Where angels tread | News, Sports, Jobs – Evening Observer

Oct 28, 2021
It’s been five years since Alberta went home, but she arrived there accompanied by angels. It is really quite a story.
My mother died at age 98 in our local Hospice House. She loved her spacious new surroundings and all the personal attention.
Mom truly appreciated nature’s beauty. Her floor to ceiling windows delivered abundant morning sunshine, afternoon aromatic tea roses and evening visits from large-eyed does and fawns.
Every day when I arrived, her eyes twinkled above her wide, happy grin. She always creamed her hands when she was contented and I could smell her signature scent as I approached her room. Her joy at being there eased my anxieties about her end-of-life journey.
So imagine my surprise one afternoon when she told me she’d had company most of the day. She was exhausted, but very happy. “Well first, there was Ralph. He walked right in and sat down on the edge of my bed. Imagine! He had on garden overalls and boots and smelled outdoorsy.”
She continued, “Well I told him he couldn’t come into this lovely place dressed like that, and no gentleman would ever just plunk down on a lady’s bed. He should sit in a chair, I told him.”
I said, “Mom, Ralph? Ralph who?”
“Oh for heaven’s sake, you’ve known him all your life – Ralph Churchill.”
Yes, I knew Ralph. He was a dear family friend back in Massachusetts. A lifelong bachelor and serious gardener, he tended large patches of cucumbers, squashes, and beans, and at least 50 tomato plants. He grew them to give them away.
Ralph’s friends all figured out that when he arrived in the late afternoon, toting a bountiful basketful of garden goodies, the natural thing to do was invite him for supper. His peppers and onions paid the way for many a full tummy. He usually arrived at my mother’s house on Tuesday… her baking day.
My memories of Ralph were fond, but distant. On that day in Mom’s room, Ralph had been dead for well over 20 years.
“Oh. That Ralph. I’m sorry, Mom, I was thinking of someone else.” I was checking her closely to see if dementia had finally arrived. Was she hallucinating? But she seemed normal.
“Well,” she said. “I sent him packing. I told him he should know better, and not to come back until he was cleaned up. Frankly, I didn’t think I’d see him again, but he came back.”
“Really?” I asked. “When?”
“Oh, I dunno, maybe a half hour later. And he was all gussied up. He’d showered, shaved and splashed on aftershave. He wore a nice gray suit. All spit and polish, he was.”
I kept a straight face, hoping not to insult her belief that this truly happened. I wanted to talk to a nurse, but Mom continued.
“And the other four Ralphs looked just like him, except smaller. Same clothes even.”
Wh-a-a-a-t? “Mom, the other four Ralphs? What do you mean?”
“Oh yes, they followed Ralph in. When he pulled up a chair, they perched around the room, looking out the windows. They sort of posed like that thinker guy statue.”
Ah, yes. Rodin’s sculpture. By now, I was stunned… but captivated.
“So Ralph and I had a nice chitchat. He stayed most of the afternoon, and told me about his five types of tomatoes. He’s bringing me some blueberries next week, and maybe we’ll drive down to the beach.”
Oh, my Lord, she really believes this. She was as matter of fact as if she’d told me she’d been to the hairdresser. But there was more.
“Ralph was gabbing away, you know how he does, and I was looking at the little Ralphs. As I watched, they started sprouting wings.
These knobs came out of their shoulders and I watched as they slowly grew into big, white fluffy wings that bobbed and swayed. Then they each sort of turned into sunshine, getting lighter and lighter. I turned to Ralph to see if he was watching, but he was gone. Probably went back to his garden. When I looked back at the little Ralphs, they had all faded away.” She smiled and sighed, “It was wonderful.”
And for the next 10 days, she smiled and sighed. She was different. She talked about joy and beauty and all her great memories. She knew where she was going, and who she would see when she arrived.
Although Mom’s Ralphs unnerved me, I realized how real they were to her. Who am I to say they weren’t? Mom was preparing to leave, and they helped deliver her final Amen.
I bet when she arrived that Ralph was standing right beside my stepdad, holding a basket of shiny green peppers.
Marcy O’Brien can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.
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