I opened my eyes today. I was so glad to be awake. I had just had open-heart surgery and the doctors weren’t sure if I was going to make it. However, I didn’t have any tubes up my nose, or needles in my arm. Was I recovering that fast? Maybe the surgery went a lot smoother than planned. I got out of my bed and walked over to the window. I was on one of the higher floors of the hospital. There was a public park right next to the hospital. I watched two basketball teams competing against each other while younger children were playing on the swing sets.
It was so quiet in the hospital. All I could hear was the low grumble of the air conditioning unit in the ceiling. Suddenly, my room door opened, startling me. My doctor walked in casually. He had a clipboard in his hands. He looked up at me for a long moment.
“Hey Tracy, it’s been awhile since we last talked. How are you feeling?” he asked.
Tracy walked over to the bed and sat down. The doctor stood there for a minute jotting some notes down on his clipboard.
“I’m feeling fine really. I don’t even feel like I had any surgery.” she answered.
“Well, your personal belongings are over there on that cabinet. You’re free to go whenever you like. Please just sign out at the front desk.”
Tracy looked up in shock.
“That’s it, there’s nothing you have to do, no follow up examinations?” she replied oddly.
“Nope, I have been watching you for awhile. You’ve recovered just fine.” he answered.
“Here, this will get you released from the hospital.” he said as he handed her a small form, half the height of a normal piece of paper.
He continued, “Would you like me to call a cab for you Tracy?”
Tracy’s reply was delayed, “No..no. It’s fine. My home isn’t far from here. I can walk, thank you.”
The doctor smiled as he exited the room, “Glad you’re with us again Tracy.”
Tracy thought it was weird that the doctor didn’t need to do any type of follow up procedures. She looked down at the slip that he had given her. It had a bunch of words and was signed ‘Ghelso O. Dommermuth’. She gathered her belongings and changed out of the hospital clothes that she was wearing.
She walked down the hall towards the receptionist’s desk at the far end. Everything was so bright. The hospital room she had been in was very dark, but the hallways were entirely lit up. She approached the receptionist, who was a small black woman staring at her computer while fidgeting with her hair.
“Doctor Dommermuth told me to give this to you.” she said as she handed the small slip to the young woman. The young woman read over the slip carefully and then looked up at Tracy with an almost sad face. It quickly turned into a large smile though.
“You’re all set, Tracy!” she said excitingly, as she put her initials on the line underneath the doctor’s signature.
Tracy thanked the young woman and continued through the doors next to the desk and down the stairs. She walked through the lobby, which was surprisingly empty and then out through the front doors.
The air outside was cool, but not cold; it was quite refreshing and felt good after being in the hospital for so long. She unbuttoned her jacket seeing how it wasn’t as cold as she thought it was. She walked past the little park that she was watching earlier. The two teenage basketball teams were sitting on the benches, taking a break. She could hear their laughter as they made jokes to each other while resting. The other children who were on the swings had left now. She turned the corner and continued down the next street picking up her pace a little bit. She couldn’t wait to see her husband and her six year-old son. Tracy cracked a smile just by thinking of them. It seemed like ages since the last time they saw each other. Just another mile now and they’d be together again.
Tracy reached her house at the edge of town to find the lights on in the upstairs bedrooms. It was past 7:30 PM, so she didn’t know why Jacob would be up still. Her husband must be letting him stay up late, like usual. She quietly entered her house, closing the door gently behind her. She could faintly smell the scent of grilled cheese coming from the kitchen, Jacob’s favorite meal. She walked into the kitchen to see all the pans and dishes neatly stack in the drainer. She grinned happily at the thoroughness of her husband. She turned around and walked silently back through the hallway and up the stairs. The stairs, however, were impossible to keep a secret. At the top of the stairs her husband’s head curiously poke out from the bedroom door.
He stood in awe as he watched his wife ascend the staircase. He looked sad for a moment, the same way the receptionist at the hospital had looked. But his troubled face gradually lit up with happiness.
“Welcome home, you’re with us again. I’m so happy.” he said as he embraced her as she came to the top of the stairs.
“Mommy!” cried a small voice from room down the hall.
“Jacob!” she replied enthusiastically.
“Oh, I’ve missed you so much dear!” she continued.
“You never leave us again Mommy! We will live here in heaven together, forever!” Jacob said joyfully.
“She pulled back from hugging her son.
“What do you mean darling?” she asked curiously.
Her husband cut Jacob off before he could get begin talking. “I think it’s time for bed Jacob. You and you mother can talk all you want in the morning.
“Aww, c’mon Dad.” Jacob replied.
He picked up Jacob and gave him a shoulder ride to his bedroom. Tracy could hear the laughter of her son as her husband tickled him. As she listened she laughed quietly to herself, but then thought about what Jacob had said. “We will live here in heaven together, forever!” What did he mean?
Her husband exited the room and turned off Jacob’s bedroom light, but kept the door slightly ajar to let in the light from the hallway. Tracy entered their bedroom and sat on the bed. He shut the door behind him and sat on the bed next to her.
“Tracy, you didn’t recover from your surgery.” he said sadly.
“What, I don’t understand..” she said bewildered.
“I’m sorry Tracy, but it’s true.”
“We were driving to Jacob’s soccer game and another car hit ours from the side. Jacob and I died in the crash.” he described carefully.
He continued, “You survived, but had critical heart injuries. And unfortunately, you died on the operating table…”
Tracy began to cry as her husband described to her what happened.
“So.. so we’re dead. We’re in heaven?” she said as she wiped away tears from her face.
“Yes, we’re in heaven” he answered as he rubbed her back.
“It’s okay, we’re all together again, aren’t you happy?”
She began to chuckle underneath her breath as she came to the realization.
“It’s just that, I thought of heaven as.. different than this. Everything is exactly as it was when we were living.” she stated.
Her husband gave her a big comforting hug, a hug that deeply soothed her.
“Well, heaven can be whatever a person desires most in their hearts.” he told her.
“For Jacob, you and I, all we wanted to do was live on.” he finished.
“So that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
He smiled at Tracy, and soon, she couldn’t help but smile in return.