The Angel In My Bedroom

by L.C. Dumke

I sat on the front stoop and watched my kids playing. Mitch had mastered walking and was now learning to run. He would stand firmly and lean the top half of his body forward, then his chubby little legs would follow. Heíd increase his momentum for a few yards then tumble onto the grass. Jill had finally begun to ride her bike without training wheels. Her helmet, knee pads and elbow pads weighed her down, but she was thrilled to be riding like a big kid. She rode in circles in the cul-de-sac, as Mitch waved to her and yelled "Címon, sissy, címon."

It was pretty much an ordinary Fall day. The cold was finally arriving, after a summer that lasted too long. The sky was blue but not particularly so. Our neighbors were strolling out to their mailboxes, and they would wave to me as they headed back to their homes. Most of them were already retired, their days now filled with grandchildren, lunch at the club and golf games.

I never thought much about dying before that day. I figured Iíd be there for Girl Scouts and baseball games, for helping with homework, for high school proms. But if I were gone, would what happen to them? How would my husband raise them all by himself? Would my children remember me?

I visited my doctor that week to discuss my weight loss, my dizzy spells and my difficulty sleeping. She thought I was experiencing hyperthyroidism, so she placed her hands around my neck expecting to find an enlarged thyroid, but there was more. She let go of my neck, stepped back and said, "Okay. Let me try that one more time." She felt my neck again, and kept returning to the same spot when she said there was a small lump. "It could be a water-filled cyst," she said. "Or cancer?" I added, "You know I have a family history." She stopped taking notes. "Yes, not likely, but I suppose it is possible. Letís not jump to conclusions." she said.

Her nurses tried to be gentle as they poked and prodded and drained the blood from my arm one vial at a time. After a few tests, my doctor sent me to a specialist, and his nurses did much the same to me. One nurse, about my age, looked at my chart then took my hand and said, "Think positive -- you have two little ones that need you."

I awoke suddenly from a deep, warm sleep, and saw a figure sitting in a chair in the corner of my bedroom. I got out of bed and walked over to him, without fear because I knew him well. He was someone who had watched over me for years, and I call him my angel. He looked blankly not quite at me but just beyond me. I returned to bed, laid down, and slept until morning.

The next night he returned, speechless for the second night in a row, still with a blank stare and his usual silence. Again I arose from bed, stood before him for a moment, then returned to my sleep. The next night he visited again, but I didn't want to accept his silence any more. I approached him and asked "What are you doing here?" He looked at me, his blankness now replaced with concern and said, "I am waiting."

A few days later, the lump in my neck was pronounced nothing more than a lump, and my maladies were deemed something that could be controlled with a pill. As soon as I was pronounced more or less healthy, my nighttime visitor was gone. For a while at least.

My angelís name is Don and he had come to my home to sit quietly in my room and wait for the results of my medical tests. We have this sort of setup -- if I need him, I mean really need him, he comes. It may be a few days because I guess he has other people to watch over, but he's there when I need him. And I count on him.

I once told a friend what I thought it might be like to die. As I am drifting out of earthly life and into death, Don would grab my hand and lead the way into whatever it is the lies beyond the world Iíve known until now. Call him a tour guide into the hereafter, I guess -- he would have liked that. I wasnít sure if his presence meant that I was dying and he was there to fulfill my wish. But he told me that he was waiting so I believed him.

Don wasnít always an angel, he was just another college student like me about 13 years ago. I was 18 years old when we met, and he was a bit older than the rest of us, having been through a few changes of heart where his college major and future plans were concerned. But by the time we met he had worked it all out at last, and had happily settled into the fold of a small, off-campus fraternity where he shared an apartment with my brother. Our two souls fell into a magical alignment and we became wonderful friends, cohorts, soul mates. We spent our weekends dancing late into the night, drinking gallons of beer, and concocting a scheme for the future. We would finish our education and start our careers in a small Florida beach town. We would rent a dilapidated old beach house with a few friends and renovate it ourselves. Our future lives would be much like our present ones -- filled with laughter and drinking and dancing.

