Short Story: The One She Lost

The moment I died, I saw a pinpoint of light appear after a brief period of solitude. The luminance, both beautiful and inviting, grew pleasantly warm and significantly larger as I approached it, joyfully. I had finished my battle with breast cancer with dignity and felt grateful to finally be able to return home.

To my delight, I found myself amongst the heavenly hosts following my spiritual ascent. Tiny cherubs flew overhead holding hands and laughing amongst themselves. Tall, statuesque males with great, feathered wings folded on their backs stood guard over the entrance I had come out of just moments before. Matriarchal figures in long, pearly robes strolled by gracefully with their hands folded neatly in front of them.

Ethereal harp music could be heard in the distance as if coming from the sky itself. A sweet aroma, much like honey, filled the air and tantalized the taste buds. The ground appeared snowy as far as the eye could see, covered in fluffy, white clouds. The street upon which I stood had been made of individually-carved golden bricks bonded together with golden mortar.

This place had a certain magical elegance, the likes of which I had never imagined before.

I ventured forward along the glistening path, silently appreciating the magnificent splendor of my surroundings. Approaching a massive double gate, also made of gold, I noticed the figure of a small person. Their outline seemed slight against the ornate patterns of the grand, closed gates at their back.

When I arrived at the gates, I discovered the individual to be a female child, about ten years old. She greeted me as if we had been old acquaintances reunited once again. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke. She had a lovely smile that felt contagious, her small mouth filled with shining, white teeth.

She did not give me her name, but seemed to already know mine. She gave me a big hug after she greeted me and asked me to come with her. I followed without hesitation.

We followed a narrow offshoot of the grand, golden pathway that wound around a hill of clouds and out of sight. On the other side of the hill sat a single high-back chair and a tall, white screen.

“So this is heaven?” I questioned, looking around me in awe.

“This is the afterlife you chose,” she answered wisely.

I felt that statement warranted further explanation, but she did not expound on her point.

I pointed at the screen. “What will we do here?” I asked the smiling girl.

“We shall review your life,” she responded happily.

“Everything?” I asked with some trepidation.

“Yes,” she answered, “But you need not be worried. I know that you will do just fine.”

“How? Do I know you from somewhere?”

“You do not know me, but I know you very well. Let’s get started, shall we? There will be lots of time for questions later.”

Her confidence in me felt perplexing. She had been correct, of course. I had done nothing egregiously wrong in my life.

I had behaved fairly well as a child. My greatest weakness had been talking. I knew no strangers and could talk to nearly anyone about practically anything for seemingly any length of time.

As a teenager, I had been too afraid of my mother to break any rules in school or church. I had asked for very little at Christmas and expressed gratitude for whatever I had been given. I had spent time volunteering on behalf of those less fortunate than myself though my family had very little. According to my mother, time could be a gift as well. So, time is what I gave.

I wondered how much time would pass by in heaven before my mother and I reconnected once again. I had left her behind. I was only thirty when I died.

The little girl directed my attention to the screen as a picture came into focus. I recognized the face as my own, however, I had been much younger on the day the image portrayed.

I watched in awe as my mother held me as a newborn for the first time.

Many images passed across the screen as the review continued. Years viewed in seconds seemed to offer complete pictures despite their brief appearance.

I had committed more wrongs in grade school than I had previously recalled, minor infractions and lapses in judgment. Though I had married my first boyfriend, I had participated in explicit acts in the years prior to the exchanging of our vows. None of this could be denied as shame engulfed my conscience.

My marriage had ended in divorce.

I watched as my life became further complicated when a new lover entered. Though this man had more to offer, he still brought with him heartache and disappointment.

I wanted to cover my eyes with my hands. I knew what came next. I did not want to see it, but I thought better of it. I had been brought here to learn.

I watched myself cry alone in the restroom of our home, unmarried and pregnant.

Part of me felt elated because I had endured multiple surgeries on my female organs in my early twenties as a result of a birth defect. I had not known at the time if I could even become pregnant. The doctor had told me that if I wanted a child, I would have to start trying immediately. She did not seem concerned with unmarried status. Her advice had led to that bittersweet moment.

My boyfriend and I had been fighting in the days leading up to the positive test. I had already announced that I planned to move out. I had gone back to him, head lowered and told him about the baby to be. He had been overjoyed.

The few months that followed had been the most cheerful of my life. Many images showed gatherings with family and friends feverishly discussing baby names, looking at tiny clothes, and admiring my new engagement ring. Life had dangled from a string on the end of my little, pinky finger.

All that changed the morning of the miscarriage.

My sleep had been disrupted at 2:30 a.m. by a sweltering heat that seemed to smother my body. I had awoken in excruciating pain and covered in a thin layer of cold sweat. My body ached and my abdomen wrenched in agony, plagued with contractions.

“My baby!” I yelled. “My sweet, precious baby!”

I had held the tiny fetus in my hand, such a small yet significant person. I had never loved anyone like I had loved that little one, and they did not even have a name. We had referred to the unborn child as “Peanut” because of its size and shape on the ultrasounds.

I felt the tears run rapidly down my face, pouring over my cheeks and puddling into my hands, the same hands that had held the baby fetus, if only for a moment.

“May I ask you a question?” I mumbled despite my lamentation.

“Of course you may,” answered the child respectfully.

The review paused on an image of me in the waiting room of the doctor’s office the following day, shoulders slumped, head down, face blank.

“Is my baby here in heaven?” I inquired.

“Why, of course!” she exclaimed. “All babies go to heaven.”

“May I see them please?” I whimpered, my breath short. “I would like to meet them.”

“What will you tell them when you see them?”

I took a deep breath and uttered, “I just want them to know how much I love them.”

I began to cry again, this time more fiercely. I buried my face in my hands.

She offered sweetly, “They know that you love them.”

“But I never got the chance to tell them…they never even heard the sound of my voice. They never…” The rest of my words could not be distinguished from my sobs.

The child walked over to me slowly and hugged my neck. I hugged her back crying profusely into her slender shoulders.

“It’s okay, Mommy,” she said, smiling, “I heard every word and I love you, too.”

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