It Was Time To Go ©
A Short Story by Maribeth Shanley
I woke to find myself lying face down on the pavement of a highway. I tried to lift my head, but couldn’t. From the corner of my eye I could see blood … lots of blood. I could hear a distant cry of pain … emotional pain; and I could hear sirens. I knew I must have crashed.
I could see hands around me, examining me. Then, I felt as if I was being lifted off the ground. But, I was still face down on the pavement. Suddenly, I was able to turn my head and body. I was now lying on my back on the ground. There was blood all around me. I turned my head to the right and saw wheels and feet. Then, the wheels began to move along with the feet. Yet, I was still lying on the pavement.
I managed to sit up. I could see the feet and now the bodies of paramedics as they pushed a stretcher and lifted it up and into an ambulance. Suddenly, I was able to jump to my feet. I ran to the back of the ambulance and climbed in.
Jim was sitting in the ambulance crying. He had his hand on top of grey plastic.
Who’s under the plastic? My mind screamed. Why is Jim crying?
I sat down next to him and put my hand on his shoulder. “What happened, Jim? Is that a body bag?” I began to shake. “Who’s in the bag?”
I was now hitting Jim trying to make him answer me; but he just sat there crying. He never once looked at me. Suddenly, everything went black. I wandered aimlessly in the blackness.
* * * *
I was lost in the darkness for a very long time, when I finally sat down. I touched the ground around me. It felt like concrete or asphalt. I couldn’t make anything out. The darkness was absolute; the kind of total black you experience in a cave, deep in the earth when all the lights go out. Could I be in a cave? But there was only silence. It too was absolute. I was exhausted, so I bowed my head and began to drift off. I was tired; so, so tired.
* * * *
Suddenly, I was awake. The sky was a beautiful blue and the wind was kissing my face. I was on my motorcycle. Jim was on his bike only feet in front of me.
Wow, I thought. Did I zone out back there or what?
I shook off the dazed feeling and concentrated on riding. We had just left our house and were on our way to meet up with friends. The traffic was light on the long road. Something felt wrong. I couldn’t explain it to myself.
We’ve ridden this route many times. Everything’s ok. Just relax. Pay attention, but relax. You’re ok. I was telling myself this as we rounded a sharp curve.
I saw the car in the on-coming lane. It was stopped, waiting to turn into the subdivision to my right. Jim passed by the car. I was close behind and felt confident the driver could see me.
THEN IT HAPPENED.
The woman driving the car, began making the turn. I had nowhere to go and little time to react. I heard myself scream, “NOOOOO !”
The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground face down. From the corner of my eye I could see blood … lots of blood.
No … NO … NO, my mind screamed.
Everything was happening again, the feet, the cart, feeling as if I was being lifted but finding myself still lying face down on the pavement, the cart rolling off with the feet following. Again, I managed to turn myself over and sit up to see Jim sitting in the back of the ambulance with his hand on the grey plastic as he cried.
This time I stayed where I sat and watched everyone around me. I watched the cops as they cordoned off the area with yellow tape and blocked traffic. Another cop helped the woman in the car to exit her car.
She was screaming, “I never saw her. I swear, I never saw her!”
She was shaking violently and crying fiercely. Then I saw something under the front wheels of her car. It was red and where the sun caught the metal, it gleamed. It was my motorcycle.
It finally hit me. I was dead. That was my body lying in the plastic. It was a body bag Jim had his hand on. I sat in my spot on the road for a long time and watched everyone begin to leave. No one realized I was there. No one came back to get me. Jim looked directly at me as the paramedics closed the door of the ambulance with him still sitting with his hand on the grey plastic. Then, he was gone. Suddenly, everyone was gone as the traffic began to move again.
I got up off the pavement and looked around. What am a supposed to do now? I don’t want to be dead. I want to live. I have to live. I didn’t even have a chance to tell Jim I was pregnant.
I went over to the side of the highway, sat down and cried. I felt so alone, absolutely alone. I think I fell to sleep after a very long time and a hard cry. I was spent. I wanted to sleep.
* * * *
When I woke, I saw Jim and our friends across the street, down from where the ladies car had rolled over my bike. They were all crying. Jane and Sandy were carrying flowers. Bill had a big white cross and Kyle had a hammer in his hand. They handed the cross and hammer to Jim. He wiped his eyes, knelt down and began driving the cross into the ground next to the pavement where I found myself lying I don’t even remember when.
I got up and walked over to where Jim and my friends were gathered. The cross was nice and it bore my name. I cried with them.
“This is all wrong,” I said out loud. “There must be a way to fix this. I’m still here. LOOK AT ME. SOMEONE LOOK AT ME!” I screamed.
Nothing. Nothing I did caught there attention. They didn’t even know I was standing right next to all of them. Jim looked lost. When he got up from his kneel, he nearly fainted, but Kyle caught him as he and Bill walked Jim back to the car. Then they were all gone and I was alone again.
Where is everyone? I’m dead! Isn’t someone from my family or past supposed to come get me? Where’s Aunt Carrie? Surely she would at least be here to help me!
