I want to apologize for the length of this submission, I can't tell an incident by just relating facts I'm a writer at heart and as such I feel that it is important that I relay everything. I believe in this case it's important to give you the background to it. I ask you to believe me when I say that this was not easy to write.
Out of all the ghosts I've met in my life this one is the hardest for me to talk about. It strikes at me deeply and involves feelings and memories that I'd rather not remember at times. It happened in the spring of 1994, in fact it was May. Life was very hard going then; I was working two jobs and trying to attend school part time. My marriage was going through its rough final stages and unknown to me at the time I was suffering from end stage renal disease which would result years later with having to have a kidney transplant. The simplest things of the day seemed to take Herculean effort to get done. Every night I'd go to bed exhausted hoping that the next day would never come.
My wife and I had little or no social life outside of her large family. We were constantly getting together for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and parties. I liked this part of our relationship. I also had come from a large family but we never seemed to be as close as my wife's and I truly admired that about them.
Sherry was my wife's cousin; she was tall and had strawberry blond hair and blue eyes. She had a aura about her that reminded me of old classic Hollywood Movie Stars such Grace Kelly, Veronica Lake, or Doris Day. She stood out in a crowd, not because she was beautiful but because she projected a graceful elegance in my mind. People would look at her and just feel was someone different.
We used to visit Sherry and her husband who was a policeman with the town. Tom was a nice guy and he and would talk about his police work, guns, and life in our small town. My wife and Sherry would talk of arts and crafts and the myriad of things women talk about when the men are not around. We cliqued very well and would get together when we could as often as we could.
There came a time one season when one of my wife's relatives announced they were getting married. Plans were drawn up, invitations sent, and tuxedos were rented by those in the wedding party. The wedding itself went off with out a hitch or need of a shotgun and a happy chord was struck all around. The reception was being held in the same building so the high spirits of the evening never had a chance to dampen.
The crowd broke up into smaller cliques and soon everyone had the circle save for a few others and me who just weren't socially inclined. My wife had joined a group of relatives she hadn't seen in years and was busy catching up. I sat there as the dutiful husband letting my mind wander about any number of things.
Music started soon enough as a DJ began to play the night's long list of requested songs. Lights were dimmed and couples slowly began moving to the dance floor. My wife must have noticed my boredom. She wasn't fond of dancing like I was so she suggested that I go out and do so. She pointed to Sherry who was sitting by herself with her two children and said I should ask her to dance.
I didn't really need anymore coaxing. It was nice to get away from the family conversation and do something different. I approached Sherry and asked if she would dance to a moderately slow song that was playing. Her children, while young were old enough to let go unsupervised remained at the table devouring ice cream and cake. We both kind of laughed because it seemed odd. We had known each other for years and had done things together with my wife and her husband but it was the first time we were face to face speaking as a man and woman to each other in a fairly intimate situation.
I tried to say a few words that blurted out like silly lines from an old movie like 'fancy meeting you here.' It seemed so corny to me at first but Sherry seemed to like it and soon we were speaking like we were old friends. I asked her where Tom her husband was. Her face saddened and she told me that they had separated and were filing for divorce. We hadn't visited them in a few months so this was a surprise to me. She spoke of the problems they had been having and I feel there is no need to write them here. Needless to say, she felt she couldn't go with it and asked for the divorce.
I could empathize with her. My wife and I had been having our own troubles lately but no one was to blame. It just seemed things were hitting at us from all angles and the pressures were tremendous. I listened, as best as I could over the music and gave advice as I best knew. Nothing I could say would make her feel better but I think just having someone around to listen was all she wanted and the one thing I knew I was good at was listening.
Now if the evening had just been about that speaking of problems and troubles that would have been fine for I thought that is what friends are for and for a change it was nice to hear someone else's troubles rather then dwelling on mine. But it seemed we couldn't stay focused on problems, our conversation started straying on things such as life and nature. She told me of things she liked such as butterflies. Probably to most men this would have been boring but not to me. I grew up in the city and lived there most of my life. I loved the quiet countryside we now lived in and often go and take treks by myself into the woods and notice things like those little creatures. Things that were non-existent in my old world of gray and brown brick buildings.
