She had forgotten the church was there. Well, no she hadn’t forgotten where the church was, she had forgotten the restaurant was near the church. She didn’t know the city as well as she once had. Anyway she was late, Karen would be waiting, she didn’t have time to stop at the church. In a moment she would be past the garden door, turn the corner, pass the church doors and… she stopped, her hand reached automatically for the door. It would be locked of course — only it wasn’t.
She hesitated. She hadn’t been here in years. Why go in now? She pulled the gate open and climbed the three steps. It was twilight, but even so she could see how lush the garden was, the grass thick beneath her shoes while the flowering bushes scented the air. The spreading branches of a tree stood gentle guard over a statue of St. Francis. She took a deep breath and leaned against the edge of a night-quiet fountain. The church behind her was dark but there was enough light to see how carefully and lovingly the garden was cared for. She looked all around, avoiding only that one spot. Well she was here. Now what?
“Hello,” she said into the empty air. “How you doing?”
“Not too badly,” his voice replied. She jumped, bumped her hip against the fountain and staggered. A firm hand took hold of her arm, steadying her.
“Oh my God!”
“Well, no,” he said. “Just me.”
Her mouth dropped open, blood rushed from her head, she swayed.
“Hey, don’t faint on me.”
“You were cremated.”
He spread his arms out so she could admire the solidness of them. “Crazy, huh?”
“You were buried!”
“Believe me, I know.”
“I was so worried about you.”
“After I was dead?”
“I was crazy with worry about you. About where you were? Were you frightened? Were you lonely? And then sick because of everything beautiful you were missing.”
“I didn’t know you believed in the afterlife,” he sounded amused.
“I had the Buddhist Chaplin say a pray over you. I dragged him out of the hospital elevator and made him pray for you.”
“And here you are.”
“Yes, well…” He glanced at his right wrist but of course there was no watch. He always lost his watches. Every one she ever given him he managed to lose within days.
“I’m due to be reincarnated any minute now.”
He shrugged. “That’s what they tell me.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m a little confused myself,” he said. “There I was, peacefully dead and suddenly I get the news, “‘Reincarnation in 30 minutes. Last chance to smell the flowers on this plane.’”
“Oh Tony!” She threw herself into his arms, hugging him as tight as tight as possible.
She could feel his arms come around her, strong, loving and then… “Good-bye, Mom.”