Alisha woke up in the hospital bed. The IVs were no longer in her hands. Her room was empty. She slowly rose to her feet, surprised she had the strength to stand on her own. By her bedside was a vase of flowers. They were sunflowers, her favorite. She loved how bright and happy they were. She reached over to gently caress one. In the last three weeks, as she was fighting for her life, these flowers had brought her joy.
“We have things we must do,” a guy said from behind her.
She jumped and turned. A stranger stood in the doorway. He was six foot with a board build. His brown hair was wild on top of his head, and his dark eyes had a dangerous glint to them. Alisha stepped back.
“Who are you?”
He didn’t seem very friendly to her. “I don’t know you.”
A sad smile touched his lips. “Everyone knows me.” He turned to walk out. “Come on, we have things we must do.”
She felt complied to follow, even thought she didn’t know him. The halls were empty. Chills went down her spine as she wrapped her arms around herself. “Where is everyone?” she whispered.
“All around us,” he waved his hand. Faint images of people appeared. It was as if ghosts surrounded them.
She sidestepped a nurse. “What happened to everyone?”
“They are no longer a part of your world,” he explained. They stopped outside the waiting room. He glanced over his shoulder to her. “Are you ready?”
"Ready for what?” She was confused. This whole situation was odd and surreal. Perhaps I am dreaming, she thought as she looked down at her legs.
“Ready to finally see what’s in here?”
Questions filled her but she voiced none of them. She had never been in the waiting room. It was where her family had been staying while she fought for her life within these hospital walls. He turned the knob to walk in. She followed close behind him.
Her doctor looked very sad as he stood before her family. “She didn’t make it. I am deeply sorry for your loss,” he told them.
“No,” her mother howled as she doubled over. “Not my baby girl.” Her father wrapped his arms around her as tears ran down her face. Her family huddled together as they demanded to see her body.
“What’s going on here?” she asked. Her emotions were going haywire. She was shocked, upset, sad and confused. The hairs on her arms stood on end. She looked at the dark hair man. “What is all this?”
“It’s the truth.” He stood beside the doctor. “It’s what you need to accept.”
“Accept?” Anger filled her. He wanted her to be okay with her death, and the tears of her family. “I will not accept it!” The anger left her body, and shattered the windows. The ghosts of her family ducked and ran out of the room.
“Every time,” the guy sighed with disappointment. “Come with me.”
She didn’t want to follow him but had no choice. They were now at her parents’ house. Her mother sat at the kitchen table. She slowly flipped through a photo album. The man stood by the counter as Alisha walked to stand behind her mother. She watched her go through the family photos with a heavy heart. He mother cried as she caressed a photo of Alisha when she was a baby.
“It’s okay mama,” she whispered as she tried to run her fingers through her hair. “I will not leave you.” Her mother paused as if she had heard her. Alisha started to smile but stopped when she saw the sadness pool in her mother’s eyes. “She is so sad,” she mumbled.
“Of course she is. It’s hard to move on with your life when they will not let go,” he explained. He shoved his hands deep within his pockets.
“I am her baby girl, why would she let me go?” Heartache was all she felt now. Her mother was going to suffer for the rest of her life because Alisha had died. She wanted to release her from her pain.
“It is you that must let go.”
“What?” Wide-eyed she stared at him. Her? She was dead. She had nothing to let go of, because everything had been taken from her. “That makes no sense. I lost everything.” Her rage was starting to rise. The kitchen lights flickered.
Her stepped away from the counter. “The living can sense when their loved ones are still around. It is a shadow on their hearts that invades their minds.” He shook his head as he tried to get her to understand how important this was. “When the dead hang on it can drive their loved ones insane. The dead’s hold can consume them, make it to where all they think about is their lost loved one. Some avoid sleep in fear of reliving the day their loved one died over and over again.”
“But it’s not fair, I want to stay!” She looked at her mother, who was clinging a handkerchief now. “I want to stay with her.”
“If you stay she will suffer,” he promised her. “Let her go. Release your anger, and trust that this happened because it was your time. Do not cause pain to the people you love because you are too scared to move on.”
“What if they forget about me?” Fear gripped her in its ugly hold. She did not want to be forgotten.
A sad smile caressed his lips. “They will not forget about you.”
“How do you know? Who are you?”
Black wings erupted from his back and spread across the kitchen. A gold fire now burned in his eyes. “I am the angel of death. I am here to take you home, but first you must let them go.”
Tears filled her eyes. She didn’t want to let her family go. She wanted to mourn her wasted dreams, and grieve her lost future. She wanted her family to think of her everyday, and never forget how much they loved her. “I can’t.”
“Then you all will suffer. Death is not for the living. It is not something they can embrace everyday. It breaks their will to survive, and they just fade away one day. Do you want your mother to become an empty shell? Do you want her to cry everyday for you?”
“No.” She looked at her loving mother. She had taken good care of her. She had taught her right from wrong, and how to be strong.
“Then let her go.”
“I’m afraid she will stop loving me,” she confessed.
“She will never stop loving you, and she will never forget. But she will move forward with her life. She will smile again Alisha. She will be the woman you love and respect.”
She did love and respect her, very much so in fact. She took a deep breath as she silently prepared herself for the next step. “Okay. I am ready.” The angel nodded as he held out his hand. She took it. He stopped at the trashcan to grab a dead sunflower. “What are you doing?” she asked.
His touch breathed new life into it. “This flower brought a sick girl joy when nothing else could.” He held it out to her. “It deserves to come to heaven with us.”
She recognized it. “It was my sunflower.”
He smiled. “Yes it was.” She glanced over her shoulder one more time before she joined him in the light to move on from all she once had.