But, no one came, so I went back across the street. As I did I realized I walked right through a car that was going north on the highway. I sat down and fell asleep again.
* * * *
The next time I woke, I looked across the road and down to where the cross sat. Jim was there, sitting next to the cross. His legs were crossed and it appeared as if he was talking to someone; so I got up and walked over to him.
He was talking to someone. He was talking to me; but, he wasn’t talking to me. He was talking to the cross. He asked me if I knew I was pregnant.
Then he cried as he muttered, “Kim, we were going to be parents.”
My heart ached for Jim. I wanted to hold him and tell him I was ok. But I knew I wasn’t; and, I knew he wouldn’t hear me. I just stood there, towering over him crying with him.
This was all wrong. Neither of us should be here. We should be home celebrating that we are going to be parents. We should be picking out names and making plans.
Then, I realized I wasn’t thinking this at all. I was saying it. I was saying it to Jim and he was looking at me. I stopped talking as I knelt down next to him.
“Kim?” Jim asked.
I think he can hear me. “Jim, can you hear me? I’m right here in front of you. Can you see me?”
He could. “My, God, Kim. You’re still here. But how? You died a month ago.”
“I don’t know,” I answered. “I never left. I’ve been here waiting for someone, a relative or someone from my past to come get me, but no one’s ever come. Maybe I was waiting for you to come get me. I just don’t know. I’m so confused and so very alone and scared.”
He tried to touch me but his hands just swished right through me. He could see me, but I wasn’t real. At least I wasn’t solid.
“Am I a ghost?” I asked.
“I don’t know, Kim; but I can see you and hear you and I know you hear me. Please don’t leave me. Stay here with me. I love you with all my heart. I’ve been in so much pain. I can’t go on without you, Kim. Please stay?”
I could see the people in their cars as they passed by where we sat. They drove by slowly and they were looking at us as if we were crazy. Then I realized they weren’t looking at me. They were looking at Jim talking to no one.
Soon a car with flashing blue lights parked on the side of the road just feet from where we were sitting. The officer got out of his car as a second officer talked into the mike on his shoulder. The first officer walked over to Jim and helped him to his feet.
The second officer walked over and addressed Jim, “Mr. Travis, we’d like you to come with us.”
“But my wife is here with me. I don’t want to go. I want to stay with her. Please just go and leave us alone!”
“We can’t do that sir,” spoke the first officer. “Please don’t resist. You need to come with us. You need medical help.”
Jim did begin to resist, but I walked over to him and touched his arm. He felt my touch as I whispered, “Don’t fight them, Jim. They’re trying to help you. Just go with them. I’ll be here waiting for you to come back. I won’t go anywhere. I promise I’ll be here. I don’t want to leave you either. I love you, Jim.”
He began to cry as he relaxed his body and allowed the officers to walk him to their car. As he was led away, he looked back over his shoulder. He had the most pitiful look on his face. It broke my heart to see him like that.
My older sister, Willow, is a medium. We’ve known this since we first began playing with the Ouija Board that used to belong to our Aunt Carrie.
Willow and I used to speculate that our parents suspected something was different about their first child and that’s why they gave her such an ethereal name.
Aunt Carrie gave us the board one summer we spent with her. She died in a car accident that summer. She was the first departed person Willow was able to talk to through the board. We loved Aunt Carrie. She was kind, and, even though a little weird, she was a lot of fun. She was Mom’s baby sister.
Jim managed to come back to the scene of the accident two more times before he stopped coming. So, when I saw Willow get out of her bright yellow Kia Soul I knew something was different. It was early evening. Willow was carrying a vase with my favorite pink roses and a lawn chair. When she set up the chair facing the cross but with her back to the highway, I knew she meant business; what business I wasn’t quite sure; but, from her behavior, it was evident she was serious.
Willow bent down from the seat of the chair, placed the vase of pink roses in front of the cross then pulled a few candles from her jacket pocket and lit them putting one on each side of the vase. I was standing off to the side watching her do this. Then she sat up and spoke.
“Kim, I sense your presence. Please make yourself available to me so we can talk.” Her voice was kind, loving and soothing all at once.
Her voice and words made me feel safe. So I walked over and sat on the ground just behind the cross. I crossed my legs and looked her way. “I’m here, Willow. Where’s Jim? I haven’t seen him for a while.”
“Honey, Jim isn’t doing well. He’s so distraught about the accident and his visits with you that he’s having a terrible time moving forward. He’s so distressed, he’s become physically ill. I’m afraid he’s going to have a mental breakdown and I know you don’t want that to happen.”
“Of course I don’t; but, Willow, this shouldn’t have happened. I should still be alive and planning the baby’s room. I just don’t know what to do.”
“Kim, sweetheart, this shouldn’t have happened; but it did. You’re no longer alive, Kim. It’s time for you to move on as well. You need to do this for yourself and for Jim. You can’t stay in between worlds. You don’t want to remain perpetually sad and lost. You need to accept that you are deceased. For the love of Jim, you need to let him go so he can live his life. It’s the right thing to do, Kim.”
