specifically. I just knew they were there. My Grandfather then took my hand and guided me to the back door and said without words, ‘Let’s go sit outside sweetheart. Do you want to? It’s so beautiful out today.’ I immediately followed his lead. As we opened the back door, I noticed that the screen door was rusty and noisy just as the front door was. Once outside, we both sat on the porch and just stared at each other and smiled. ‘I had waited so long to see him again,’ I thought to myself. Although in that moment I didn’t associate him with being passed away, he was so alive! He started to tell me how I need to let go of the guilt I’ve had for not seeing him before he passed and that he’s not mad because he understands why.

He then held up his hands and said, ‘Look sweetheart, my fingers are clean isn’t that just something?’ He was a carpenter in life, and no matter how much he washed his hands they never appeared clean. When I visited him in his coffin before the service I commented on his hands to him as I buttoned his flannel shirt up. I also pointed to his ears. In life, he had what we as children called ‘trees’ (hair) coming out of his ears again, and his pot belly was back. We both laughed. He told me that he couldn’t be prouder of me as a mother and he knows of his three great grandchildren that were very little at the time of his passing. I don’t know how to explain it but we went through my whole life after his passing, he knew everything. He pointed out my mistakes that I have learned from and said to me, ‘Sweetheart, peace and total happiness is in store for you, I promise. Don’t give up.’ Then we both turned to face the amazingly beautiful and indescribable field of wheat. He told me, ‘You know sweetheart, it’s breathtaking here. I have missed you tremendously sweetheart.’ I looked at him and told him how much I’ve needed him and how much life has passed that he’s missed out on.

As I took my fist and gently tapped his upper arm, he use to wind up his arms and then gently tap his fist on out upper arms growing up, while smiling and making the Popeye facial impression. He turned to me and said, ‘Don’t’ ever think I’m not with you, I’m with you always. You feel my presence more so when you need me the most, but I am always with you.’ He disapproved of my smoking and was not afraid to voice his concern. He told me, ‘You know I know how you feel. I too smoked. But your children need you. You have to quit.’ At that moment, he said to me as he stood up off of the porch facing me, ‘Come on, let’s go see if grandma has finished her amazing split pea soup.’ As I opened the screen door to go in, he grabbed my right hand. As I turned to look at him, he just looked at me with his amazing blue eyes he had in life. His eyes were actually twinkling. It’s hard to explain in words. He then said, ‘I love you sweetheart, always remember that.’ I looked at him too and said, ‘I love you so much! I’m so happy to see you, It seems like it’s been forever.’ As I turned back to the door to open it and I walked in the door, I awoke in the emergency room. I had a realization that it was my grandfather’s birthday. I had no memory of what transpired at home, but clear as the day it happened, I can recall each and every detail of that experience. It’s almost been 2 years and I can recall every single thing. There is no explanation medically of how I came back to life, all text books point to the fact I shouldn’t have. I made a full recovery and I had such a different view on people in life that had wronged me, I no longer let my ex-husband’s words penetrate my heart and hurt me. I chose to forgive and forget and be civil with him. It was so freeing! I had a new appreciation for life that I can’t to this day explain. I knew things would be better for me and my children. I knew that my current struggles were soon to be no more, after all my grandfather told me that it would. I let go of the burden I’d carried for years about his death and me not being there. I didn’t really put 2 and 2 together for some time as to why I was able to let go.