The Rainbow in Her Eyes
"A Lovelight Story."
I think that of all the wonderful things I've experienced in my life, that I will never forget the look I got from her before she crossed over into the Light. I saw a rainbow.
I woke up that morning with the most dismal of feelings in the pit of my stomach. My favorite teacher, Mrs. Penderson, had terminal cancer. I had stayed up until three in the morning researching what it was, hoping to somehow understand it, and make her better. I was still naive enough to believe that just because I could see angels and dead people crossing into the Light, that maybe, just maybe I could also heal someone who was called upon to leave our world for the next. Such is the wonder and naivety of youth. Thinking it can do anything. That it's immortal.
But all such illusions must shatter, and rightly so, or else we would never steer our feet upon the path that took us most directly to our goals in life...finding a career that matched our temperaments, meeting our life partner, finding friends in the pot of gold we call the workplace, and learning how to deal with disappointment.
Death comes under the disappointment category.
So that morning as I woke up, I was still weary and a bit heady from all the coffee I had been drinking. If Mom had known I had used up all her instant coffee she might have thrown a fit, but then again, what does a young teen really know about their elder parents. They are mysteries to them so much of the time. How they know what we do before we do it, and even after, when no one else could possibly have told them.
I smiled at that, and then began grooming myself for my visit to the hospital. Saint Louis Vatican Hospital, founded by the local Jesuits, about a hundred years ago. It was old and ivy overgrown, with huge gargoyles at the tops of its many roofs, and a very large cross, that shone golden in the light of day on its church steeple, which overarched a small chapel where the Sisters and the Brothers would gather to pray for their patients and those who were about to, or had already crossed over the shining path we all must journey someday.
My name is Cynthia, but I'm also called Lovelight. My Mom and best friends all call me that. I let them do it, because it makes them feel good. I've actually got so used to the thing that I no longer cringe inwardly at all the attention the mention of that name brings.
I tossed my long gold hair back across my shoulders, and clipped on a golden button I had won in Mrs. Penderson's class in third grade. I wanted to show here I still had it. I buttoned up my crisply starched and ironed blouse, threw on a nice pair of slacks, the dressy churchy kind, and then went into my bathroom to attend to my eyebrows, eyeliner, and lipstick. It took me the better part of thirty minutes, but when I was finished, Mom was already honking the horn out front. She knew I was anxious to see my old teacher, and she also knew I was a bit slow at times in getting ready.
I actually surprised her when I dashed out the front door, ran back and locked it, then got into our old car. She revved the engine, slides the gear into reverse and backed us onto the street, then turned us and headed towards the hospital, a big smile on her face.
"Why're you smiling?"
She grinned even wider. "I'm just...well...proud of you."
"Being on time. Caring."
That's when heaven yanked the floor out from underneath me. I had buried all my fears for Mrs. Penderson under a hush of hurry up and get ready, ignored all the horrible things I had read, and all the nasty pictures I had seen about cancer. It hit me like a sledgehammer in my heart. I felt as if my entire body were being crushed, squashed beneath a burden that no one could possibly lift.
I felt a hand touch my knee lightly. "Lovelight, she's going to be all right."
I turned my tear streaked face towards her, wiping angrily at my smeared makeup and eyeliner. "She's terminal. She's not going to be all right!" I slammed back at her.
She said nothing more for about ten minutes, just kept driving. Finally, she slowed down as we neared the hospital. "You're not afraid because she's dying. You're afraid you won't be able to help her?"
I looked away. She pulled into the parking lot of the hospital and turned off the engine. She slid sideways to look at me. To give me that look all parents do when they want their child to listen or else. My Mom wouldn't hit me, but her words sometimes cut like knives when I didn't want to hear them like now.
"You know there's no such thing as death."
I turned to her, still wiping at my eyes. "Yes."
"You also know that when it's time, it's time."
She said nothing more. She got out and locked her door. I got out and she locked mine with her remote key lock. We walked silently into the very busy lobby of the hospital. A Receptionist looked up from a bank of phones and smiled. "May I help you?"
"Mrs. Penderson, please." I blurted out, before Mom could speak.
"Oh that sweet lady on the fourth floor. God bless her. She has no one else left in this world. I'm so glad someone remembers her."
That sent me into another spill of tears.