“But, Willow, where can I go? No one came for me. I’m all alone here. I don’t know how to leave. I swear I don’t.”
“But Aunt Carrie is here. She’s here with her brother, Uncle Bill and both our grandparents are here as well. In fact, Grandma Peters is holding your little girl.”
“Where? Where are they, Willow? I don’t see anyone.”
“Kim, honey, you’re not looking. You’re blinded by regret. They’re all gathered across the highway. They’ve been here since immediately after your accident and you were pronounced dead. Look hard, Kim. Look with your heart. See your little angel you would have called Beth.”
I began to cry. I buried my head in my hands and choked on my tears. Then…suddenly…I heard a baby cry. I stopped crying and listened hard.
It is the cry of a baby!
Looking in the direction of the cry, I raised my head; and, with all my might, I concentrated. That’s when I saw every one of my deceased relatives. Some waved; others extended their arms in welcome while others simply smiled. Aunt Carrie was now holding my little Beth.
It was Carrie who stepped across the highway, presented Beth to me then extended her hand in welcome. I held Beth close and cuddled her. She knew who I was because she immediately stopped crying and began cooing. I then realized the tears I was now shedding were no longer those of regret, but were those of relief as well as utter joy to have my baby girl in my arms.
I was convinced I was alone and that no one would come to greet me. I suddenly understood that it was I who needed to greet them.
* * * *
Carrie spoke. “Kim, honey, we’ve been here with you the entire time. We came immediately. But, you refused to see us; and, although we understood, we knew you couldn’t stay here all by yourself.
Please don’t be mad at me, Kim, but I’m the one who contacted Willow. I knew she could talk to you and you would listen. You two girls have always been close. I’ve always been aware of how much you loved each other. It was so evident that last summer I was in my house. You remember that summer, don’t you, Kim? You and Willow spent the summer with me.”
“Yes, Aunt Carrie, I remember. We were so sad when you didn’t come home that evening; the night you had your accident. Now, I guess I understand why you never came home. It’s the same reason I can never go home.”
“But, you are home, Kim. This is your home now. Come with us so we can show you that death is not at all something to be feared.”
I began walking as I followed the group. Suddenly, however, I stopped walking. I was forgetting something but couldn’t quite remember what it was. Then, I heard a voice. It was Willow talking to me.
* * * *
I turned and saw Willow standing just feet from where I and all my greeters now stood. Where Willow was now standing, I could see two figures instead of one.
With one hand I held Beth close to my bosom while I used my other hand to rub my eyes. I was trying hard to see who the other figure standing next to Willow was. Finally, I could see both figures clearly. It was Jim.
Willow softly explained. “Kim, honey, Jim’s been here the entire time. He came to say goodbye to you. He can see you as well as your little girl. Your acceptance has allowed you to see him. I love you, Kim. I’m so happy I could help you make your transition. I was so concerned for you. I didn’t want you to stay here all alone because I knew you would be sad and the sadder you became, your grief would have prevented you from leaving for a very long time.”
But, when I saw Jim, all the regret returned. I felt so heavy. I began to shrink to the ground, the weight was almost more than I could bear.
Then Willow spoke again. “Kim … Please Kim. Stand back up. Everyone is fading from view. Even Beth is fading. You need to re-focus! It’s time, Kim. Jim wants to say good-bye. Give him that last wish, please.”
Willow’s words shocked me back to the moment as I looked down at my bosom and saw that Beth was indeed fading from view. I shook my head, trying desperately to refocus my attention back to what I recognized in my heart was my new reality.
“Beth, come back,” I whispered.
She did as she looked directly into my eyes and almost radiated a smile of recognition.
“It’s time, Kim,” Willow repeated. “Jim wants to tell you good-bye.”
I felt Carrie’s touch as she also gently spoke. “It’s okay, Kim. We can wait a little while longer. Say good-bye to Jim knowing that you’re not really saying good-bye.”
* * * *
Suddenly, I could feel someone’s arms around Beth and me. It was Jim.
But how could this be?
I didn’t care. I needed that last hug from my beloved. Beth needed to feel the love of her daddy; and Jim needed to hold us both.
As he held us close and tight, Jim whispered, “I love you, Kim. I’ve always loved you ever since that first night we met. I’ll never forget you.”
I ached with love as I softly cried. “Oh, Jim, I love you too. I’ve always loved you and always will. But, even though I don’t want you to forget me, what would mean even more to me is that you promise you will live your life.”
I then leaned back and looked him in the eye. “Jim, honey, you’re still young and have a long life in front of you. Don’t waste it, please. For Beth and me, keep us close to your heart, but let us go as well. We want you to be happy in this life. We want you to be as happy as you made me and would have made Beth. Now, honey, we have to go. There are blue lights again.”
Jim kissed me one last time. Then he touched the top of Beth’s head and kissed it. As he did this, he felt Willow put her hand on his shoulder.
It was time to go.