As we spoke and danced I realized that we both shared a common love for the simple things and for simple beauty. Things that most people there would have taken for granted like the colors of the forest or the simple butterfly. I realized that her soul was much like mine a seeker of peace and tranquility. She was a being who was always watching the world around her in hopes of seeing a moment from God. I remember looking into her eyes and she smiled and inside I shuddered because I realize she was thinking my thoughts. We spoke in smaller thoughts then knowing that we already knew what the other was saying. Soon enough we were dancing closer then we should have been.
Sooner then I could have imagined the room was brightening and the DJ was saying goodnight with a casual reminder about the dangers of drinking and driving. Sherry and I pulled away from each other and she went to gather her kids. She joined my wife and I as we were getting ready to leave and she thanked her for letting her "borrow" me for the night. We laughed at that and went our separate ways. Inside however I was sad that the night was over. If my ex suspected what I was thinking or feeling she said nothing and she spoke about all the things that were going on with the distant relatives she had become reacquainted with. I don't think I remember a single thing she said.
I never saw Sherry outside of situations like that, at parties or weddings and it seemed we had an awful lot of them that year. Generally, it would be the same. My wife would speak with her family and I would dance. Most often Sherry would be my partner and that would be the way it would be the entire evening. We would speak of our lives and dance and then go our separate way with no words spoken I knew she hated parting as much as I did.
This was the way things were and the way they always were going to be. Our families were deeply religious and if we were to ever act on our thoughts the scandal would have been like the sun exploding. So though Sherry was free, I knew I could never act upon that and she knew that as well. We would always have to be happy with the few hours we could have out together as a family.
That was the way it was until the fall of 93 when one of Sherry's friends got married and she was asked to be a bridesmaid. I remember seeing her that night for the first time in a peach colored evening gown. She was stunning, even now after all these years I feel my heart skip a beat thinking about it. I had been in England during my Air Force career at the same time the wedding of Princess Dianna and Prince Charles occurred and I don't feel it is an exaggeration to say she in that gown was an equal to the beauty that Dianna possessed. I couldn't keep my eyes off of her even if I'd tried, and every once in a while I would see her glancing over at me. I could tell in her smile she was pleased with the spell she had cast on me.
The reception was held at Sherry's home and everyone was drinking freely save for myself because I had to drive some other friends home as well that evening. Again rampant dancing broke out and loud voices carried throughout the home. More then one person stumbled and spilled a drink but fortunately no one tried to wear a lampshade. I guess being at home Sherry felt it was safe to let go and she had a good share of liquor as well. I didn't think much of it at the time, perhaps back then because I was pretty naive but Sherry stayed close to me and seemed to be more then a little attentive. I think this is when my wife took notice.
My wife Jill had very stunning green eyes, I think that is what really attracted me to her in the first place. When she smiled they would sparkle but when she was upset they would flare. They were flickering now a single alarm fire. I sighed realizing what Jill was thinking but I hoped she would realize in the end that Sherry was probably just a little drunk and didn't mean anything. If the evening had progressed without further incident I'm sure it all would have been forgotten. But then lightening hit.
Sherry came over and sat on my lap, it wasn't just a sit it she leaned back against me on my lap in a very sensual way and her long legs peeked from under her gown in all the right yet very wrong ways. She hugged me tightly without saying a word. It was the hug you give somebody when you think they are going off to war or they are about to climb the Himalayan Mountains and never come back. I was at all odds inside. I so loved being touched by her that way but at the same time I was horrified and stunned speechless. The flicker I saw in my ex was now a four-alarm fire. I'm not sure but I think the whole house went silent but that was probably my imagination. It was an innocent flirtation but with it the little dream world we shared was destroyed.
Nothing was said until me and my wife was alone. She didn't think it was my fault because I didn't initiate anything. But she swore we would never invite Sherry over again. All that night I was wracked with guilt and spent the night tossing and turning.
Needless to say, we rarely saw her after that. Jill was avoiding her and Sherry was avoiding us. I never got the chance to talk to her about the incident. But I think she was extremely embarrassed and couldn't speak about it.
I came to miss her as my life faded back into the dreary existence that it had been before. I tried to lose myself in my tasks and in my writings but she was always there. On occasion we would see her out shopping because it was a very small town and you couldn't help but meet everybody in time every so often. But these were bittersweet for me and maybe for her because I thought at times I could see a deep sadness in her eyes. Sadness that was probably matched by that which I felt in my own heart.
