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Going Gently Into the Light
I recently remembered what would have been the 100th birthday of my teacher, friend and surrogate mother, Sadie Nickerson, a powerful woman who overcame adversity. However, time caught up with her 87-year-old body and congestive heart failure stopped her. She had weeks—maybe days—to live. But I don’t want to think about that—I’d rather think about my last visit with her and how her entry into spirit strengthened my belief that life goes on even after we experience this transition called death.
July 17, 2001: All day I felt compelled to visit Sadie, who was in a nursing facility two hours away. Her slightly wrinkled face flashed into my mind as I prepared the children’s breakfast, and thoughts of her resurfaced that afternoon as I phoned my girlfriend and chatted over a cup of English breakfast tea.
Every time I imagined her, the desire to visit grew stronger.
That evening I got into my car and drove through a light summer rain. I took it as a lucky sign that I saw a parking space right outside the entrance to the care facility and sprinted through the drizzle into the building.
The gray-haired nurse looked up from her computer monitor and smiled brightly. “Did you come to see someone?”
“Yes. Sadie Nickerson.”
“Oh.” The smile disappeared. I didn’t need to be psychic to read a woman’s expression. “Are you friend or family?”
“A friend but considered family.
She stood up and asked me to follow her. Our footsteps clicked on the polished linoleum floor as we walked down the long corridor. Dark, angular letters were etched into hard plastic name tags outside residents’ doors. Here and there wheelchairs were stacked against the walls. The bold beige walls felt industrial, as if the hallway belonged to something built in Russia under Stalin.
I said, “He’s not long, is he?”
“No.” The nurse was businesslike but not hostile. Her tone suggested someone whose job dealt with death on a daily basis, and she found that forming bonds with people who were dying was a sure path to emotional burnout.
At the end of the hall she took me to a plain beige room. Sadie was lying on the bed, the covers pulled up to her chin. The oxygen tube under her nose wound into a nearby respirator. Her breathing was punctuated by gasps. The side window was open; luckily it was drizzling that day as Sadie’s room overlooked the area where the workers gathered to smoke. Some days I had to cut my visit short because it felt like the air had been wiped with a dirty rag.
When she saw me she smiled and her eyes sparkled to life. I pulled up a chair next to her bed and held her hand for a moment, feeling her strength return. We talked about our families and how often her son visited us. Then we read to each other. It was something we always did. Her message to me was about my children. I wish I could remember her words because they were the last ones she gave me.
Suddenly, the wall across from me was strewn with soft white lights, like a collection of decorative porcelain plates. But these oval lights were solid. And even though they were white, I felt they were faces looking into the room.
“Sadie,” I said in awe, “you’re surrounded by spiritual people!” It was a magical moment and I couldn’t stop smiling. “Sadie, everyone is here for you!”
The lights were in formation: Three rows of seven. Did it mean anything? I was hoping that spiritual people would speak to me. But they slowly disappeared and I was once again standing in front of an empty, beige wall. And then I was left with the feeling that I had probably imagined everything.
I turned to Sadie. Her eyelids were fluttering and you could tell she was tired. I stayed with her for a few more minutes, then shook her hand and said goodbye. I thought she nodded but today I’m not sure.
The next morning, Sadie’s son called. He went to the nursing home to visit his mother and found out that she had passed away around six o’clock in the morning. He was upset and I too wished I had stayed with her longer. A hole opened up in my life. I just lost my teacher, my mentor – my best friend.
Then I realized I was the last one to talk to her. But I was not the last to see her – that honor belonged to all her spiritual people on the other side of life.
If you have any questions or comments on this topic or any other spiritual matter, please feel free to email me at [email protected] And please visit me again!
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