I had just turned 22 years old when Don died. I sat on the living room floor of my new apartment as my brother spoke softly but quickly. "Don was killed in a motorcycle accident." His eyes shifted nervously; I knew he was worried that I might not take the news well. "What?" I asked, hoping I had not heard him correctly, asking "Don who?" until after a few minutes, it was clear that the Don he spoke of was my Don, and that there was no mistake about it. Don was dead.

I had no place to go to mourn him. I had graduated and moved to another state, hundreds of miles from my friends. I walked to a nearby field and I began to run. After a few minutes I sat down to catch my breath, and watched the weeds sway rhythmically in the clearing. I tried to remember the last time I saw him -- he was standing in his front yard, tossing his motorcycle helmet up into the air, catching it just before it crashed to the earth. What did I say to him? Was it something incredibly stupid like "see you later" then I never did? Did I hug him, kiss him, even touch him that day? I tried to picture his face, and cried for my uncertainty of each feature. He was suddenly not a beautiful young man but a chaotic group of features -- blue eyes, or were they green? Could you call his hair blonde or was it actually light brown? Was it curly, why donít I remember?

I wanted him to live. I cursed God and the fates that stole him away, I cursed his motorcycle and that damned Florida highway and everything and everyone that could have stopped it all that night. I cursed the friends he saw that night who could have called him back for one more conversation so that he wouldnít have been right there at the moment when the truck barreled down the street. I let the pain sink down inside of me until it found a dark, empty spot in my stomach where it could thrive in isolation.

After a few days, Donís death was not the first thing that came to mind the moment I woke up in the morning. Months passed, then years. I pursued a career, met a man and married, settled into a quiet suburban life. I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl one cold, rainy April. On one of her first days, I stood watching my baby daughter sleep. I reached down into her crib and stroked her face and felt that for the first time, peace was within my reach. If I could just reach over a bit further, grasp a tiny bit of it and pull it toward me, it would be mine. But there was something pulling me away from it, something from deep within my body, something I shoved down into a hole that hadnít given me much trouble for a while. I decided to face it like a victim faces their abuser. I sat at my desk and pulled out a stack of clean, ruled paper. I began to write about Don -- sentences, paragraphs, poetry -- everything that came to me at that moment. And after I was done, my face and my shirt were damp from the stream of tears that I had carried for so long.

My writings must have reawakened him, because he began to visit me in my dreams shortly thereafter. The first time I was in a vast, empty space and a familiar smell surrounded me. Don appeared in his hospital uniform, which he wore when he worked at the Burn Unit before he died. He always smelled of a hospital, and apparently heíd taken this scent with him. The baby monitor was in my dream too -- and as I saw him moving so fluidly I could hear the rhythmic breathing of my baby in the room across the hall. I stood between something that was long dead and something that was newly alive, and the strangeness of it all confused me so much that I found nothing to say. My dead friend before me, and I could say nothing.

He sat beside me and spoke in a near-whisper, saying "She is beautiful, you are lucky. You should move on." It all made such clear, beautiful sense. It wasnít like my other dreams, filled with ugly, crazed beasts chasing me in the darkness, rooms with no doors, no windows, trapping me, people screaming indecipherable phrases to me. My dreams became an easy place for him to visit me, to say hello, to reassure me, so be there if I need him. Or even if I didnít.

Don gave me something in death that no one in life had given me before. He gave me hope. The childlike hope that even where everything is going wrong, it might all be right again tomorrow. Hope that if I die, I wonít be alone. Hope that there may be some forces or spirits out there that spend their days and nights watching over people. People just like me.

L.C. Dumke is a mother, writer and living in Georgia. She is the creator of Murmur's Coffeehouse.

Text © Copyright 1997 - L. C. Dumke. All rights reserved.