Darling Souls by Madison Harvey

When my great-great Aunt Lucille’s husband, Junior, died she moved in with my grandma, Shirley. She stayed in my Uncle Kevin’s room. It was fifth grade, and I was just a little girl in love with my grandma. I stayed over there a lot, and always ended up sleeping in my father’s old room. It wasn’t a large room. The walls were painted an Aegean shade of blue. 

The white, lumpy pull out couch was pushed up against the nearest wall. I shut the door and layed out a pale green sheet across it to protect myself from the scratchy mattress. At the time, I only had an iPod, so it was my form of entertainment when there was nothing on TV. I placed the iPod on the floor and plugged it in so it would be charged for the next day. I was still afraid of the dark, so I put the TV on and went to sleep to the sound of the Teen Nick channel. 

My dreams were of the norm, but there was one that has stayed with me ever since. The door was open, but that was impossible! I shut it before I went to bed. But there she stood. Short, thin blond hair, bone-visible body, in a white nightgown that went down to her feet, with white slippers on. 

She looked at me, with her sad, tired eyes. “It’s my time to go,” she explained. 

“But where are you going?” I asked. 

“To be with Junior, I love…..”. She turned this misty color, to where I could see through her. She was being pulled back, as if she was being sucked back to her room. Now, when I think about it, it reminds me how in Ghostbusters, they suck up the Psychokinetic Energy. I woke up right after that. The fear from the dream remained in me. I was too afraid to move, to speak, to breathe. 

“Shir..ley.” A pause. “Shir..ley.” A raspy voice through the hallway into my room. She was always up at 6 AM, always. She was a clock of her own. Sure, I felt relieved. But I was overcome by fear, a fear that consumed my entire being. I left later that day, thanking the Gods I didn’t have to face her. 

As time passed, she slowly lost her mind. Dementia. One word that had so much impact. But, that wasn’t the only word that could change my life. Cancer. Cancer that spread from her liver to her whole body in the matter of a month. But while this was happening, it seemed Karma had it out for everyone.

Linda, my step-dad’s mother, wasn’t feeling well. They wanted to make sure everything was ok, so they went to the hospital. She never made it out alive. A heart attack. Two words this time.

Time was a blur, a figment of my imagination. Bryan, a proud man, the man that gave me strength, lost his. He was silent. A statue of himself. His brown hair remained unwashed, and his tall body looked frail. 

I didn’t know her for long, maybe for seven years. We were never close, so the feeling of her absence never affected me until I saw her in the casket. 

I was called out of school early. A beautiful day, the weather was nice and the flowers smelled oh so sweet. Once we got to the funeral home, we went into the room where her viewing would be. I didn’t know she was already in the room. I guess she would remain being the first one in and the last one out. It lasted for hours, but it was sweet, hearing people reminiscing memories of her. 

Her husband, Gladston, told us if we wanted to put something in the casket we could. Linda was a woman of faith, and I wanted to make sure she was buried with a cross. Soaking up my courage, I walked up to the casket. She looked so serene. Her braided, gray hair laid across her chest and rested near her thighs. Where her hands were clasped, in the middle of her stomach, held a red rose.

I placed the necklace down beside her on the pillow, hoping it would protect her from the demons that plagued her. We left the room shortly after that.

The funeral was on May 6, 2016.

I cried a lot that day. 

A couple weeks later, Lucille met God. 

We had gotten so close in the short time she stayed with grandma. And now I have to say goodbye. She was cremated and mixed with Junior’s remains. 

The table was covered in a dark pink blanket, and her urn sat in the middle. On the side, a TV replaid different photos of her. I think I was up there once. 

I don’t remember crying, honestly, I don’t even remember going. 

“Do you want to share a memory of her?” My grandma asked.

I stood up and looked at the floor. “I remember she liked to sneak her food under the table to Reba, that dog loved it. But grandma would always tell Lucille not to do it. She was too kind a soul to ignore that sweet dog. I’ll miss her, but I know she is with her momma again.” I sat down after that.

Once the crowd dialed down, I went to the main room, to look around. On the walls there were large printed paintings with elegant frames. The one I was looking at had a table in front that held pamphlets for grieving. I started looking at them out of curiosity, but then I saw something purple in the corner of my eye. 

It was a folder, one of those cheap ones that can tear in your bag. I took a look inside and there was Ms. Linda’s file for her funeral. I was outraged. How could they misplace something so important?

I stomped up to the funeral member and shoved the folder in his face. The people that he was talking to went silent. “What’s wrong with you?” I yelled. “How…..how could you lose something this important. Do you always treat the deceased so worthless?  How do you think the families would feel that you misplaced the folder of their loved one?” I asked.

He stared at me with an aghast face. “I’m sorry, it was never my intention to do something like that. But I’m going to ask you to leave. You are disturbing grieving families.” He told me.

“Yeah, so are you.” I told him in a passive aggressive voice.

I walked out the door and down the stairs. At least the flowers are pretty.

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