The Receptionist looked shattered. She jumped up, ran for a box of tissues and handed it to me. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."
I took a tissue, blew into it, then another and nodded. "It's okay. You didn't." I lied.
"She'll be all right. Which room is she?"
"401." The Receptionist replied, still giving me a worried look.
Mom gave the Receptionist a gentle pat on her right arm. "Really. She'll be alright."
Mom and I went to the elevators, and got on the first one to the right. We rode up in silence. We stepped out and went to the Nurse's Station. "Mrs. Penderson's room?"
A very lovely, older woman with gray hair and silver eyes smiled at me and said. "What a lovely young thing you are, my dear." She spoke as if she hadn't even heard my Mom. "Come this way. She's been waiting for you."
I followed her. Mom held back.
"You go ahead. I'll come in a little bit."
I nodded and followed the nurse. She opened a door and I went inside. Mrs. Penderson was hooked up to all kinds of medical equipment and electronic monitors. The nurse lightly touched Mrs. Penderson on her shoulder. She had her eyes closed.
She groaned lightly, and then opened her eyes. She didn't seem able to focus at first, but then her face lit up and she weakly raised an arm. "Come here and let me touch you."
I moved closer and held out a small gift I had brought with me.
She touched my cheek lightly. "You were always my favorite student, Cynthia."
"You remember my name?" I asked in surprise, temporarily forgetting this dying woman was able to remember anything at all.
"I'm dying, not stupid, sweetheart." Mrs. Penderson replied in the usual snippy manner she had always used with us kids. "Now kids, don't think just because I can't see your phones in your laps, which I can't tell your little fingers are working them overtime." She used to say, surprising the students with her amazing psychic abilities. Little did I know.
"What's this?" She asked, looking at what I laid down beside her.
"You still have my pin!" She exclaimed, her voice weaker. She smiled, and then touched my face again. "God always loved you the most."
I began to cry.
She touched my face again. "Aren't you going to open my gift for me?"
When she said that I wiped at my tears and looked into her eyes. I swear there were rainbows in them. Bright, beautiful rainbows that shone like tiny cascading sliding suns into a pool of white light. I looked away hurriedly and began opening the gift. It was a doll I had made when I was ten. I called it Comfort, because it had always made me feel safe when I was afraid.
She laughed when she saw it and held it to her chest. "Why, it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. Does it have a name?"
"Comfort, Mrs. Penderson."
"Perfect name." She said placing it next to her cheek.
She shut her eyes. "Please don't mind if I just close my eyes a few moments. I feel so tired."
Her voice trailed off and I stood there, waiting for her to open her eyes again. The electronic monitors began screeching.
Mom came running inside, followed by a doctor and several nurses, then an orderly with an electronic paddle.
We were rushed from the room.
We sat in the outer area, seated next to a water fountain that kept making sputtering sounds as it coughed up tiny bits of water, then swirled them down its hungry throat of a drain.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, the nurse came out and waved to me.
"No, you go honey."
I gave her a pleading look, but she shook her head.
I followed the nurse into the room. I was in shock. There stood Mrs. Penderson, but no longer old and gray and weak looking. She stood in a beautiful white garment, her body young and youthful looking. About twenty five years old. Her eyes sparkled like diamonds.
And on the bed was Mrs. Penderson, the Doctor and nurses still trying to revive her.
The nurse took my right hand. "Say good bye to your friend, sweetheart."
I looked at Mrs. Penderson and tears began to run from my eyes. "You're so beautiful!"
Mrs. Penderson came over and hugged me ever so lightly. "As are you, Lovelight."
She let go and turned to the nurse. "Will Ronnie be waiting for me?"
"Yes." She answered, and then took Mrs. Penderson's hand. A tunnel of white light began to grow at the exit from the room.
Mrs. Penderson turned back as she went to smile at me. "We'll meet again. I promise you."
I nodded. She went into the light with the nurse, the same time as Mom came into the room and took me into her arms.
She held me close and I cried, while at the same time smiled. I had lost a friend. I had found a friend. The nurse was one of them. The silent helpers that come to help us leave this world for the next.
The Doctor turned around to face us. "I'm sorry for your loss." He turned to the head nurse.
"Time of death..."
I didn't hear the rest. All I could hear was the sound of a beautiful rainbow slipping down from heaven to shine in Mrs. Penderson's eyes.