“I need to sit down." I pulled out a chair and sat down. Janice floated over to the table, pulled out a chair, and sat down across from me.
“You can sit?" I ask.
Janice looked insulted. “Of course I can sit. I’m not a zombie for goodness sake."
Zombies, ghosts, apparitions, the undead, clairvoyants, spells. It all swirled about in my mind like a wild spiritual tornado that wouldn’t subside. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I focused on breathing in and out. Deep inhale. Hold. Slow exhale. I am relaxed. I tried to conjure the image of a serene lake in my mind’s eye. Soft clouds. Gentle ripples on the water. Birds are chirping happily in the trees. I am at peace. I slowly opened my eyes.
Janice sat there and stared at me. “Donald, please. Just stop."
The lake disappeared. I fumbled with my hands, wringing my fingers like I’m trying to tie them in knots.
The hand of my dead wife reached across the table and rested atop mine. I’m surprised at how warm it felt.
“Donald, dear, try to relax. I know this must all be quite a shock, but it’s me. Your Janice.” She smiled at me and a tender warmth spread through my body. I still couldn’t believe it, but it must be real. It was really her. She looked at peace, at rest. Her face seemed illuminated in a soft glow, not dull and pale like a ghost, but natural and radiant as if she were alive.
“Are you wearing less makeup?" I asked.
She smiled. “Isn’t it wonderful? It’s one of the perks. They have you looking your best when you . . . well, you know. No more struggling with eyeliner and blush. I know how you hated when I spent so much time with my makeup. You always said I looked beautiful without it. Women never believe men when they say that."
"Oh," I said. "But why are you here?"
“Life isn’t easy, for anyone. At times we need a little help to move ahead. You just need a little extra help right now.” Janice gently patted my hands.
It’s true, I had difficulty adjusting to life without Janice. I often wondered if something were wrong with me. I never felt the sting of the loss of someone close. I always thought they were in a better place. That all changed when Janice died. Even though I did not want to see her suffer any longer, I didn’t want to lose her.
"I thought I was doing okay, but I guess you’re right," I said.
"Of course I am. So, here’s what we’re going to do, Donald. I’m going to be around for a while. Not all the time. Just popping in and out when it seems I can make a difference. You know, with the little things: cooking, cleaning, finances, decisions the kids are making. The things I usually managed."
"That’s kind of you, but I need to figure out how to live on my own now."
"And you will, honey, you will. It’s just until you’re on your feet a bit more."
"And how will we know when I’m on my feet a bit more?" I felt a nervous twitch jab at the pit of my stomach.
"Oh, we’ll figure something out," Janice replied. "But don’t you worry. I’m looking out for you now. Wait and see how your life changes." Janice rose from the chair.
"I must be going." She turned and began to float away from the table.
"You’re in good hands, Donald. So just relax and go with the flow." She turned and paused, thinking, then looked at me and said. “Get in the spirit of things”. She giggled and waved her hand at nothing in the air.
Then she said, "Donald. I’m going to disappear now. So, don’t panic. You need to get used to it. I said I’ll be popping in and out. Okay. Ready?" She waited for my acknowledgment.
I nodded my head, Yes.
"That’s my big, strong man," she said with puckered lips as she pinched and wiggled my cheeks. Then she turned and slowly floated away, fading into the background until she finally disappeared.
In the echo of an empty room I heard her voice in the distance.
"Remember, Donald, I’ll be back . . . and clean that stove."