My heart was pounding as I stood over the bathroom sink and splashed my face with water. I saw my face in the mirror, drawn and haggard from lack of sleep. It was only three in the morning, too early to call anyone. I lumbered into the family room and dropped onto the couch to watch TV while I waited for daylight to save me from I’m not sure what.
A few hours later, I called my kid sister, my only sibling, as she was driving to the office. We both took after our mother in size, build and coloring, but that’s where the similarities ended. I settled down as a stay-at-home mother early, but she would rather be single than ‘tied down’ as she puts it. Cindy answered on the second ring.
“This is a surprise. What are you doing up so early?” she asked as she turned down the radio.
“I had a visit from Mom,” I said as calmly as possible.
“How did she look?” she asked. Cindy and our mother sized up a situation by appearance.
“She was dressed in her favorite tennis outfit, still petite, with short, brown wavy hair,” I said. “She looked good, smiling, and happy. I could hear her saying something to me, but I couldn’t make out the words.”
“I’m not surprised she looked good, even being gone all these years. Tell me more,” she said.
“I remember the wind kicking up and dust swirling around me. The sky turned dark. I couldn’t see anyone but I heard footsteps. The sky slowly cleared. Mom was speeding towards me. Her feet left the ground and she was flying. In minutes, she was over my head. I heard her scream my name so loud it was like a sonic boom. I woke up, thinking we were having an earthquake.”
I didn’t tell Cindy about the apparition that walked through the closed bedroom door, pointed a finger at me from the foot of the bed and then disappear.
“How about Dad?”
“Probably watching the game up there,” I said. “Look, I just want to understand what she’s saying. I’m a nervous wreck and the idea of going to sleep scares me.”
Cindy was into interpreting dreams and might even have good insight since the dream was about our mother. She was closer to her than I was. They could chitchat up a storm about nothing. I could barely think of what to say after ‘Hello.’
“Well, my best guess is that she’s trying to warn you about something. Have you been neglecting something or someone? Bill and the kids okay?”
“Yes. Bill is fine,” I said. “He’s on a business trip. As far as I know, the kids are fine. They haven’t called for money and neither college has called to tell us they’ve been expelled.”
“She’s telling you there is something you have to do. You better figure it out before it’s too late.”
“That’s it?” I asked, probably a little more forceful than necessary.
“Dream interpretation is not an exact science. You need to know what’s going on for you,” Cindy said. “It’s interesting that you’re having this dream now. She’s been dead six years today.”
“I have no idea what to do,” I said, feeling drained.
“Look, I have a busy day today, but let’s go have dinner tonight and we can talk,” Cindy suggested.
“Not tonight. I’m too tired,” I complained.
“We need to figure this out,” she insisted. “It can be an early night.”
“How about Randy?” I asked. Cindy goes through another boyfriend every few years.
“We’re done,” she said. “I can get a cat if I want to be ignored.”
I remembered one of the last things my mother said to me a couple of days before she died. “Take care of your sister. You have Bill and the kids. She has no one but you to look after her.”
I yawned again and said, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I’m picking you up at 7 tonight,” Cindy told me. “We’re going to the Cheesecake Factory.”
Our waiter came over to take our drink orders almost immediately. Cindy gave the waiter a quick once over and decided he was too young for her. We ordered two glasses of their best Merlot.
“So how is it being single?” I asked her.
Cindy was checking out the restaurant to see if she recognized anyone. “Good,” she said. “I love having my own space again.”
The wine came and we talked about what our mother was trying to tell me and came up blank. We ordered dinner and Cindy ordered another glass of wine. I yawned during most of the evening.
“I need to go home,” I said after we shared a piece of White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake. I called for the check. “I’m so tired from not sleeping. Maybe she’ll leave me alone tonight.”
“I doubt it,” Cindy said. “She’s doesn’t let up until she gets her message across. You know that.”
I did. I prepared myself for another ‘fun’ night.
Cindy unlocked the car. As I opened my door, I heard a loud scream in my ear. Someone was calling me. I covered my ears to muffle the sound. I looked for my sister when the screaming stopped and asked, “Did you hear that?”
“No, but I don’t feel very good.”
I walked over to her. She was grimacing and leaning against the car. She was gasping in pain. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Are you okay?” She looked so pale.
“My stomach hurts and I want to puke,” she said.
“Did you drink too much?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” Cindy groaned, almost in a whisper. “Ow. My jaw hurts.”
I helped her get in the car and took the car keys. Cindy was shivering in the warm air. Her skin was cold to the touch.
“I’m taking you to the hospital,” I told her. She didn’t say anything, which was so unlike her. I occasionally glanced over at my sister to make sure she was okay. She looked horrible.
That’s when she slumped against me. “Cindy,” I screamed. “Are you kidding around or is this serious?” She didn’t answer. I tried to push her up. She didn’t move. I thought about the warning. Cindy.
Thankfully, the hospital was only blocks away. I drove like a maniac to the ER, going as carefully as I could through stop signs and red lights. She still hadn’t moved.
Now I was starting to feel the panic growing. I stopped the car right in front of the ER door. The guard was saying something to me, but I couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to him. I ran into the ER yelling, “My sister is slumped over and I can’t wake her up or get her to move. You have to help me.”
An empty gurney passed me and I chased after it, running over to the passenger door and opening it up. They placed Cindy onto the gurney and rolled passed the double doors, leaving me behind to fill out admission paperwork and wait for news.
After what seemed like an eternity, a woman came out from the double doors and called my name. She introduced herself as Kathy, one of the hospital’s social workers. “Your sister had a severe heart attack,” she said. “The doctor wants to operate immediately. Are you her next of kin?”
“Yes,” I said, trembling.
“We need you to authorize the surgery.”
I signed the paper and handed it back to her.
“Do you know if she wants to be resuscitated if she stops breathing?”
“What? Oh, uh she’s young. I’m sure she does,” I said, barely able to think. I signed the DNR form.
“I’ll be back as soon as I know something,” she said soothingly.
I spent the next five hours pacing and drinking coffee. Anything not to fall asleep.
When I didn’t think I could stay awake any longer, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. It was Kathy. “She’s very lucky to be alive. If you hadn’t brought her in when you did the outcome would have been different.”
I started to cry. “Can I see her?” I asked through the tears.
“Sure. I’ll take you to her.”
Cindy was hooked up to so many monitors and tubes I could barely find her. I sat down next to her and held her hand. I wasn’t sure how long I had been asleep when I felt an extremely cold breeze pass through me. I opened my eyes. As I watched two apparitions hovering above my sister, I tried to scream for help but couldn’t utter a sound.
I must have fallen asleep again. It was daytime when I awoke again, still holding my sister’s hand. She was awake and looking at me, smiling.
“Mom and Dad look great,” she said in a hoarse voice. “And Mom says you did a great job.”