I didn’t realize it until recently but my children have become collectors. They don’t collect cards, or coins or anything like that but they collect little bits of information, stories or anything that strikes them as interesting, especially if they think I would find it interesting. They offer up their findings to me like gifts, as one would do with fine art, handmade lace or treasured jewels, to add to my collection of ideas and inspiration for stories that fuel my passion for writing.
Three Minutes, was inspired by something my daughter Caitlin told me this morning. It’s a recollection of sorts that comes from a 94 year old man who, when he was 92, died for three minutes. My daughter was fascinated by this and asked him the question most of us would ask, “What happened to you when you died?” Now, she’s promised that she’ll tell me more about this conversation, but we were in the throws of the morning rush so she only had time to leave me with the gentleman’s reply, which was:
“When I died, it was like every dream I ever dreamed came back to me, all at one time….”
“I bet it would make a wonderful short story,” she said as she walked to the front door, then she turned to me and winked.
She knows her mother so well.
a short story
by Lisa Forget
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Ping.
The clouds are so white. The air is so clean. I’m soaring. Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon. I’m singing. My voice is flawless, pure and true. I feel the wind gusting past me, blowing through my silky-smooth chestnut-coloured hair. It gets tangled in the wind and I laugh. I love to fly.
I’m landing in green fields. I’m in Ireland. I don’t know how I know this but I remember this moment. I imagined it once when I was about twelve. I look down at my hands, ivory skin glistens a youthful glow in the sunshine. I realize that I am twelve and I am immersed in something wonderful, a new reality.
I jump from the wicker basket onto the ground. Long, lime-coloured grass tickles my legs as I run through the velvet fields. I’m anxious to reach the path that leads to the castle sitting atop the hill in the distance. People are waiting for me. I hear them calling. I run faster.
I blink and then I’m falling. I land on a rock jutting out from a cliff. I look down. Water crashes against craggy rocks. I scuffle quickly away from the rock’s edge and lean against wet, pungent, black earth. I feel roots and vines and both my hands grip on tight. I call out and hear nothing but the water below. I look up and know that if I could just climb the damp wall that’s at my back, I’d find my family sitting fifty yards away enjoying a picnic lunch on a blanket laid out on luscious green grass. I turn quickly, praying that I won’t slip and fall. I’m crying and calling for Daddy as I reach for gnarly bits of root sticking out of the dirt. I try repeatedly but my fingers slip and my feet never find purchase on anything solid enough to give me leverage. I pant and begin to feel dizzy. The view pans out and I see myself, alone on a jagged rock, one step away from death. I’m eight. I have lived this moment countless times. To me it is real, although my parents assured me it never was, that it was only my overactive imagination playing tricks on me. At this very moment, it is real.
I’m running again in that field where I landed the hot-air balloon. There’s a light in the window of the castle on the hill. I hear music. I hear singing. I smell Irish soda bread baking in a clay oven. I veer left.
I’m in a procession with a sea of beautifully dressed children. My mother made the dress I’m wearing. It’s my Communion. We’re all God’s little children and we’re going to make our sacrament together. I arrive at the altar. I’m wearing my wedding dress. My mother made this dress too. The church is filled with pink roses and white baby’s breath. My true love stands beside me. His love for me is making him tear up. I smile. He takes my hand and squeezes it. I look around. My family is there, as well as all my friends. They are the same ones who walked in the communion procession. They’ve been with me forever it seems. I’m blissfully happy.
I scream. I’m in unbearable pain. My insides are on fire. It ends abruptly. I hold a wet, wiggly thing in my arms. It’s warm and I want to hold it carefully so I don’t break it. I look down. My first-born is beautiful. Her face changes and I see my second whose tiny perfect face morphs into my third whose rosy cheeks look like strawberry ice cream. I feel warm and wet, just like the angels in my arms. I’m bleeding and blood is dripping from the hospital bed. There’s panic around me.
Drums are beating. The fields are drenched in starlight. There are more candles in the windows. Someone is waiting; I think it’s my prince. I have to go…soon.
A whistle blows and a teapot is filled. I hear a gurgle and smell fresh coffee. I taste date squares and shortbread cookies on my tongue. My kitchen is abuzz with laughter. I’m wending my way through the group of people standing around my table and leaning against my counters. I don’t know any of them, yet I know one day I will. I wander into the living room. There are musicians with guitars and penny flutes and I hear a melody coming from the player piano. I didn’t even know it still worked. I make my way toward the music. The musicians follow me and we form a parade that marches out into the street. I’m in the midst of a photograph I’ve seen before, in a book about the past. I’m waving at myself.
The parade marches on through the streets of the bustling city. Everyone I’ve ever known, and thousands that I don’t, have lined the sidewalks. There are batons twirling in the air and trumpets blasting familiar tunes. There’s cotton candy in a rainbow of colours and frothy drinks being slurped up through foot-long straws. On my right, an elderly lady is walking my dog, Sparky. I buried him in my back yard, under the maple tree when I was fifteen. He barks a happy hello to me. I say thank you to the lady who’s walking him. I don’t know why I thank her, maybe it’s because that dog saved my life once and I’m grateful someone is looking after him until I can do so again.
I hear my name being called and I turn toward the voice. It’s my grandson. I realize I hadn’t heard my given name but one of the many other names people call me. The one he calls me is Grandma. Behind him is my sister, and behind her is my cousin, and behind him is my teacher from first grade who’s walking arm in arm with my best friend Sally, finally I see my parents. The parade stops. I know now that I’m in Heaven because that is the only place my mother and father could be. I change my course and make my way toward them. They lift their arms ready to embrace me.
I hear the music again, the one coming from the castle and it makes me pause. I have tried to not listen to it but it is hauntingly persistent. I will have to go and tell them to stop, that I’m busy at the moment. I make a sign to my parents but they are gone. So is the parade. My feet are on soft soil.
I am in front of the castle. My prince is standing in the window; his face is that of my true love. I’m wearing a fairytale gown of lavender and iridescence that billows in the heather-scented breeze. I am young. I am old. I am ageless. I make my way to the entrance of the castle and as I reach for the door my chest bursts into flames. My eyes widen and I am blinded.
“Mrs. Pearce?” I hear.
I am struck dumb. I am lying on a cold surface and my lips are sealed. I shake my head. I know that my eyes are full, but of what, I can’t say. I’m confused. Where am I?
“In the hospital,” the voice answers. I must have voiced my question aloud.
“W..what happened?” My aged voice falters as air passes, with much difficulty, through my dry throat.
“You died, Mrs. Pearce,” says the voice of the doctor that comes from behind the nurse holding my hand. I feel tubes taped to my wrist.
“D..ied?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says as he also puts his hands on me. “You were dead for three minutes.”
It’s no wonder they both want to touch me, to them I must be immortal.
“On…ly….th…ree?” My lungs won’t cooperate, giving me only enough air to manage a couple of words at a time.
“Yes,” the nurse answers. “You rest now. You’re family is here. They’ll be waiting for you when you wake up.”
“Yes,” I say, closing my eyes.
I know that what she says is true. What I want to tell her is that they’re waiting on the other side as well, but I’m too tired to force another word from my lips. I feel myself succumb to sleep. I welcome it; embrace the warmth of the little spot in my mind where I’ll go to dream more dreams that I know will welcome me when it’s truly time to go.