Months passed fall turned to winter and then winter to spring. Life had gotten back to normal. My wife and I had obtained a fairly content existence together and things were seemingly brighter because the warm weather had removed the harsh gloom of that very cold winter. Life had become livable again but my mind on occasion thought of Sherry wondering, and sometimes dreaming of what could have been.
It was May 30th and my wife and I had settled down to sleep as we normally did at around ten each evening. We lay there watching the news and then the tonight show for a few moments. I could hear my wife's breathing next to me, it was at first an almost whisper of a breath at first then the soft sighing that told me she was asleep. With that, I checked the alarm and turned down the lights I believe it was about ten forty five or fifty. I was fairly tired and am pretty sure I was beginning to fall asleep when it happened.
I perceived a light or sensed it as I lay there. I opened my eyes and saw a faint whitish glow that reminded me of certain moonlit nights when the moon is big and full and there is snow on the ground to reflect it. I opened my eyes wider and looked for the source. There at the foot of my bed stood Sherry. She was standing there in the sort of scrubs with overcoat that nurses sometimes wear in emergency rooms. She was staring at me and as she did she broke out into a big smile and started waving. It was a gentle wave the one you give when you're saying goodbye for a long time. As she did she slowly faded from my sight until the room was as dark as before. As I try to relate this story I realize that I don't know where the light came from it was if she were casting it herself even though she didn't appear to glow. The entire vision must have lasted only a few seconds leaving me sitting there with my mouth wide open. I turned and looked at the alarm clock which now read eleven 0 five. If I had been asleep it had only been for a few minutes but there I was sitting upright in bed and I never sleep walked in my entire life ever.
I turned and shook my wife awake. I told her what I had just seen and sleepily she told me I was dreaming and I should go back to sleep. Other times in my life I'd heard that statement that I was dreaming and I never believed it then and I had doubts. But I did lay back down restlessly convincing myself that maybe I was dreaming wishful dreaming.
The next morning we got up and prepared for the day ahead I heard the phone ring as I got out of the shower. I dressed and met Jill as she approached me from the other side of the room. She was still holding the phone in her hand when she told me that Sherry had died the night before. She was killed in a car accident on her way home from the hospital she was working at. I didn't know it at the time but she had gone to work several months ago as a nursing assistant trying to make ends meet. Her car broke down on the way home a few miles from our house. The police said it looked as if she was looking under the hood when the cars emergency brake failed and it rolled over her pinning her down until the weight and heat of the car engine killed her. The accident happened at approximately 11 O'clock the night before.
I don't remember what I did next, I felt as though I'd been punched in the stomach by a sack of cement. I knew I had seen her the night before, I truly had. I became oblivious to the world around me and I think I just went to our front porch and began to swing silently. As far as I knew no one else reported seeing her ghost that night.
Days later the funeral was held and we attended it at the nearest Catholic Church. I was surprised at the number of people who attended. I was very proud of my adopted family for all the support they were showing. In the first row there was a man who sat with Sherry's mother and father. I was told he was a boyfriend she had met three weeks ago. I felt so terribly bad for him, for I think only I could grasp what he had now lost.
The service started and everyone sat silently while the rites and rituals of the ceremony took place. The priest was the only one to speak and he said the usual things about how good a person she was and the loss everyone felt. Then he asked everyone to pray so that her soul would move on from purgatory and be with God in heaven.
I winced when I heard that and grew quietly angry, Sherry was in no such place I knew that she had already gone to be with God in the space between spaces. The fact that he would dare suggest otherwise made me angry and set wheels in motion that over time would make me question religion as a whole once again in my life.
Worse, came the viewing and I was reluctant to go but my wife convinced me to go with her. In all my life I wish I had never done so. Try as he might the mortician couldn't hide what had happened the once lovely woman I knew was not what I saw before my eyes. Even now I have a hard time remembering it just wasn't Sherry I told myself here was just a shell.
The service ended and we stood around the grave as the bells tolled. In this sad moment I took heart that the sun was shining warmly and lighting the countryside around us. The flowers of spring were still blooming and in the distance those butterflies that we first spoke of were flying. It was a beautiful day that suited her very well, and I was able to say goodbye with peace in my soul because she in her worst hour had stopped on her journey to Heaven to see a man who loved her from a distance and tell him Goodbye.