Over Her Grave
She was barely recognizable.
Her co-worker collapsed, slipping her hand out of mine, at the first glimpse of the flattened body. I tried to remain strong being that I was an assistant to the chaplain in the hospital. Eventually I couldn’t handle the smell of the mashed corpse and the wailing of her loved ones so I released myself from the morgue to sit outside under the African stars. Selah. Breathe. “It’s just a dead body, a shell, the remnants of the life once lived. I’ve seen tons of dead bodies before.” I tried to convince myself that I would be ok, but truthfully, I didn’t think I could sleep with the image of that body lingering in my thoughts.
Vanessa was still in surgery. She hadn’t been told that she was the only survivor. How do you tell a 10-year-old girl that her mother wasn’t lucky enough to get flung out the car, like she did, before the car went head on into a bus? “I will give her a few days to heal and then I will break it to her slowly” I told myself as I trudged back to my apartment.
Days passed and I continued to visit Vanessa while she healed from her major surgery. I quickly fell in love with this little ray of sunshine. We laughed, played, talked, told jokes and prayed together. My heart was getting too close only to, inevitably, break hers.
Finally, it was time to tell her. The other chaplain and I held her hands tight as we gently told her that her mother was dead. The girl didn’t shed a tear. Instead she looked up and told us, “I know she is happy in heaven. She will take care of me from up there.”
Tears strolled down my cheeks. Vanessa began rubbing her thumbs on my hand to comfort me. I should have been the one comforting her.
A few days later she managed to get out of her hospital bed and stand up on her own. With a little help, she wobbled out of the hospital gates, staring back at me to give me one last smile.
She called me right after her mother’s funeral. “Nikole, I just stood over the hole as they put my mother in it.”
“I am sorry my girl.”