The first part of my story left off in the winter of 1976, when I was a twenty-seven-year-old divorced mother and grad student. Some supposedly minor surgery had resulted in life-threatening complications.
The hematoma near my surgery site burst without warning. I'd been trying to slowly get out of bed with my mother's help when a sudden gush of blood washed over my feet. Just before I lost consciousness I complained about the blood ruining my new slippers! Then I was out.
Later Mom told me how she'd sprinted for help. My blood pressure reading was zero when she rushed back with a nurse, so it took many units of blood to bring me back. I don't remember any of this. What I do remember, though, was having visitors again.
It was as if the room were blanketed in mist. Suddenly I realized there were three young adults sitting in a row next to my bed, watching me quietly. All three were dressed in clothing that reminded me of old-time Quaker attire. The visitor on the left was a pale-complected young man with sandy blonde hair. Next to him sat a girl who resembled him so much, I thought she must be his sister - if not his twin. The person on the right was a young, medium-complected black woman.
As they began gently "talking" to me without speaking, I could tell they were kind, empathetic people; but this was hardly comforting, because they told me they'd been sent to guide me "home". Of course I wasn't ready to go. I told them I needed to stay and take care of my little boy, but they continued trying kindly to comfort and persuade me until I was in a state of panic.
Suddenly all three stopped talking and looked apprehensively across the room. There stood a familiar-looking older woman, glaring at them wrathfully. I'd seen that glare before and knew it had cowed plenty of other people in the past - tardy fourth graders, door-to-door salesmen, and once in a while someone in our family. My grandmother had always had a commanding presence.
Grandma didn't glance my way even once; clearly, she had come to my hospital room for a single purpose. As she advanced toward the three young people, they stood up, exchanged frightened looks, and started to back away. Then they were gone. So was my grandmother...
For decades I've thought about my experience. Over time I've come to believe a compassionate spirit meets us at the moment of death and guides us into the next world. But I've wondered many times who the three young people were. Why were they sent to me instead of someone I knew? After nearly four decades, I think I've uncovered the answers to my question.
A few years ago when the genealogy craze was in full swing I became curious about my mother's side of the family. When I did some research I was flabbergasted to learn that some of my mother's ancestors were Mennonites who came from Europe to escape religious persecution. There are still Mennonites living in the area where my ancestors first settled, and their dress is similar to that of Quakers - no surprise, since the Quakers started as a group of Mennonites who broke off from the older church. I also learned that the anti-slavery Mennonite groups in the US included members who were African American.
Maybe the visitors were my relatives from long ago, chosen to meet me because they were closer in age to me than my more recently departed family members, so they would probably communicate with me better. It's a theory, anyway - and very comforting.