Jenny was afraid. That was unsurprising; Jenny was afraid of everything. Night was the worst because that’s when all the monsters would be out. Never mind the fact that she had never seen a monster. She knew that monsters lurked just out of view, waiting for their chance to strike.
Right now her biggest fear was her Papaw. Her great-grandfather was in his room, and her mama would go upstairs and come down frequently in tears. None of the grown ups would tell her anything, but she would hear them whispering about Papaw. He was dying.
No one thought that Jenny should go up and see Papaw, and that was fine with her. She was scared of death. What if he came back as a ghost and haunted her? No. She didn’t want to see him until there was screaming coming from the room, and all the grown-ups ran up the stairs. Really? She got in trouble for running in the house!
Something compelled her to go upstairs, drawing her in spite of her fears. Slowly she walked up the stairs; slowly she crept into the room unseen by anyone. They were all focused on somebody in the room, hooked up to all sorts of funny machines. One had tubes coming out of it, and another one made funny beeping noises.
It then hit her that the man in the middle of the room was her Papaw, and she began to cry. She didn’t want him to die. Papaw used to take her to the park and buy her ice cream. She remembered the time in the back yard when she fell and skinned her knee. It was Papaw who picked her up, cleaned up the scrape and gave her a kiss on the cheek and read her a story in his office. She was not ever allowed in there.
All of a sudden little Jenny saw Papaw shake quite a bit, and he sat up and slowly laid back down. All of a sudden she heard everybody start crying and holding each other. It took her a second, but then she understood; her Papaw was dead.
She turned to leave the room and out in the hall she saw someone, but this time she was not scared. She saw a young man, clothed in light, all cares erased from his face. He didn’t look like the man who died in the room but she knew who it was. Her Papaw was standing there, young and whole.
He looked down and smiled at her and winked. She couldn’t hear him but she saw him mouth the words, “I love you.” Then he reached out his hand to someone unseen and walked away, and then Jenny saw him fade away.
Jenny walked back into the room, found her mother, and gave her a hug. “Mom,” Jenny said, “it’s okay. Papaw is all better.” Then she walked to the body laying cold and still on the bed and grabbing its hand said, “I love you, too.”
Maybe there are things to fear, but in that room she learned that death was not one of them. Little Jenny saw death as a friend, one who healed her Papaw and made him whole again.
© 2012 Joe Hinojosa